Becoming one with nature: New Wimberley ISD campus to include self-sustaining technologies

The future of water conservation efforts in Texas might lie in a new Wimberley campus, which aims to conserve the resource through self-sustaining technologies. 

Wimberley ISD officials are calling the new primary school the “One Water School.” When it opens in fall 2020, the campus will reduce groundwater usage from the Trinity Aquifer by 90 percent of what a traditional primary school would use.

Water conservation groups and Wimberley ISD officials are calling the project an engineering marvel. The campus will include its own wastewater treatment center and will be fully equipped with a rainwater collection system that will help fuel the school with its water needs. 

“Our community is devoted to keeping our natural resources green,” said Gina Fulkerson, WISD board member, after the board approved the construction of the campus. “The one water solution is going to do more for this district than just conserve. It’s going to teach our students, at a young age, what it means to be environmentally conscious.” 

Fulkerson said younger generations are growing up in a different world where natural resources have become scarce. By advocating conservation efforts locally, Fulkerson said she believes the district is setting a precedent for other campuses across the state.

The campus, located on Ranch Road 12 and Winters Mill Parkway, has been planned, conceptualized and architecturally designed over the past six months. WISD worked with the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association (WVWA), the Meadows Center at Texas State University and other local entities for planning the project.

David Baker, executive director of the WVWA, is calling the campus a major victory in water conservation efforts, especially in light of water global temperatures that have expedited natural disasters like flooding and drought, especially in Hays County. 

Baker said the concept of net-zero, which is the goal of having the campus run on 100 percent reusable water with no external resource, has been worked on for nearly two decades. WISD will now be the first school in Texas to tackle the new water conservation measure. However, officials say getting to net-zero will take some time.

“In the early 2000s we saw, on different occasions, Jacob’s Well stop flowing for the first time in history,” Baker said. “We needed to take action to be more productive in water resource management and this opportunity came up with the school that we couldn’t pass.”

Baker said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) have standards in place to protect water resources, and he urged that action needs to be taken before agencies intervene.

According to the report by the WISD and the Meadows Center, the one-water school will also have some economic benefits for the district. The district projects that it will save around $800,000 over 30 years in utilities as less water is being used to operate the school. 

Fulkerson said the money saved can help the district employ additional staff and teachers while keeping the district less energy dependent from outside sources. 

“We believe water has value at every part of the water cycle. Rainwater, drinking water and grey water — it all needs to be utilized and managed at all levels,” Baker said. “Even the water we don’t consider safe for consumption will go to watering our fields and the native landscape. It all has a purpose.”

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