PLAN and PREPARE for Summer

Beach trips ✓ BBQs ✓pool days ✓ mulch? Irrigation evaluation? Sprinkler inspection? You might be ready to embrace the summer heat but is your landscape ready? As warmer weather rolls in, we go out to the garage to turn on the sprinklers and go on about our day. Before switching your system on for the season, there are a few important things to check and do!

Is your landscape prepared?

  • Check your irrigation system for flaws or broken parts.
  • Sign up for a FREE irrigation system evaluation!
  • Adjust the amount of water needed for your landscape.
  • Make your landscape independent by adding native drought-tolerant plants and use tools to enrich your landscape.

Irrigation system check up

Inspect your system for broken or missing sprinkler heads. Adjust sprinkler heads that are facing the wrong direction or watering concrete. You can also find an irrigation professional licensed by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to do the work for you. This is an important step for your summer preparation because problems can go unnoticed since most irrigation happens in the middle of the night. This can lead to costly leaks and broken sprinkler heads which can waste water and money.

 

 

Schedule a Free Irrigation System Evaluation

Irrigation evaluations are a great way to learn how to reduce your outdoor water usage! You will receive great advice and recommendations tailored to your unique landscape and environmental factors.

If you’re a direct City water customer, schedule a free irrigation system evaluation by contacting Jessica Woods via email or at 512-671-2872.  During the evaluation, staff will:

  • Determine how many gallons are used with your current watering schedule.
  • Provide a recommended watering schedule.
  • Make recommendations if any system upgrades are needed.

Please note staff will not make repairs

Adjust the amount of water needed for your landscape

Not all parts of your yard are the same, they might differ in water needs! An area with shade should be watered less than an area with full sun. Change your watering times to accommodate for the differences in sunlight, plant and turf types.

Some might think all grass types require the same conditions. In fact, some drought tolerant grasses like Bermuda are often over watered.  Use this chart from the Texas ArgiLife Extension to determine what conditions your turf-grass thrives in. If you have no idea where to start, sigh up for an irrigation evaluation and we can help you identify your grass and recommend a watering schedule for it.

∗Click on the chart for in depth info about grasses∗

Is your landscape independent?

Add native plants to your landscape! These types of plants require much less water and are adapted to our climate. Imagine having an entire garden bed dedicated to native plants! You may be able to turn off that entire zone and save so much water!

Don’t forget to add mulch to garden beds, trees, and yes grass! As you may know, mulch helps reduce water loss due to evaporation, adds nutrients, and prevents weeds. It’s possible to reduce watering times on areas that are mulched since they will retain water longer. Mulch is one of the most important steps to prepare for the heat! As a Round Rock water customer, you can get FREE hardwood mulch at our brush recycling center!

Headed over to the billing office? Don’t forget to pick up a free native plant guide at the front desk or just click on the picture to view it virtually!

 

More information

Native Plant Resources

 

Don’t forget to add these steps to your summer checklist!

Lawn & Garden Tax Holiday

This holiday weekend, you can save money on products to help you reduce your water use at your home or business.  This is the 4th annual Lawn and Garden Water Smart Tax Holiday!

This Memorial Day Weekend, May 23rd-25th, consumers can purchase water saving items without paying sales tax.  Water saving items, as defined by the Texas Comptroller, can include any plant product, any product with a WaterSense label, mulch, rainwater collection systems, and much more!  There is no limit to how many items you can purchase.

WaterSense Products

Retailers do not charge sales tax on any product that displays a WaterSense label or logo. These items can be bought for either personal or business purposes.

The categories of products are broad; you can buy items tax free during the holiday that are used or planted for:

  • conserving or retaining groundwater;
  • recharging water tables; or
  • decreasing ambient air temperature, and so limiting water evaporation

 

Examples of items that qualify for the exemption include:

  • a soaker or drip-irrigation hose
  • a moisture control for a sprinkler or irrigation system
  • mulch
  • a rain barrel or an alternative rain and moisture collection system
  • a permeable ground cover surface that allows water to reach underground basins, aquifers or water collection points
  • plants, trees and grasses
  • water-saving surfactants
  • soil and compost

If you’d like more information on the products and plants you can purchase tax-free this weekend, visit landscapetexas.org or the Texas Comptroller’s website.

Remember, the City’s Water Conservation program offers rebates on many water-saving and WaterSense labeled items.  And residents can always pick up free mulch from the brush recycling center.

 

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.

 

 

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!

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.

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!

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!

Decem-Burr!

Winter is on its way in Central Texas, and that means it’s time to prepare and protect your plants and pipes!

