Sept. 16 2015 03:23 PM
Who is Malcolm Morris how does he impact our industry? To answer those questions, I spent a fair amount of time on the telephone with him. To begin with, Malcolm Morris is chairman of the board of directors for Weathermatic’s parent company, Telsco, Inc. Weathermatic manufactures smart water controllers, valves and sprinklers.

But Morris is about much more than that—he has a strong, personal feeling about water. Having experienced multiple droughts in Texas, he has come to appreciate what contributions our industry makes to conserve water, and Morris is all about conserving water. Because of his personal relationships at higher levels, he has worked with political leaders throughout the world to better understand the need for water conservation. He worked to help pass two bills through the United States Congress: the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act signed by President Bush in 2005, and the Water for the World Act, signed by President Obama in 2014. He feels that water is all about people and not politics.

Morris attended Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas, where he studied business and finance. He went on to get his law degree from the University of Texas, Austin, School of Law. In law school, he focused on property law, but as he began his journey running a public company, he needed to broaden his knowledge of business law; he twice attended Harvard’s Program of Instruction for practicing lawyers.

His grandfather was issued the first shares of stock in the Stewart Title Guaranty Company, and his father followed into the business. Morris began work in the business at age 10, and after graduating from law school, he worked on taking the company public.

Twenty-five years ago, in 1990, Morris took his family on a trip to Africa. This is what first focused him on the dire need for potable water in the developing world. He met a few others on that trip who also came to the conclusion about the dire need for water. Working with a small drilling rig, they drilled their first well, but failed to get water. He said, “My experiences would not have led me back to Africa, after having been taken to a jail cell by gun-toting soldiers. However, we had planned to provide three wells and got none. Seeing the plight of the people, some of us went back to complete those wells and we formed Living Water International as a 501(c)3 to help fund water efforts for the developing world.”

Morris had supported George Bush for Governor of Texas, and he was a supporter of Living Water International. After becoming President of the United States, Bush hosted the newly elected President of Kenya for a state visit. Following the official ceremonies, Presidents Bush and Kibaki met in the Oval Office, and Morris hosted President Kibaki’s team for a tour of key U.S. agencies in Washington. After that visit, Morris assembled a U.S. delegation of 35 people to pay a return visit to President Kibaki of Kenya.

On Valentine’s Day of 2005, a tribal conflict broke out in a struggle over water, which had come about due to a severe drought in Kenya. Twenty people were killed; 16 of them children. Morris and his group met with the Kenyan president, and they suggested that they drill a ‘peace well’ in the area, with the idea of both sides drinking from the same well. President Kibaki endorsed the idea, and the first of multiple Presidential Peace Wells were drilled by Living Water International and dedicated by him.

Walking from President Bush’s office to the cabinet room, President Kibaki mentioned to Morris, “You know, you have been a friend of Kenya since 1990, helping to bring water to millions in Kenya over the last 15 years, but your training, your education, is in land titling. We appreciate all you’ve done for the water, but can you help us with our land titles?” “It was the first time anybody ever put the two together for me,” said Morris. “I realized that no one bought a ranch without water for the cattle, and my wife certainly wouldn’t want a house without running water. Really, land without access to water is useless.”

Today, Morris chairs a global coalition whose 16 member organizations are providing water to more than 100 million people in 70 countries of the world.

What made Morris a true believer was the drought in Texas. Living in the Houston area, one day he realized that his water bill was higher than the house payment on his first home. Morris switched his irrigation system over to a smart water system when Mike Mason, CEO of Weathermatic—who was also on the board of directors at Living Water International—visited Morris. He asked Morris to consider joining the Weathermatic board of directors.

“As chairman of the board of directors at Telsco, it has become my passion and my job to spread the word about water conservation,” said Morris. “I have worked with the University of Oklahoma in establishing the OU Water Center. The Water Center conducts international meetings to bring people involved in bringing water to the world together, and has established the first U.S. Water Prize.”

Weathermatic is so passionate about saving water that they contribute to Living Water International to provide funds equal to the amount of water being saved in America to fund drilling more wells, to provide that same amount of water in undeveloped countries. That is a noble cause.

At the age of 69, Malcolm Morris is as active as ever. “I truly believe we can help America and the world by learning how to use a lesser amount of potable water for landscape and agriculture, and save the drinking water for drinking. Of the world’s available fresh water supply, 70 percent is used for irrigation, 20 percent for industrial use, and only 10 percent for human consumption. If we can cut irrigation use nearly in half, just think of the positive benefits for keeping people on this planet healthy.”

“Lakes are dropping, subsidence is an issue, and some city water supplies are evaporating. Already in many places, water is more costly than gasoline! It behooves each of us to do our part in water conservation. That is the most cost-effective and earth-friendly thing we can do.”