Water-Wise Irrigation Practices
In 1984, when I first started working for the Texas Farm Bureau in Waco, one of the first stories I covered for their news network was about water conservation. It was especially important for the agricultural sectors we reported on.
I remember quoting a state lawmaker in Austin, appealing to his fellow legislators by saying, "I've got good news and bad news when it comes to water conservation at the turn of the century. The good news: We're all going to be drinking recycled sewage water by the year 2000. The bad news: There's not going to be enough of it to go around."
Although it isn't quite as bad as that lawmaker predicted, more than 25 years later Texas still has some major water shortages that will probably garner headlines for the next half-century.
Believe it or not, though, homeowners can actually help. Because lawns don't waste the water — people do. It begins with water-smart landscaping and irrigation practices. And, it can continue with learning about rainwater harvesting — capturing and storing rainwater for later use.
First, if you use a sprinkler, make sure there are no small leaks. If you have an irrigation system, see that it's up-to-date with efficient spray heads. Make sure you are watering long enough to encourage deep root growth. (A shallow root system is no match for the Texas sun!) Also, be sure your soil is not too compacted and causing immediate runoff. You can correct that by aerating and, in some cases, adding organic matter like compost to improve the soil profile. Compost is infinitely better than any kind of dirt or sand.
You can also check out new systems offered by innovative irrigation companies. Even many do-it-yourself hardware stores now sell and install water conservation devices for automatic sprinkler systems, including rain shut-off devices, flow meters and soil moisture sensors for precise control.
And, you might consider rainwater harvesting. RainTube of Houston, for example, is offering the MOBY System for $199.99 installed — a GardenLine special. Now, this is not the total answer to watering lawns, but it is a good first step into rainwater harvesting. RainTube has no web page for the MOBY System yet, but you can call 713-270-1904 and tell them you want our special. (While you may be able to find a MOBY elsewhere for the same price, you'll have install it yourself.)
There are many other things you can do and research that will help make your landscape more water-efficient. One of the best websites is www.waterwisetexas.org. It's a great source of information gleaned from the 1996 and 1998 Texas droughts. Unfortunately, most homeowners today don't remember how serious those situations were and have been lulled into a false sense of security since 2001 while we've had more than our fair share of moisture.
Landscape water conservation has another name in the horticultural circles — xeriscaping! Many people associate xeriscaping with desert plants and rocks, but it's much more than that these days. And, in Texas, xeriscaping may be the real answer to getting everyone water-wise when it comes to landscaping. For more information, see aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/xeriscape/xeriscape.html.
And here are some other websites for more information on just being "water smart."
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