Year: 2020

Reusing Water Rocks!

The story of our city’s water

It’s very important to know where our water comes from and the process it goes through to fully understand and appreciate it. I believe the most important part of water conservation is the education of our community. If each person is more aware and informed about our water source, they might be more inclined to save it!

Our water mostly comes from Lake Georgetown which gets supplemented from Lake Stillhouse Hollow, near Belton via a 28-mile pipeline, and some from the Edwards Aquifer.

Lake Georgetown only gets recharged from storm water runoff and is effected by evaporation quite often. Lake Georgetown’s water level decreases frequently and fast (especially summer) which is our highest water consumption season. According to the City of Round Rock’s Water Production Report for August 2019 (Last summer), the average daily water consumption from surface water was about 30 million gallons of water!

Drought and water use go hand in hand

Water consumption is highest in the summer due to the watering of lawns, gardens, and pools. The lack of rain causes plants to dry up and die so watering increases to prevent that. Did you know that traditional irrigation uses potable water to irrigate lawns? Yes, that’s right. We water our grass with DRINKING WATER! August 2019 had a total average of 0.01 inches of rain. High water usage and lack of rain can be a dangerous combination because our water resources are being depleted faster than they are being replenished. This is a threat of water scarcity! As our population continues to grow, so does water consumption. Our city planners realized that they had to plan for more water usage and find ways to save water. About 20 years ago, the City of Round Rock implemented one of the most important water saving technologies to a special part of town. The Water Reuse program was created as an effort to reduce the City’s peak potable water use during the high use months. 

Potable: Safe to drink; drinkable.

Reuse, Reclaimed, Recycled water: treated wastewater that is safe and suitable for a purpose. Reuse may include irrigation of gardens and agricultural fields or replenishing surface water and groundwater.

Benefits

  • This helps with the City’s conservation efforts, by increasing the amount of potable (drinking) water that we have available.
  • This water is at a lower cost than the treated drinking water that is traditionally used to water landscapes.
  • Recycling water uses less energy than treating and distributing potable water.
  • Helps meet the domestic, industrial and environmental water demands that are increasing daily.

Reuse tank located off University Boulevard and Sandy Brook Drive

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. These areas include the Higher Education Center, Austin Community College, other parks and schools in the northeast part of the city, and subdivisions including Forest Creek HOA, Forest Creek Golf Course, the Freeman Tract, Legends Village HOA, and the Vizcaya development. The City also has a reuse water fill station at Old Settlers Park. This water is available FREE of charge to customers for commercial irrigation, development, or construction use only.

Is it safe?

I completely understand if people are concerned that lawns are being watered with recycled wastewater. According to a publication from the Reuse Water Foundation, “Disinfected tertiary-treated recycled water is virtually free from all pathogens, including viruses. Several long-term microbiological studies involving thousands of samples have confirmed that pathogens are reduced to non-detectable or insignificant levels in tertiary-treated recycled water.” So even though its water that has been used before, it’s still safe!

 

Look out for purple!

Purple indicates reclaimed non potable water. You will be able to see purple colored sprinkler heads, valve boxes, and even a purple stripe at the top of our reuse water tower. Most states require pipes to be colored purple when they carry reuse water. This bright color is also great for public education! Curious people may like to know why some pipes are colored purple.

I am happy to know that this city is trying to conserve our most important natural resources. It shouldn’t only be the city’s responsibility. You can find other ways to help conserve water in those hot summer months. There are many water saving tips on the Water Spot Blog!

Mayor Morgan: City faces growth head-on through long-term planning

Mayor Craig Morgan pens a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader. This is a repost of his most recent feature.


Mayor Craig Morgan

At a recent City Council meeting, we voted to rename the City of Round Rock’s new public works building for former City Manager Bob Bennett. During a presentation on behalf of the committee that nominated him, City Attorney Steve Sheets recalled a presentation Bob gave in the late 1970s at a Kiwanis Club meeting, at the time when the population was edging toward 5,000, with the city limits settled between Gattis School Road and Bowman Road, from Georgetown Street and Sunrise Road to Deepwood Drive to the west. The City had one traffic light at Mays and Main Streets, with no frontage roads along IH-35. Bob, who also served as the City’s first planning and zoning director, estimated that the City of Round Rock would reach a population of 100,000 by the early 2000s, which was unthinkable at the time.

During his time at the City, Bob oversaw the development of a Master Transportation Plan that identified the need for many of our roads that exist today: A.W. Grimes, Kenney Fort, Old Settlers, FM 1431, 3406, Dell Way, Chisholm Trail, Wyoming Springs, Forest Creek and Louis Henna. In 1979, when the City’s water wells went dry, Bob immediately went to work to purchase water from Lake Georgetown and proposed a bond sale to construct a new raw water line and water treatment plant. He also developed our first water conservation plan, and pushed for construction of the wastewater plant that we use today. Our partnerships with the Round Rock Express baseball team and Dell Technologies also have Bob’s fingerprints on them. Some of these decisions weren’t always obvious or popular in the moment they were made, but are now integral to our city operations and culture as a community.