Some might think, “well if it doesn’t rain, it won’t freeze.” Frost develops on clear nights, and the rule of thumb is anytime temperatures are expected to be 32 degrees or below, you should prepare for a freeze.

So, what should you do?

  1. Turn off your sprinklers

In our region, the most valuable adjustment you can make is to reduce the watering schedule or simply turn off the irrigation controller during the winter months.  Because the temperatures are cooler, less water is lost to evaporation and transpiration and plants simply do not need as much to replenish what is lost. In addition to cooler temperatures, winter is typically our rainy season too, so it’s best to take advantage of the free, nitrogen-rich rainfall. During normal winter conditions, the irrigation doesn’t need to be turned on more than once per month, if at all.

  1. Protect your outdoor plants

If weather is expected to hit 32 degrees or lower, protect your plants! Our first freeze occurred the morning after Halloween 2019, and for some people, it came as a surprise when they walked outside to see ice frost everywhere. Some people, like myself, were saddened to see that some plants have died due to the freezing temperatures.

  • Bring potted plants inside but be careful not to leave these plants too close to a heater vent because they can dry out.
  • The best way to protect outdoor plants from freezing is to cover them with a material that acts as an insulation and allows moisture to escape. There are different plant protecting products on the market, but the easiest and cheapest thing to use is a bed sheet. The best time to cover plants is before it gets dark so that the stored heat doesn’t escape. Make sure that the entire plant is covered, and the cover reaches the soil.
  • Compost and mulch outdoor plants thoroughly.  These two layers will help insulate the plant’s root zones while supplying the plant with needed nutrients.  Two inches of mulch is ideal, and remember, not too close to the trunk of trees or shrubs.  Mulch should be about two finger widths away from the truck.
  • Water, but avoid moisture on the plant leaves and stems–this means hand-water. When freezing temperatures are expected, watering can benefit plants. Water acts as an insulator, and water also helps retain heat so moist soil will stay warmer than dry soil.

Some people, including myself ask if Texas really needs to worry about pipes freezing. Well it doesn’t freeze that often in Central Texas, but there are still chances for pipes to freeze.

Pipe Protection

Some apartment complexes and neighborhoods will post signs along roads warning resident to drip their faucets for the freezing weather to come. If your area does not post warnings, you should always check the weather and news for freeze warnings.

What should you do to protect your pipes?

Insulate and Drip!

  1. Drip outside faucets 

When water freezes, it expands and can put pressure on any pipe material. Freezing temperatures even in Texas can cause pipes to break. The places where pipes are at risk of freezing are exposed and outdoors, unheated areas, and pipes that run against exterior walls that have no insulation.

Water is much more likely to freeze when stationary, so it’s good to let water moving through your pipes.

  • Drip outside faucets 24 hours a day to help prevent your pipes from freezing. This is not necessary unless temperatures are expected to be 28 degrees or below for at least 4 hours. (Be sure to turn off the faucets after the threat of freezing weather.)
  • To save water, use a bucket to catch the water dripping and use it to brush your teeth, cook, or water plants.
  • Open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals out of the reach of children. Keep the garage doors closed if there are water lines in the garage.

   2.Insulate

  • Wrap all exposed pipes located outside or in unheated areas of the home.
  • Remove garden hoses from outside faucets. Insulate outside faucets with Styrofoam cover, rags or paper.

Like I said before, the threat of pipes freezing where we live is not common, but when winter weather comes, you don’t want to be caught by surprise with broken pipes. On the other hand, plants freezing is more common. So be prepared to protect your plants and pipes this winter. Make sure you take precautions and check weather daily in the winter.

Stay Warm

Happy Winter!

Save Water and Collect Rainwater!

A Great Idea

As society becomes more aware that our natural resources are being depleted faster than they can renew themselves, we have come up with more ways to conserve and protect them. Have you ever considered collecting rainwater and putting it to good use? Think about every private and public property in the city. Now think about how much water each of those properties use. That’s a lot of water, isn’t it? Now try to imagine every single one of those properties collecting rainwater and using it for some of their water needs. Imagine how much of our municipal water source would be conserved. I know that it’s a stretch to think about every single property in the city collecting rainwater, but I think it’s possible for a rainwater harvesting movement to start with more homeowners in the city.

An Inside Look to Round Rock’s Water Usage

As our city grows, our water use does too. Have you ever wondered how much water is withdrawn from our water source (Lake Georgetown) in one day? According to the City of Round Rock Water Production Report, in August (one of the hottest summer months) produced a daily average of 28.1 million gallons of water.  Lake Georgetown supplies water to Georgetown, Round Rock, and Brushy Creek MUD. Think about those three cities water use in one day all together…

Some might ask, “Why would I collect rainwater and what would I use it for?”

