Year: 2020

Mayor Morgan: In COVID-19, Round Rock finds the helpers

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


Mayor Craig Morgan

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” — Mr. Rogers

As Round Rock and other cities across Texas begin to ease into reopening the economy, many in our community are preparing our minds for a shift in life as we’ve known it for the past month.

You may be preparing for a return to working in person, reopening a business, ordering masks before leaving your home or planning a visit to see family or friends for the first time in a while. Even as we move forward, many in our community continue to face hardships caused by COVID-19. In true Round Rock fashion, several organizations and groups have come together to help those in need.

The Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD), made up of local non-profits in Williamson County, have set up drop-off donation sites for non-medical items to be delivered to vulnerable populations and elderly residents.

Round Rock Area Serving Center has been running a modified food pantry by delivering groceries curbside to families in need. In its first three weeks of the program, the Center served more than 3,000 people, 35 percent of whom had been personally impacted by COVID-19. Thousands of dollars have also been provided in direct relief to families in need. All of this has been with 12 to 15 volunteers and six staff members. Several in our community have stepped up to donate food, money and recycled grocery bags to assist.

Opportunities for Williamson and Burnet Counties, probably best known for running Meals on Wheels and Head Start, is working to provide basic items to their clients who are unable to visit the store for their needs, even in the best of times. Their work is not done as many of their program participants continue to shelter in place, and they are still seeking donations of money as well as basic needs, from food to toiletries.

Our local school districts have banded together to provide mental health support to students and families who have been facing difficulties as a result of COVID-19. Round Rock ISD has a plethora of resources on its website, roundrockisd.org, that could benefit all in our community, even if you don’t have a school-aged child.

One of the causes closest to my heart has been Round Rock Cares. We announced Round Rock Cares in conjunction with the Round Rock Chamber, Dell Technologies and the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation to help our small businesses in Round Rock by allocating financial resources as quickly and as directly as possible in their greatest time of need. In the first round of fundraising, we were able to raise nearly $400,000 as a community to help 160 small businesses in need. I have been so proud of our community coming together to lift up the entrepreneurs who make our city such a special place to live.

Although these are all established organizations in our community, several others have come together in less formal ways to provide for those in need. So many of our residents have helped by making masks, picking up necessary items and groceries for neighbors and coming up with creative ways to lift each other up.

There are other non-profits in our community who may not directly feed or provide money to those in need, but still do important work that we should support. Arts and culture is an area that has been especially hit hard as events have had to cancel. In Round Rock, we are missing events such as Sculptfest, Music on Main and Artist Pop-Up Shows that feed our own desire for entertainment while helping support local artists. Try not to forget the various groups around town who need to survive so we can look forward to creative experiences on the other side of this.

I am so proud of Round Rock staying true to ourselves in supporting each other. As we move forward, we will continue to face these challenges together. It’s important that we continue to lift up not only our residents and businesses, but the organizations that are supporting them. In the midst of these times, always look for the helpers, and ask if you could be one yourself. To learn more about giving or receiving assistance, visit roundrocktexas.gov/coronavirus.

Drinking Water Week

      Water education is crucial for water conservation

Drinking Water Week is a great time for everyone in our city to recognize and appreciate that water is always there when we need it. This is a perfect time to learn more about our drinking water!  Water conservation is frequently overlooked because water is a renewable resource. Although renewable, many communities around the world lack access to clean drinking water, and future projections show that more countries will face water scarcity. I will answer some questions that many people including myself had before gaining a better understanding of water conservation.

If Earth is covered in water, why do we face water scarcity around the world?

 It is easy to get confused about the amount of water humans and animals can drink. About 97% of Earths water is saltwater in the oceans. The 3% of water that is left is freshwater.  Most freshwater is frozen in glaciers or stored deep underground as groundwater. That leaves only about 1% of freshwater for us to drink and share with wildlife. Click on the picture for more info.

Why do we need to save water if it is renewable?

This small percentage of water is all 7.5 billion people have. This tiny amount of water is not evenly distributed around the world. This unequal distribution of water is due to population growth, geography, climate, political, and economic problems.

