Year: 2015

Seven ways to fall for Fall

When the weather cools off, we know how to have fun here in Round Rock. And what’s more fun than dressing in a silly costume — or, better yet, dressing the kids in cute costumes? Or playing with toys — really, really BIG toys?

So get your Fall fun on at one (or more!) of the following:

1. Hometown Halloween

HoHa Web Event Banner

Bring the whole family Downtown to Hometown Halloween on Saturday, Oct. 31, for hayrides, live music, and trick or treating at participating restaurants. Dr. Who fans get a double dose of fun (see below).

2. Parties and Pumpkins at the Library

pumpkinparty2 wide

No one parties like librarians (we’re not kidding), so don’t miss Parties and Pumpkins at the Library. Party time is Oct. 26, 28 and 29 for ages 18 months to 6 yearsBring your decorated pumpkin entries to the Library from Oct. 23-29. No carved pumpkins, please (even librarians have their limits)!

3. Trunk or Treat at Seton Williamson

adaptive trunk or treat cropped

Trunk or Treat for special needs kids at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, at Seton Williamson. This is the latest in the series of programs our Parks and Rec staff have put together for kids and adults with special needs and abilities.

4. Trunk or Treat for Blue Santa

Trunk or Treat to raise funds for Blue Santa will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, at the Police Department. Toys and monetary donations are welcome!

5. Touch a Truck

Due to continuing rain, our Touch A Truck event scheduled for Saturday, October 24 has been cancelled.


Suffering from Halloween overload? Then try the Touch a Truck event from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 24, at Old Settlers Park.

6. Whovian Halloween


Dr. Who fans — the TARDIS is coming to the library! Get into costume for the Whovian Halloween at the Library from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31.

7. Fall Fun Fest

The preschooler pageantry of cute occurs from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at Old Settlers Park at the annual Fall Fun Fest. This year’s theme is Monsters and Mayhem.

Now’s a great time to be thinking fire prevention

Would you trust these guys to educate your children? (Hint: Yes!)

Q: Would you trust these guys to educate your children? See answer below. (Hint: Yes!)

October is Fire Prevention Month in Round Rock — and right now’s a great time to pay attention to that topic, with wildfires burning in Bastrop and Jarrell as we write this. The low humidity and dry fuel (aka brown grass and shrubs) are to blame.

While we haven’t had any wildfires in Round Rock, the Fire Department has been assisting our neighbors in Granger and Jarrell this week. The smoke from the Bastrop fires made its way to town Wednesday afternoon. If you’re worried about health impacts from wildfire smoke, we’ve posted information here.

Prepare yourself with some fast facts from the National Fire Protection Association. (Example: Half of home fire deaths result from fires reported between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep. Only one in five home fires were reported during these hours. So make sure you can hear your smoke alarm from where you sleep!)

Life safety education made fun

Our Rock Solid Safety Team has been using humor and fun to teach school kids about fire safety for more than a decade. They’ll be at 19 schools over the next couple of months, teaching the students about “Staying Alive” with a disco theme.

And, yes, Lt. Mike Heard (aka Cisco, the disco cowboy) and Firefighter Josh Bonney (aka Disco Josh) are actually trained professionals who our kids love learning from.

And adults can learn, too!

Members of the City Council got an up close and personal lesson in what our firefighters face when the alarm goes off. The City Council Fire Academy on Oct. 6 was part of the Fire Department’s annual update to our elected decision makers.

Naturally, our cameras were there to capture the highlights, including some serious “cone killing” on the driving track.


Top 10 list of the Top 10 lists we’ve made in Round Rock

top10top10We think Round Rock is pretty awesome. And as the late Bear Bryant once said, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.” Herewith, the top 10 lists we’ve made just so’s you know we ain’t bragging (OK, we are — but you go tell the Bear he was wrong!).