Just as Bob once predicted that the City of Round Rock would grow to accommodate more than 100,000 people, we find ourselves having to plan for a future beyond our current understanding of our community as we know it today. Current projections indicate that our full build out will result in a population of about 250,000.

Last month, City Council held our annual two-day retreat, which allows us time to update and reprioritize our Strategic Plan, the foundation for all long-term City initiatives. Our long-term goals haven’t changed much over the past few years, but we do revisit and reprioritize them as needed to meet the changing demands we face. Our strategic goals for the next five years remain the same from last year: Financially Sound City Providing High Value Services; City Infrastructure: Today and for Tomorrow; Great Community to Live; “The Sports Capital of Texas” for Tourism and Residents; Authentic Downtown – Exciting Community Destination; and Sustainable Neighborhoods – Old and New. 

This year will certainly be a year that moves us toward our strategic goals. The new year kicked off with the construction of our Downtown parklets, which will be completed in June and include new trees, tables and chairs, additional landscaping, lighting elements and expanded walkable space for pedestrians. We also plan to release more information this spring on the progress of the new library, which will be built on East Liberty Avenue, a block north of the current building. That project will also create a need for us to look at moving forward on plans to continue investment into Downtown infrastructure, particularly in the northeast area. All of these projects, along with private investment, will continue the redevelopment of Downtown into a special place that brings families, friends and our community closer together.

This year will also see several road projects under construction. Last year, City Council approved the first round of funding for $240 million in road projects that will add capacity and connectivity to our road network over the next five years. Our first round of projects expected to break ground in 2020 include the widening of University Boulevard from I-35 to Sunrise Bouelvard, and from A.W. Gimes Boulevard to State Highway 130; the widening of Gattis School Road from Via Sonoma Trail to Red Bud Lane; the extension of Logan Street from Greenlawn Boulevard to A.W. Grimes Boulevard; and extensions along Kenney Fort Boulevard from Old Settlers Boulevard to Joe DiMaggio Boulevard, as well as from Forest Creek Drive to State Highway 45. Our partners at the Texas Department of Transportation will also break ground on RM 620 improvements in the coming months. Although the construction phase of these projects will cause some short-term headaches, the improvements will result in better, safer commutes in the decades to come.

As a City that’s always on the move, it’s important that Round Rock’s leaders regularly check our course to make sure we’re navigating a path that will get us not only where we want to be tomorrow, but 15 years from now and beyond. We owe so much of what we have today to seeds that were planted in the past, and it’s important for us to continue set up Round Rock’s future generations and leadership for even more success. 

Round Rock teen provides 150 dog beds to animal shelter

If today’s students are tomorrow’s future, things are looking bright in Round Rock.

Cedar Ridge High School freshman Cooper Douglas, 14, embodied the Round Rock spirit of taking care of others with his recent Eagle Scout project. A member of Boy Scouts Troop 157, Douglas made 150 dog beds for the Williamson County Animal Shelter. 

Douglas had previously earned service hours by reading to dogs at the animal shelter, and decided to use his passion for animals to take his volunteering to the next level. For his Eagle Scout project, he put together a budget proposal and presented it at a troop board meeting. He mobilized volunteers, distributed materials and oversaw the creation of the beds.

“To be a good leader, you have to step outside your comfort zone into others,” he said. “A leader needs to be someone who shows an example.”

Douglas was promoted to Eagle Scout in July 2019, and the dog beds remain in use at the shelter today.

“It’s probably one of the happiest times of my life, just seeing everything come together and seeing happy animals,” he said. “Who doesn’t like a happy dog?”

Indeed, Cooper. Great job!

Learn more about volunteering at the Williamson County Animal Shelter at pets.wilco.org/volunteer

2020 Water Conservation New Year’s Resolution

A new year means new opportunities to change the way we live and to make a better version of ourselves. Every year, everyone comes up with a new list of resolutions. Whether its to go to the gym or save more money, we all want goals that will have a positive impact on our lives. This year, we should all make our New Year’s Resolution list an environmentally sustainable one! This should not be difficult or expensive. In fact, some of these tips will help you save money and make your life a little easier!

Be conscious

Find the Value in Water

Every time you turn on the faucet, think about where that water comes from. Do you know where it comes from? How does it get to your home? Try learning a little more about the city’s municipal water processes. Think about how many activities you use water for in one day, maybe even make a list. Try to find the value in water by picturing your morning routines and day to day activities without water. The first step in saving more water is to investigate your household water usage. It’s helpful to see which activities use the most water. One excellent way to see how much water your household uses, is to sign in to RRTXWATER.com

Here are some simple tips to help you get started with your water conservation journey.

The best way to achieve a new goal is to start small and at home.

Kitchen

  1. Rinse fruits and veggies in a container filled with water instead of running them under the tap. Use the collected water to water house plants.
  2. Don’t use water for defrosting. Instead, leave frozen foods in the fridge to defrost.
  3. Collect the running water while waiting for the temperature to change. Use this water to drink or cook.
  4. When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run the whole time. Be mindful of when you need to use water. The dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes by hand! Wash dishes in the dishwasher if there are a lot. Just scrape off food into the trash bin, no need to prewash them. ALSO, when in the market for a new washer, be sure to look for an Energy Star model to reduce energy costs.