  • As population continues to grow, the demand on water increases.
  • Places with hot and dry climates, like deserts, do not have as much freshwater. Many southwestern states in the US face this problem.
  • As the average temperature of Earth’s climate rises, glaciers and ice caps melt. This is a huge percentage of Earths stored freshwater melting into the sea becoming saline.
  • Many countries fight over resources. Even in the United States, we are seeing a huge debate over the usage of the Colorado River between 7 states.
  • Many developing countries lack funds for infrastructure such as dams, reservoirs, treatment facilities and piping.

What is using all this water?

As you can see in the picture, irrigation is the largest consumer of water in the United States.  It not only waters the crops we eat; it must be used to irrigate the crops our livestock eat and graze on. This also includes the irrigation of commercial and residential properties. That means lawns all around cities. Click the picture for more info.

Well why can’t we just take the salt out of ocean water?

I always used to ask this question, and the answer I always got was that it was way too expensive. So how much does it really cost? According to the Texas Water Development Board, it would take $658 million to build a desalination plant in Texas. (El Paso, Texas has the only desalination plant in Texas, which is largest inland plant in the world! El Paso Water desalinates brackish groundwater from the Hueco Bolson aquifer and can produce up to 27.5 million gallons of fresh water daily.) Not only is it costly, but the process of pumping out large amounts of water from the ocean takes a toll on marine life. Pumps suck up millions of plankton and small fish which are the base of marine ecosystems.

Now that I have answered some common questions, do you see the importance of water conservation?

Making educated decisions

Once somebody has researched and learned more about water, they will be able to make educated decisions on how they use it. Water conservation education will also help people make smart political choices that benefit our natural resource. People with a “save water” mentality will also make educated decisions on what they purchase. It’s important for everyone to know why water conservation is important so we can make changes and decisions that will help our future generations.

 

 

Resident concerns about Coronavirus shift in key areas

Round Rock residents remained concerned about the economic impact on the community of the COVID-19 pandemic, but fewer are worried about the impact to their households, according to a second online survey conducted by the City of Round Rock. 

More than 800 residents completed the survey April 10-13. The City’s first survey featuring similar questions was conducted March 23-25, just before a Stay Home order was issued for Williamson and Travis Counties.

As in the first survey, respondents frequently expressed their displeasure with those hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer and bleach wipes. While staying at home is the top answer to the question of how to help others, there are growing numbers saying the economy should be opened back up.

You can read the full survey results here.

While the local economy remains survey respondents’ primary concern, the ability of households to access goods and services is less worrisome than indicated in the first survey.

When asked, “What are your household’s concerns right now regarding COVID-19?” the No. 1 response at 72 percent was, “Economic impact on my community.” Respondents concerned about the economic impact on their households declined to 53 percent from 63 percent. Concerns about access to medical services, having enough supplies and having enough food also showed significant decreases from the first survey. “Emotional health of household,” cited by 52 percent, now ranks higher than concerns over supplies and medical treatment.

COVID 19 Household concerns chart

The increasing concern for the local economy may be reflected in the generosity of residents and businesses who have donated to Round Rock Cares, an initiative conceived by Mayor Craig Morgan and managed by the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation. More than $350,000 has been raised following the March 25 announcement by the City, Dell Technologies, the Round Rock Chamber and the Community Foundation, which donated a combined $100,000 to establish Round Rock Cares.

Concern that workplaces would be closed for an extended time decreased to 28 percent from 38 percent. Still, many expressed concerns about their financial situation.

“We only have $120.00 left,” wrote a respondent. “Last possible order for food made today. No more money to spend … It’s getting financially dicey now. Praying for our state of Texas. And TY for allowing me to stressfully whine. I am very aware that MANY have the same concerns. Thank you for what you do. We’re grateful but REALLY SCARED.”

A number of retirees also responded to this question, and expressed concern over a volatile stock market.

“As a retired senior, managing my 401k so it continues to grow is my job now,” one wrote.