  1. The ranking that started it all: In 2005, Round Rock was ranked as the No. 8 Safest City in America.
  2. In 2008, Round Rock was named one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People by America’s Promise Alliance, founded by Gen. Colin Powell and wife Alma.
  3. In 2010, Family Circle (the magazine, not the comic strip. Oh wait, that’s Family Circus — never mind) put us in the top 10 Best Towns and Cities for Families.
  4. Closely related (and more recent — circa 2014), ranked Round Rock as the 6th best mid-sized City in the United States to raise children.
  5. In 2008, Money ranked us the No. 7 Best Place to Live. Funny, but we haven’t made that list since. Wonder if it’s because we only bought one piece a swag from them after the issue came out?
  6. A few years back, CNBC ranked us among the Top 10 Perfect Suburbs. We were No. 8. Wait, who could be more perfect than us? Apparently, Wexford, Pa., Midlothian, Va., Poquosan, Va., Reading, Mass., Circle Pines, Minn., Kensington, Md., and Edmund, Okla., that’s who.
  7. Last month, SmartAsset named Round Rock the No. 1 Best City for Minor League Baseball. Yeah, we pretty much knocked that one out of the park. (And it’s a swing and a miss for a great pun on that one.)
  8. In February, ranked us as the No. 1 Best Affordable Place to Live. Which is better (but only slightly) than Nerdwallet ranking us No. 3 on its list of Most Affordable Places in America. But on par with (and better named, certainly) the top Cheapest City You Want to Live Inback in 2014 by Kiplinger.
  9. Some cities have the best of everything: the jobs, the schools, the museums, the nightlife, you name it. They know the recipe for attractiveness. Round Rock ranks No. 10 among those cities, according to WalletHub’s list of the Fastest Growing Economies released in September 2015.
  10. Lest you think we’re all about the dollar, consider this one. Movoto ranked Round Rock the No. 8 Most Caring Suburb in America

Reclaimed, Reused, Recycled Water…What?

Maybe you’ve heard of at least one of the water types mentioned in the title?  Recycled water… Reclaimed water… Or reuse water.  Are you wondering “What’s the difference between these types ofreuse station waters?  Is there any difference?  And what does that even mean?”

Great news!  I’m going to answer those burning questions now!

Truth be told, they are all really the same thing.  It’s just different ways to call the water from the wastewater treatment plant after it’s been cleaned up.  Normal procedure is that the City cleans up the wastewater (aka sewer water) and then releases it into Brushy Creek so that it can flow downstream, keep the aquatic life alive that is living in the creek, and also be withdrawn by other water users downstream.  (The state has regulations on what “clean” actually means, so it won’t make anyone sick or cause pollution.)

Instead of releasing all the cleaned wastewater into the creek, the City has made the recycled water available in select areas of town for landscape irrigation, at a lower cost than the treated drinking water that is traditionally used to water landscapes.  Some City parks, neighborhoods, and businesses have been using this recycled water for irrigation for a couple of years now!  This is a really good thing, because it means less of our valuable drinking water is being poured on the ground to water the landscape.  This helps with the City’s conservation efforts, by increasing the amount of potable (drinking) water that we have available.reuse tank

The recycled water is only available in certain areas of town (on the east side of I-35), close to where the recycled water line is in the ground.  By the way, the City’s wastewater treatment plant is on the south side of Hwy 79, nearly across the street from the Dell Diamond.  So, the recycled water line is coming out of the plant, under Hwy 79, and travels north through Old Settlers Park up toward University Boulevard.  You can see the large recycled water elevated storage tank off at University Boulevard and Sandy Brook Drive, close to the Texas State University campus.  It has a purple-ish stripe along the top of the tank.  The purple color means it’s not drinking water.

The City also has a new re-use/cycled water fill station at Old Settlers Park, just behind the Dell Diamond.  That’s what you see in the top picture.  This water is available FREE of charge to customers for commercial irrigation, development, or construction use only.  The contractor simply has to have a vehicle to put the water in (like a tank truck) and have the equipment to open the purple fire hydrant and hook up their truck to take the water.

The City envisions that developers and construction crews, or even landscapers, will use this water during new construction to keep the dust down, or water new landscaping, or whatever other use that they would normally use treated drinking water for.  Again, that’s good for our city and for conservation, in that expensive, clean, potable water that isn’t being used for drinking or health or safety purposes (cooking, cleaning), isn’t being wasted.  It essentially extends our drinking water supply, which is a huge necessity in times of drought and with our continued population growth.