Bathroom

  1. Be a leak detective. Check all shower heads, toilets, and sinks in every bathroom for leaks. Lean how to check for leaks here: Find Leaks (of course, this isn’t only for bathrooms)
  2. Collect running water in a bucket while waiting for temperature to change before showering. Use this water to wash dishes or water plants.
  3. Use water saving shower heads, toilets, and faucet aerators. These products should have a Water Sense Label
  4. Use body and shampoo soap bars instead of shower gels. Gels need more water to rise out.
  5. Avoid using the toilet as a waste basket! Do not throw tissues, paper towels, or wipes into the toilet.

Laundry Room

  1. Only fill up water to cover clothing. Match the water level to the size of the load!
  2. Use washer for full loads only or change load setting if possible.
  3. Try re-using towels and clothes more than once.
  4. Skip the extra rinse cycle.
  5. When in the market for a new washer, there is a rebate for the purchase of high efficiency clothes washers. By replacing older washers with new, efficient models, water use can be reduced up to 40%! Clothes Washer Rebate

Outside

  1. Collect rainwater. Use rainwater to water plants, wash cars, and clean! Rainwater Collection Rebate
  2. Do not water more than twice per week. This is crucial to keep your lawn and landscape drought tolerant.
  3. Plant native shrubs, flowers, and trees. Native plants are well adapted to the climate here in central Texas, they need less water. Aggie Horticulture provides a host of expertise on landscape plants, ornamentals, turf-grass, and gardens.
  4. Spruce up your irrigation system. System maintenance can help save you a lot of money and water! Cracks in pipes can lead to costly leaks, and broken sprinkler heads can waste water and money.
  5. Be aware of the weather! Don’t water plants or grass if weather forecasts predict rain. Change your irrigation system settings to match the seasons weather.

These easy steps to conserving water is an excellent way to start your environmentally friendly goals! If you just start implementing one tip from this list a day, you will help conserve water and you will start to save money as well! The easiest step to starting a new goal is to just be mindful about how much water you and your family use. Learn about the importance of water this year and you will learn more about your habits. Inform family and friends about your new goals and try to get them on board!

Happy New Year!

Wheels in motion to begin Driving Progress on transportation improvements

In 2019, the City of Round Rock put in place funding strategies to accelerate transportation improvements over the next five years – and beyond. The intent is to step up the pace of implementation of the $1.2 billion Transportation Master Plan approved in October 2017.

The City Council approved Roadway Impact Fees in March 2019, which will be paid by developers to cover some of the costs of expanding our transportation network necessitated by their projects. In April 2019, the City issued $30 million in certificates of obligation to begin work sooner rather than later on major roadway improvements such as widening Gattis School Road and University Boulevard.

The City has a target of investing a minimum of $240 million over the next five years to improve roadway capacity and connectivity in a program we’re calling Driving Progress. To reach that total, the City plans to issue additional COs over the next four years.

Other funding sources include our half-cent, Type B sales tax revenues, state and federal funds like those received through the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO); and partnerships with private developers. Funding for Round Rock projects is also expected via the general obligation bonds approved by Williamson County voters in November.

Here are some of the projects expected to break ground in 2020:

  • University Boulevard widening from the IH-35 frontage road to Sunrise Boulevard.
  • University Boulevard widening from A.W. Grimes Boulevard to SH 130.
  • Gattis School Road widening from Via Sonoma Trail to Red Bud Lane.
  • Logan Street extension from Greenlawn Boulevard to A.W. Grimes Boulevard.
  • Kenney Fort Boulevard extension from Old Settlers Boulevard to Joe DiMaggio Boulevard (known as Segment 4).
  • Kenney Fort Boulevard extension from Forest Creek Drive to SH 45 frontage road (known as Segments 2, 3).

Other projects in the Driving Progress program include:

  • Gattis School Road widening from .25 miles west of A.W. Grimes to .2 miles east of Double Creek Drive (known as Segment 3).
  • Wyoming Springs extension from Brightwater Boulevard/Creekbend Boulevard to FM 3406/Old Settler’s Boulevard.
  • Red Bud Lane North widening from Wal-Mart at U.S. 79 to County Road 117.
  • Red Bud Lane South widening from Evergreen Drive to Gattis School Road.

Partner in Progress

These lists don’t include the significant work being done by the Texas Department of Transportation in Round Rock, most notably the widening of RM 620 and improvements to IH 35.

Williamson County Animal Shelter offers free pet adoptions

It’s time to “Bark in the Mew Year” with free pet adoptions at the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter!

The event, made possible thanks to a donation from the Petco Foundation, will take place through Saturday, Jan. 4.

All adult dogs over 20 pounds and all adult cats will be free to adopt as part of the promotional event and will be spayed/neutered, have age appropriate vaccinations and a registered microchip. Adopters will also receive a certificate for a free veterinary wellness exam as part of the adoption process.

The shelter is open Friday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

For more information about the animal shelter, and to view a listing of adoptable animals, visit pets.wilco.org.