The No. 1 response to the employment challenges question was “Not Applicable/Other,” so we created a tag cloud to give you a sense of what we heard in the comments.

employment tag cloud

When asked, “What kind of information would help your household most regarding COVID-19?” the top response remained, “The geographic areas that have higher outbreak rates,” at 52 percent. We’re pleased to report we are working to receive more specific location information on Round Rock positive cases from the Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD).

Some respondents also wanted information on how people are catching COVID-19. The WCCHD is now including that information in its Coronavirus (COVID-19) dashboard. Below are the results from April 16. Note: Community Transmission is light orange, Contact with Case is yellow, and Travel Acquired is red.

Round Rock COVID-19 Dashboard

As in the first survey, respondents said they are taking multiple steps to be prepared for COVID-19. Here are the top responses:

  1. Washed my hands more frequently with soap or hand sanitizer, 95 percent
  2. Not shaking hands or touching people in public places, 93 percent
  3. Kept space between myself and others while out, 90 percent
  4. Avoided crowds, 90 percent
  5. Stayed home more frequently, 89 percent

Not included in the first survey was the step of wearing a mask. Since then, the CDC has recommended people wear masks in public. In this survey, 61 percent reported wearing a mask when leaving home.

When asked what steps they have taken to assist the community, 88 percent responded, “Stayed in my home except to take part in essential activities.” That step had not been included in the first survey, which concluded prior to the Stay Home orders.

There were nearly 1,000 responses to the question, “Do you have other ideas on how residents can help others in the community relating to COVID-19?” Here’s a tag cloud of the top comments:

 

We’d like to thank all who took the time to let us know how they are doing and feeling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We, as your local government, can respond better to your changing needs when we have a clearer picture of what those are.

Spring Clean Your Yard

We already know that springtime or really, the end of winter, is a great time to clean out landscaping beds and cut away dead branches and plants to prep for the new spring growth.  In addition to cleaning gutters and planting beds, checking out your irrigation system is another great maintenance tip to get the yard ready for spring.

To get started, follow these simple steps:

  • Inspect Irrigation
    1. Check your system for clogged, broken, missing, or sprinkler heads that have been covered over by grass.  Better yet, go with a pro—find a TCEQ licensed irrigation professional to do the work for you.
    2. If water is pooling in your landscape or you have large soggy areas, you could have a leak in your system.  A leak as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen (1/32 of an inch) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.
    3. Are you watering the driveway, house, or sidewalk instead of your yard? Redirect sprinklers to apply water only to the landscape.
    4. If there are areas with no landscaping, but ARE getting irrigated, consider capping those heads to save the water.  There’s no point in watering what doesn’t need the water (i.e. narrow side yards, around trash cans and air conditioner units, dirt).
  • Watch Your Water
    1. Check water pressure. Low or high pressure can seriously affect sprinkler performance; choose sprinklers based on the water pressure on your site.  High water pressure looks like mist, or fogging, coming out of the sprinkler heads.  This can be reduced with pressure reducing heads, nozzles, or valves.
    2. View your water use online on the City customer portal, www.RRTXwater.com  Here you can see daily and hourly water use and can monitor your use for unexpected spikes and usage.

 

  • Select Smart
    1. An improperly scheduled irrigation controller can waste a lot of water and money. Update your system’s schedule with the seasons; when you do turn the system on (it’s still too early!), don’t water more than once per week.
    2. Replace the battery in your controller (common with Hunter and Rainbird brand controllers). The 9-volt battery will help save the program in the event of an extended power outage.
    3. If you select a WaterSense labeled controller to take the guesswork out of scheduling. The city provides a rebate on them too. 
    4. Other “smart” controls that can help adjust watering based on real, “live” conditions are soil moisture meters, rain and freeze sensors, weather stations, and water flow meters.

 

  • Mulch is Magic
    1. Mulch prevents weed growth, retains water, and insulates the soil and plant during cooler months, which all means less irrigation is needed.
    2. Use mulch wherever possible around trees, in shrub beds, even potted plants, mulching to a depth of 3-6″. However, you do not want to mulch to be mounded next to the trunk of the plant, often called “volcano mulching.”  It should be more saucer shaped so water will not run off or away from the plant.  A flat mat of mulch allows the water to sink in.
    3. Since mulch breaks down, it should be applied annually. The City of Round Rock provides free mulch to our water customers as our Brush Recycling Center.