How Much Water?

The heat is on, Finally!…or maybe you’re thinking more like me, and bring back the rain!  Well, in the last few weeks with no rain and still none in the forecasts, our water in glasses increasingwater usage has gone up.  It’s increased.  I know mine has at my house, I’ve had to water the yard some; and in the City as a whole, usage has doubled what we used during the first part of the year.

Have you wondered “Just HOW MUCH water does the City use?”  And I don’t mean the City offices, I mean all of us that live and work here…all our homes, apartments, businesses…well, it really adds up to millions of gallons of water used everyday.  How many millions exactly depends on lots of things, but the most important is the temperature. (naturally!)

We have this information on the City’s website.  It’s totally accessible, after you choose like 5 different links before getting to that page.  Here’s a handy link to get you right to the page that displays the water usage information.  The City provides daily water use information in a graph, as well as lake levels of the lakes we get our water from (that would be Lakes Georgetown and Stillhouse Hollow).  It’s on the Water page of the Utilities and Environmental Services Department page, way down at the bottom.

Also, this may be more than you want to know, but for the water (and graph) nerds out there, here’s how much water has been used monthly for the last year in Round Rock.  (Since I’m both a water and graph nerd, I feel secure in being able to say that and not offend anyone!)

You can see that water use is low in the winter, and that is how is should be.  It’s what we expect to see.  That’s because fewer people are watering their landscapes (ideally everyone’s sprinklers are turned off, but that isn’t really the case).  The City generally uses between 13 – 15 million gallons of water per day in the winter months.  Summer usage is when we really need to pay attention to how high the use goes to ensure we have the water, have the capability of producing clean water, and distributing the water to everyone that needs it.  Currently, our City usage has been 28 – 34 million gallons of water per day this last month.  That’s a lot of water going onto our lawns!

Enjoy the water data!  And keep being water smart.

Invest in Your Irrigation System

SmartIrrMonthFor this Smart Irrigation Month blog, I’d like to borrow from an article from the Irrigation Association, about what to think about when installing a new system and the upkeep of your current one.

Using an automated irrigation system is one of the best ways to keep your lawn and landscape beautiful and healthy.  Plan carefully for a reliable, flexible irrigation system that can grow and evolve along with your landscaping.

  • Use components that provide flexibility. Different plants have different watering needs, and these needs may change over time. Your system should allow you to apply the right amount of water for each type of plant by the most effective method.
  • Install excess capacity. Irrigation zones are areas that are watered by the same irrigation valve and plumbing. Installing extra connections now makes it easier and less expensive to expand your irrigation system later.
  • Think smart. Include “smart” controls that automatically adjust watering based on rain, soil moisture, evaporation and plant water use.
  • Check water pressure. Low or high pressure can seriously affect sprinkler performance; choose sprinklers based on the water pressure on your site.
  • Buy the best. Use the best components you can afford to minimize future maintenance and total lifetime cost of your system.
  • Meet code requirements. Include the right backflow prevention device for your area. Required by the National Plumbing Code for all irrigation systems, backflow prevention devices prevent irrigation system water from contaminating the water supply.
  • Dig deep. Install lines deep enough to protect them from damage from aeration and other lawn maintenance.
  • Look for savings. Many water utilities offer rebates for certain water-efficient products. Before finalizing your new system, consult with your local water provider.
  • Hire carefully. Even the best irrigation system won’t perform well if installed incorrectly. When looking to hire a designer or irrigator, always get multiple bids, check references, and confirm all vendors are insured and LICENSED.

Smart Irrigation Month is an initiative of the Irrigation Association, a non-profit industry organization dedicated to promoting efficient irrigation. Learn more at

To find an IA-certified professional to design, install, maintain or audit your irrigation system, visit

Use Your Head

We’re still in Smart Irrigation month, and I want to share our recent video on the three main types of sprinkler heads.SmartIrrMonth  It is important to know which kind or kinds you have, because the type of sprinkler head you have, determines how long the station (or zone) should be set to run.  Some heads need a longer time than others for a variety of reasons.