Taking a little time now could help prevent unexpected yard problems as the year progresses. Learn more about maintaining a water-smart yard by visiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense website at www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoors.  Happy Spring!

Mayor Morgan: Round Rock finds a new normal in midst of COVID-19

Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.


MAYOR CRAIG MORGAN

It’s hard to believe that just one month ago, school was in session, spring break was around the corner and life was business as usual.

Now, the days blur together from news conference to news conference, and the weeks feel like months. Such is life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the City of Round Rock, we’ve had to make tough decisions to protect the health of our citizens while balancing the need to continue doing business and keep our community moving forward in the right direction. The City’s business is essential — from our first responders and the employees who keep our water running, to those who ensure roads are being built and development doesn’t stall.

And as we all know, medical personnel, restaurateurs, grocery store employees and so many others have stepped up to meet our community’s needs in this uncertain time.

Our community has largely remained calm through this storm and, while we might have grabbed an extra pack of toilet paper from the grocery store just in case it’s not there the next time, we have not allowed ourselves to be driven or taken over by fear and panic.

For those of us involved in essential services, the worry is always there — we wonder if we’ve come into contact with someone with COVID-19, and if we are bringing it into our homes. I urge you, for the sake of those working hard to keep our community safe and functioning, to continue to follow the orders and guidelines being administered at the state and federal level to help slow the spread of this virus to avoid overburdening our systems.

It pains me to think that things might never quite be the same. So many of our neighbors have lost jobs, and our businesses have suffered losses that will be difficult to overcome. Our schools have had to adjust to new circumstances, and our local restaurants and grocery stores have changed their way of doing business to meet our community’s needs.

As I drive through our downtown on my way to City Hall, I still feel a sense of shock at how empty the streets are. This virus is a stark reminder the only constant in life is change, and the future isn’t always quite what we pictured it to be.

The good news is this — we have the power to decide how we enter this new normal, and all signs point to Round Rock responding in the only way we know how, which is to help our fellow neighbor.

I find hope in a new initiative we’ve created for small local businesses called Round Rock Cares. To establish this fund, the City of Round Rock, the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation, the Round Rock Chamber and Dell Technologies each donated $25,000. Our total raised to date, as of the end of the week of March 29, was approximately $150,000.

We were fortunate to have Nyle Maxwell, chairman of the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation, and his wife, Nancy, match the first $10,000 of donations dollar for dollar, and Emerson Automation Systems announced they will match the next $10,000. Our own Round Rock Police Foundation also stepped up to give $1,000.

At the end of last week, we had requests from 140 plus applicants with needs over $900,000. And while that amount may seem like an impossible number, let’s put it into perspective: if half of our residents each gave $30, together we could raise $1.5 million dollars to help meet all the needs of our small businesses.

I encourage you to consider participating by visiting roundrockcares.org.

There are many other ways people in our community are stepping up to take care of each other. Local sewing clubs are making masks for our first responders and medical personnel to use in the field. Round Rock Area Serving Center, Opportunities for Williamson and Burnet Counties and the Round Rock ISD are distributing food to those in need.

Our City departments that offer quality of life services, such as Parks and Recreation, Sports Management and Tourism, and the public Library, have found creative ways to keep our minds and bodies active in this uncertain time, even from inside our homes.

We encourage you to not only stay up to date on information about COVID-19 but see all the ways you can help others at roundrocktexas.gov/coronavirus. Be sure to visit our resources page for an interactive tool to find resources available in Williamson County by ZIP code.

Round Rock helping Round Rock is what we have done for years and we are counting on you to help again and make a difference. We’re in this together, and we will come out stronger than before. That’s who we are as Texans, and that’s the Round Rock way.

Cervantes: Library ready to serve in times of crisis

Library Director Michelle Cervantes writes a regular column for the Round Rock Leader. This one appeared online on March 30.


Michelle Cervantes
Library Director

Thursday morning, I emptied the outside book return at the library, and there were only a few items to quarantine. Not enough to fill one shelf on the book cart.

This time last year we were recovering from one of our busiest spring break seasons on record. This year is completely different.

In the book return, there was a copy of the Leader. A front page caption read, “The Round Rock Public Library has closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

I still can’t believe it. In my long career in public service, I’ve never experienced anything like this.

After a long week of stressful situations and difficult decisions, I went home, sat in my backyard to soak up the sunshine and sent my sister an Instagram message, “Livin’ la COVIDA loca.”

We are living in a crazy time right now. But serving during a time of crisis is nothing new to public libraries. We were there to help survivors after Hurricane Katrina and after 9/11, when the New York libraries opened mobile units.

The library has always been a refuge. This time is different, because we had to close our doors to the public. Once I got over the shock of that reality, it was time to figure out how to serve in a completely virtual world.

The next challenge we are preparing for is how to handle returned items. Whenever we reopen, we will have a wave of materials coming back to the library. Our plan is to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to quarantine materials for the recommended period of time.

We understand the concerns that many people have about virus spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. The quarantine plan is a precautionary measure, and unless materials were directly exposed to the virus, they are not contaminated.

On the bright side, this has been a great opportunity to share all of our digital resources with you. We don’t have to worry about having to quarantine ebooks.

The staff have been working diligently on projects such as moving the fiction collection, cleaning, inventory, virtual programs, virtual training, answering phone calls and emails, checking and posting on social media, updating the website and assisting other City departments.

Remember, the Round Rock Public Library is here to serve our community through tough times:

  • Virtual library services remain available at all times, and we are expanding the digital collection.
  • The book return is closed. Keep any items you’ve borrowed until we reopen or announce other options.
  • We are waiving all late fees accrued during the closure.
  • Staff are available to take your calls and emails, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Thank you for your patience as we navigate these unprecedented challenges. Stay home, stay safe and hope to see you soon!

Local COVID-19 response survey: what we heard, what we’re doing

Thank you to the 1,200-plus residents who completed the COVID-19 online survey we published March 23-25. Your participation really helps. Information is power, particularly in slowing down the spread of the Coronavirus because there is much individuals can do. We, as your local government, can respond better to your needs when we have a clearer picture of what those are.

Below are top-line results to each question asked, and what the City has been doing. Here’s a link to the complete survey results, with names (and a couple of profanities) redacted. Spoiler alert: There’s some serious shade thrown at TP hoarders.

How knowledgeable do you feel about COVID-19?

What we heard: Over 90 percent of respondents say they are “very knowledgeable” or “somewhat knowledgeable” about COVID-19. 

What we’re doing: We asked the question to confirm our assumption that Round Rockers have a good handle on the basics of this global pandemic. Looks like you do. Still, we’ve been sharing links to trusted information sources like the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) as well as state and local public health authorities. 

Where do you get up-to-date information on COVID-19?

What we heard: The top two sources are national news, cited by 71 percent, and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at 67 percent. Local TV news was third at 56 percent. In the comments, lots of folks said they wanted to know where there are local cases.

What we’re doing: We created roundrocktexas.gov/coronavirus to share as much local information as possible. We’ve got the latest data from the local health district, links to state and local emergency orders, a list of closures and changes to City facilities and functions, as well as links to local resources for healthbusiness, and schools.

Fewer than 30 percent cited two local outlets as the source of their information on COVID-19, so bookmark these for future reference: the Williamson County and Cities Health District, our local public health authority, and the State Health Department, formally known as the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Which, if any, have you done to be more prepared for COVID-19?

What we heard: Here are the top responses …

  1. Washed my hands more frequently, 95 percent
  2. Not shaking hands or touching people in public places, 90 percent
  3. Avoided crowds, 88 percent
  4. Stayed up to date on news for information on the virus, 88 percent
  5. Stayed home more frequently, 87 percent
  6. Kept space between myself and others while out, 85 percent
  7. Avoided close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms, 78 percent

You guys are doing what it takes to flatten the curve. Way to go!

What we’re doing: Encouraging the entire community to keep it up! We’ve taken data provided by the Williamson County and Cities Health District to show exactly what the curve looks like in our corner of the world.