There are two main sprinkler head typesrotor and spray.  There is also drip irrigation, which technically has no head at all!  Rotor heads, if you remember, rotate, so they are not watering the same area the entire time they are running, therefore, they need to run for a longer period of time than spray heads.  The minimum I typically recommend running them for is 15 minutes, and that’s in a shady area.  Usually between 25-35 minutes is a good time for sunnier areas with turfgrass.

Since spray heads are stationary, they pop-up and stay watering the same spot the entire time, they can run for a shorter amount of time than rotors.  I usually recommend between 6 -15 minutes for those stations, depending on the plant material and amount of sunlight, with the 15 minutes being for areas in full sun and turfgrass.

Drip irrigation is different.  Drip typically emits water very slowly, very minimally, so it oftentimes needs to run for longer periods—30 minutes at minimum or much longer in many cases.  I caution you to know how many gallons per minute your drip is using before you just set it for an hour.  I’ve seen drip that was using 20 gallons per minute, which is just as much as “traditional” spray zones!  Unfortunately it cased very high water usage at the property before it was discovered.

Watch our latest Water Wise and I hope you make adjustments, as needed, to your watering schedule!



Sprinkler System Check-Ups

Can you believe it’s July already??  July is “Smart Irrigation Month” deemed so by the SmartIrrMonthIrrigation Association since 2005, because that’s typically when the hottest temperatures occur.  With high and hot temperatures come higher water use, it’s just a given.  We still want our landscapes to look as good as they have the rest of the year, so we crank up the water.

It’s been a slightly different year already: we haven’t had a 100-degree day yet!  We’ve only had a handful of 90-degree days!  And, we’ve been inundated with rainfall all throughout May and June (which have refilled the lakes! Yay!); so we really haven’t needed to use the irrigation system at all so far this year.

That’s all great news!  But now that it’s becoming increasingly hot and muggy, I know we are itching to turn on those sprinklers!  Before you do, I advise you to do a quick check of the system, to make sure it’s working properly.  Details of how to this are below:

Performing a check of the irrigation system, (aka an Irrigation Evaluation, or Irrigation Audit) is the cornerstone for maintaining the system.  If you are a direct water customer of Round Rock, Water Conservation staff (that’s me) will schedule and do this for you; however, it’s simple enough that you could do it yourself—and it’s highly recommended to check you system monthly!  I recently found a broken head on my own system that I hadn’t noticed or even realized was there, that got hit when the grass was last mowed.   So, how do we check it?

  1. First you need to go to the controller and turn the dial to “test” or “system test” if that option is there (Rainbird controllers have this). If you have this option, great!  The number you see in the display are minutes that, once started, will run each station for x minutes and then turn off.  A good default number is 2 minutes.  After selecting 2 minutes, push the manual start button on the controller to begin the system test.
    1. If you DO NOT have the “test” option on your controller, you can simply program one in. Just choose a program that you are not using for your normal watering cycle—probably the C program.  You don’t need to enter in start times or water days, only watering times; so for each of your stations, enter a runtime of 2 minutes.  Then start the program manually.
  2. Once the system is running, you are looking for problems, issues like sprinkler heads turned the wrong way and spraying the street, rather than the grass. Or heads that do not pop-up over the grass (that’s why there’s that dry spot!), or heads that are clogged, and no water is coming out of them. You could also look for leaking heads, broken nozzles, and other leaks.  For an idea of what some of this looks like, see my blog “What is Water Waste?” from last month.
    1. The simplest, and most worthwhile, thing to fix is misdirected heads; most of them can simply be turned to face the appropriate direction by using your hand to grab the head (essentially the neck) and physically turn it. This prevents water waste, poor coverage, and ensures the water is used, rather than running off the property; all of which are positives for you and your property.
    2. Nozzles that are clogged are easily be cleaned out (when the system is turned off!). Unscrew the nozzle, rinse it and the filter off, and screw it back on.  You may use an old toothbrush or toothpick to clean out the emitter where the water sprays out of the nozzle, it’s pretty small.  Once screwed back on, turn the system on to make sure you have put it on facing the correct direction and it’s watering what it needs to be.
    3. Low heads or heads that do not pop-up over the grass is due to either too tall grass, which is really not a bad thing, usually, or more likely, the heads have settled over time and just sunk into the ground. They need to be replaced with taller heads in order to have better coverage—to get the water out far enough to water what’s it’s supposed to.  You can replace this head yourself with a taller head (they are sold by height in inches, so if you have a 4” head currently, you may increase to a 6”), or depending on the amount of low heads, you may hire a licensed irrigator to do this, as there is a degree of professionalism needed.  You don’t want the heads sticking up over the grass and become a hazard when the grass is mowed.