What are your household’s concerns right now regarding COVID-19?

  1. Economic impact on my community, 69 percent
  2. The safety of my community as the pandemic continues, 65 percent
  3. Members of my household becoming infected, 64 percent
  4. Economic impact on my household, 63 percent

What we heard: It sure looks the ancient wisdom of “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is being lived out here in Round Rock. Respondents care as much if not more about the well-being of the community as your their own family. 

What we’re doing: We sharing as much information as possible about how to support local businesses, including the Round Rock Cares fundraising effort, and what you can do to prevent becoming infected.

Which of these employment challenges are you or someone in your household facing (or likely to face) due to COVID-19?

What we heard: Note: This question was asked prior to the Stay Home Stay Safe orders from Williamson and Travis counties went into effect. The top response, at 38 percent, was “Workplace closed for an extended period.” Other top responses were “Job is ‘essential’ making COVID risk higher (e.g. first responders, health care providers, etc.)”, “Reduction in hours I can work” and “Self-employed with a decrease in business activity.”

What we’re doing: The City has partnered with the Round Rock Chamber, Dell Technologies and the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation to create Round Rock Cares, which will provide direct support to small businesses impacted the pandemic. We’re also encouraging residents to Shop the Rock to support our local businesses. The City is encouraging businesses to seek information and support from the Round Rock Chamber, and have created a Business Resources page on our website.

What kind of information would help your household the most in preparing for COVID-19?

What we heard: The No. 1 answer, from 50 percent of respondents, was “The geographic areas that have higher outbreak rates.” The No. 2 answer, at 44 percent, was “What to do if someone in my household shows signs of the virus?” No. 3, at 43 percent, was “How to access and make needed food and supplies last.”

What we’re doing: The Health District has been providing more detailed information on the location of Williamson County cases as the number of confirmed cases has grown. We have taken that data and created this dashboard so our residents can see which cities have confirmed cases, as well as other information on Williamson County cases being released. 

On what to do if someone shows signs of the virus, we’re directing residents to the CDC’s new “Self-Checker” which can be found on its What To Do If You Are Sick page. We reached out to H-E-B on the question of food and supplies, and created this video. The largest grocer in Texas says there’s no need to panic buy or hoard items.

What actions have you taken to assist your community with potential impacts and/or risk of COVID-19?

What we heard: The most common response, at 87 percent, was “Stayed remotely connected with family and friends,” followed by “Stayed educated on the virus and helped spread accurate information,” at 78 percent. Sixty percent reported supporting small businesses. 

It was the “Other” responses that are truly inspiring, but not all that surprising in big-hearted Round Rock. Here is a representative sample of the responses:

  • “Brought supplies to a family who couldn’t find anything that they needed”
  • “Babysitting a single dad’s daughter so he can go to work”
  • “Avoided hoarding to allow more people access to essential products”
  • “My whole family is at increased risk group and voluntarily sheltered in place to protect ourselves”
  • “Donated masks to St David’s”
  • “Provided financial assistance to extended family members whose jobs are affected by COVID-19.”

What we’re doing: Cheering on our amazing community of givers! It’s worth checking out the complete survey results just to read through this list, as well as the answers to our next question…

Do you have other ideas on how residents can help others in the community relating to COVID-19?

What we heard: There were 23 pages of ideas shared. Wow! 

Here’s where we saw lots of venting about hoarders. Too many to list, but here may be the most, um, direct: “Stop being a selfish, dirtbag, hoarder!”

What we’re doing: The most common idea was to develop programs to help connect those willing to help others with those who need help. Lots of neighborhoods are using NextDoor to accomplish this, but many are not or may not be on that app. To contact the City about donations, send an email to covid-19donations@roundrocktexas.gov or call 512-218-5419.

Thanks again for taking the time to communicate with us. As Mayor Craig Morgan said in his video message to the community when the Stay Home Stay Safe order went into effect, “Friendswe’re in this together. And we will come out stronger than before. That’s who we are as Texans, and that’s the Round Rock way.”

Fix a Leak Week!

 

 

 

 

 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s annual Fix a Leak Week (March 16-22, 2020) is to encourage Americans to use water efficiently by finding and fixing leaks. Repairing minor leaks, such as running toilets, leaky faucets, and dripping shower heads, can save a family as much as 10 percent on their utility bill and save water for future generations.

Most of the time, wasting water can be seen instantly- like watering your lawn too much, or leaving the faucet on for too long. Sometimes, the worst water waste can go unnoticed for days, weeks, and even months.  It’s very easy to miss a leak that you can’t see or hear. It’s extremely important to keep an eye on your water usage.

We try our hardest to notify our water customers of leaks at their properties. We will send emails, postcards, and even door hangers to ensure that you know about your leak!

Keep an eye out for leaks

You can sign in to RRTXWATER.COM to see your monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly usage. This is a great way to see unusually high spikes in water consumption, and it’s the easiest way to determine if you have a leak. You can also go look at your water meter to check for leaks while no water in being used at your property. Watch it for five minutes to see if any of the numbers move or if an arrow symbol appears in the upper center square. If an arrow symbol appears in the upper center of the meter, then water is going through the meter, which means something is “using” water on your property. You can also look at your water bill usage (look at the gallons, not just the dollars). If you’re using more than 2,000 gallons per person, per month, in the home, then usage is higher than average, and you may want to check for leaks.

 

 Places to check if you determine you do have a leak

  • Toilets–flappers are a huge source of leaks inside the house. Use dye tablets or food coloring to see if the flapper isn’t sealing property. See video on how to do this!
  • Hot Water Heaters–look to see if there is water in the pan under the hot water heater.  If so, there is a leak in the heater, and it will need to be replaced or repaired by a professional.
  • Irrigation Systems– Hire a licensed irrigation company to come check the system for leaks, or manually run though each station for several minutes looking for problems in the system.
  1. Hire a licensed irrigation company to come check the system for leaks, or manually run though each station for several minutes looking for problems in the system.
  2. Sometimes a line break is easy to spot, as water will be pooling into the street or on the sidewalk. Often leaks aren’t visible thanks to the rocky, karst limestone area we live in. The water flows down through the rock and we don’t see a pool of water on the yard.  You’ll need to look for signs of low water pressure, such as sprinkler heads not popping up.
  • Water Softeners–listen for signs of recharging of the unit. Typically, they only recharge at night, if you constantly hear it, or hear it during daytime hours have a service company come check it.
  • Faucets–constant running water or drips coming from bathroom or kitchen faucets, the bathtub, or outdoor hose bibs are leaks that need repairing.  
  • Water Meter–if you see water coming out of the water meter, or in the meter box, call 512-218-5555 to have the City come check the meter for a leak.

Leaks can deceive

Leaks can seem like a small amount of water; it may be just a drip or a small trickle. BUT over time, these leaks can turn out to waste tremendous amounts of water and cost the homeowner hundreds of dollars on their monthly water bill. Even a shower head that drips every second can waste over 3000 gallons of water per year! That is a tremendous amount of potable water that has gone to waste!

Will it really make a difference?

It’s a question that everyone asks themselves. Something I hear is “I’m just one person”. This is proven wrong with facts! It’s crucial to get out of this mindset! The amount of homes with leaks add up!

Importance of water conservation

Drought is an ongoing problem for Texas, especially in the summertime. The effects of drought can be seen throughout the state. We notice lake levels drop, plants drying and dying. With climate change affecting our water systems in drastic ways, we must do everything we can to conserve the water we are lucky to have.

Mayor Morgan: State of the City is well-positioned for the future

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


MAYOR CRAIG MORGAN

Last month, I delivered the annual State of the City address at an event at the United Heritage Center at Dell Diamond. While we had a packed house for the event, thanks to the Round Rock Chamber, I want to share with you the news that the State of our City is well-positioned for the future.

The City excels at master planning and has for many years. Our plans don’t sit on a shelf, gathering dust — they get done. That’s why our quality of life is so high and why we make so many “Best of” lists. We know we’re going to have an ultimate population of 250,000, so we’re making decisions today with that future population in mind.