So that’s the basics of performing a system check!  Do it monthly to actually see how the system is working, that what is supposed to be watered is actually being watered, AND, most importantly, make repairs and adjustments to the system to keep it running efficiently!

Lawn Problems


White Patch disease

Happy Summer!  Now that the rains have slightly slowed down, and the sun is out (and the wonderful humidity is here), I’ve been seeing more people watering their yards and also hearing questions like “why is my grass brown?

Before we dive into that, I want to fully acknowledge that I’m not a plant disease expert and I can’t diagnose many problems…but I can pick out a few!  So, I wanted to point you to some good resources that may help you determine what type of lawn problem you’re having and offer solutions on how to fix it.

I also want to point out that a lot of plant problems come from having too much water (cough, rain, over irrigating, cough) and look surprisingly similar to problems with not enough water.  Too much water do just as much damage as not enough water (like drowning a plant, keeping the roots too wet, fungal and rotting disease); so the answer isn’t always to throw more water on the yard.  Especially with the continued rains, the soil still isn’t dried out enough to really need additional water yet.


Summer Patch disease

The turf and disease experts in the state are undoubtedly the Aggies.  When I last checked, their AggieTurf website was undergoing updates and expected to be up and running by July 2015.  However, the old site is still there and has some great information and some decent pictures of turf disease.  The Texas A&M turf researchers tend to be very analytical and formal with their responses, which makes some of their site not so easy reading.  They are also quick to provide information on which chemicals to use, which I hope are always used as a last resort.

The City ogrow_green_program_banner_9f Austin’s Grow Green program has a much easier to understand format, by using a chart that you basically answer simple questions to find the type of lawn disease you have.  Their worksheet also tells you what is causing the issue and how to solve it, in a more friendly way.  The Grow Green program offers a variety of methods—from organic, to so quite as organic!

Good luck keeping those lawns green!

Lake Georgetown–Full!

  • May 29, 2015

  • Posted In: Uncategorized
Lake Georgetown April 2015

Lake Georgetown April 23, 2015

So, it’s shocking to me how much things can change in a month! I wrote the blog about Lake Georgetown being just over half-full and took the picture at the top at that time. You can see on the far side of the lake all of the white intake pipes sticking out of the water. The low lake levels were the reason we were in water restrictions, even with the ample rain this year.

Now, one month later I’m back at Lake Georgetown and the lake is now at 100 percent full. This was taken May 25, in the morning, before the big storms. Check out the next picture and see the water level difference on those intake pipes!!

Lake Georgetown May 25, 2015

Lake Georgetown May 25, 2015

Pretty amazing how the water can rise that much, so fast. This picture is taken at a slightly different angle, but you can still see the bridge and the intakes. If we went today to Lake Georgetown, it would be even higher than this (officially the level is 130 percent full!).

The lakes are full — Lake Stillhouse Hollow, our other supply of water, is not quite 100 percent, but close to it — and every day are continuing to rise more. Because of this, the Brazos River Authority, which manages the lakes, has determined restrictions are no longer necessary for our area.  So, effective May 29, 2015, water restrictions are in Round Rock are being lifted.

Now, that said, please don’t go water your yard! Let’s use some common sense. It’s rained more than 9 inches this month. Your yard doesn’t need any more right now. Hopefully, without sounding too preachy (I am the water conservation coordinator, after all), I want to HIGHLY ENCOURAGE all of you to continue to be smart with our water. We don’t want the lakes to be drained by the middle of the summer and have to enter back into restrictions, right? I appreciate all of your conservation and smart water use!