Today, we are poised to address our most pressing strategic priority — improving our transportation system — in a big way. The City Council approved a five-year, $240-million roadway improvement program last year as the first major step to implementing our $1.2 billion Transportation Master Plan. You can expect to see several of these projects underway in the coming year as part of our “Driving Progress” campaign. In order to pay for this program, the Council has adopted roadway impact fees, which will be paid by developers, to create a more fair and dependable funding source for new road capacity. Second, we issued the first round of property-tax backed bonds to help pay for the aggressive road-building program. We continue to see the value of partnerships with entities like Williamson County and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), which have committed funding to several major road projects planned for Round Rock.

But it’s not all about new roads. The City continues to invest millions of dollars in a comprehensive street maintenance program to make sure our neighborhood and arterial roadways stay in top condition.

Progress on two other major projects will ensure the state of our City’s infrastructure will remain viable for years to come. We’ve recently completed significant improvements at the Brushy Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant at a cost $700,000 below the anticipated budget, and we started design on Phase 2 of the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority project, which will draw water from Lake Travis to meet our long-term water needs.

Enhancing our historic Downtown district is another major strategic priority. In 2019 we made further strides to improving our one-of-a-kind Downtown. We completed a structural rehabilitation and added new lighting to our iconic water tower, adding character to the district at night. We purchased land for a new, expanded Library, which will enhance Downtown for years to come. Our art gallery on Main Street re-opened with a focus on more interactive programming, and residents can expect the continuation of great events like Music on Main, Beaujolais Nights, Christmas Family Night, Dia de los Muertos, the Fourth of July Parade and more.

Our tourism program continues to grow and succeed, and we have expanded its focus to include non-sports tourism as the Kalahari Resorts project nears completion. In 2019, we had more reason than ever to cheer Go Round Rock! We hosted three national championship events and received $78,000 in reimbursements from the Texas Events Trust Fund, and announced that Round Rock will host the Big 12 women’s soccer championship this coming fall, and for two years after that. Forest Creek Golf Club exceeded all expectations in its first year after a major renovation and finished in the black financially despite one of the wetter springs in recent memory.

Round Rock has a well-earned reputation for being one of America’s Safest Cities, and a number of initiatives in 2019 ensured we’ll maintain that status. Having the right tools and trained personnel in our Round Rock Fire Department allowed us to beat the national average for cardiac arrest survival rate by 4.6 percent. Our Community Risk Reduction program is a proactive approach  to find people in need before they have to call 9-1-1. We began construction of Fire Station No. 3 in La Frontera, which will improve response times in south Round Rock. Our outstanding Police Department made arrests in all three homicides we saw in 2019, and we successfully concluded our first independently operated Police Academy at our world-class Public Safety Training Center, graduating eight cadets who were sworn in as officers for our force.

Round Rock also has a reputation for being one of America’s most livable cities as well. There were a number of projects in 2019 that improved the quality of life we enjoy here even more. We completed a new section of the Brushy Creek East Trail between A.W. Grimes Boulevard and Georgetown Street. We increased our Neighborhood Services offerings to the community, helping neighbors to come together in meaningful ways. We successfully transitioned our hugely popular Chalk Walk event to a larger venue at Dell Diamond.

Following a public engagement process, the City Council approved an amended noise ordinance which has led to a better balance between businesses and residents in Downtown. Speaking of public engagement, we successfully interacted with our residents in the 2019-20 budget approval process and saw hundreds participate in a series of public meetings as we developed our long-term Comprehensive Plan, Round Rock 2030.

I could go on and on, but will wrap up this look back at 2019 by remembering two significant anniversaries we celebrated last year. The Round Rock Express played ball for a 20th season at the Dell Diamond, and Dell Technologies marked its 25th year in Round Rock. Both the Express and Dell Technologies came to Round Rock, in part, because of our strong planning. They both knew investing in Round Rock would pay off long term. It was a strength of our community two decades ago, and we’re even stronger and more well-positioned today to face whatever comes our way.

The future looks bright in Round Rock, and we know 2020 will be another successful year as we continue our tradition of putting our plans into action.

 

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!