Ways to use collected rainwater

  • Water landscape (via hand watering or hooking up to irrigation system)
  • Water gardens
  • Water indoor plants
  • Washing cars
  • Household cleaning

Some more complex uses

  • Refilling pools, fountains, or bird baths
  • Washing clothes (if connected)
  • Flushing toilets (if connected)

Benefits of rainwater harvesting

The benefits of collecting rainwater are countless, but here are just a few to get you thinking about how it could directly affect you.

  • Non-chlorinated water is better for plants and landscapes
  • Reduces erosion on properties
  • Reduces rainwater runoff that would be contaminated
  • It can be used as a backup water source for emergencies
  • Reduces demand on municipal water sources
  • Reduced water bills because rainwater is FREE
  • It uses simple technologies
  • Easy to install
  • There’s a rebate from the City!  https://www.roundrocktexas.gov/rebates/

Something to think about

Here in Texas the weather can be a little strange to say the least. One month we could have large amounts of rain and the next could be completely dry. Just think about this past spring of 2019. It rained a total of 17.4 inches, averaging about 4 inches a month. (March-June) Then in July it felt like it just stopped raining and we started heading towards drought conditions. During the hot and dry summer months (July-September) it rained a total of 1.56 inches of rain.

Half of Williamson County is in severe drought as I’m writing this. We aren’t under any water restrictions, but it’s scary to think about the water usage and replenishing ratio. As it gets hotter and dryer here in central Texas, a lot of homeowners start watering their lawns and plants more. I mean nobody wants their lawns and plants to die! Thankfully, this fall has brought down some temperatures and brought us some rain.

Click here for more information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture this

This is an example of how much water a common house would use for irrigation. In this scenario, I will be using the average lawn size for a home in Texas.

Front and backyard lawn total- 7,552 sq. ft

A lawn needs about 1 inch of water (0.623 gallons) per square foot during summer months.

So that means I must multiply the 1 inch of water (0.623 gallons) by the amount of square feet there are in that lawn.  7,552 X 0.623= 4,705 gallons

If I water twice a week, that’s 9,410 gallons per week!

Now think about some of those huge commercial properties that have a lot of land to water.

Each number is in thousands of gallons. Click here for more information

How much water can be collected?

Some might ask, “will I even be able to collect enough water for actual usage?” or “would this really make an impact?”.  According to the Texas Water Development Board, for every inch of rainfall that falls on a 2,000 square foot roof, the rainfall collection yields to about 1,000 gallons.

Here’s an example of how much water you could collect during a rainy spring to use during a dry and hot summer.

Rainfall amounts from (March-June 2019) reached 17.40 inches in Central Texas.
According to the US Census, the average home in the US South is 2,392 square feet.

You will get 0.623 gallons (1 inch of water) for one square foot of your roof

2,392 X 0.632= 1,490 

1,490 X 17.4= 25,926 gallons

25,926 gallons of water collected during spring. If you wanted, you could use all that rainwater instead of your irrigation for a whole month! It would be especially helpful if the city were to go on mandatory water restrictions during a drought.

Collecting Rainwater can be simple!

Whether you are going to DYI or buy a container for storing rain, there are three basic components of a rainwater harvesting system.

  1. Catchment area- roof (impervious cover) that catches rain.
  2. Conveyance system- transporting rainwater from catchment area to storage (gutters and downspout)  
  3. Storage- container for storing rainwater. You can attach a rain barrel to your home’s downspout.

There are great guides to installing rainwater harvesting systems

The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting from the Texas Water Development Board to learn how to install your own rainwater harvesting system.

American Rainwater Catchment Association

Collecting rainwater is a great way to help save the most precious natural resource, water. It also will help YOU save money! The benefits are endless, and you will be doing your part to help protect Earth.

 

 

 

Fall Gardening

A Sustainable Landscape

September marks the beginning of fall gardening here in Central Texas, especially for those native plant species. Early fall is also the perfect time to plant those shady native trees. Native plants can thrive without constant care, attention, and water, which is extremely important in times of drought. Native plants are a greater wildlife value, providing food and habitat. Growing native in your garden or yard will help you save money, time, and the most important natural resource, water.

You can still have a colorful garden.

Central Texas has a variety of beautiful colorful perennials, shrubs, and roses. These native flowers attract natural pollinators which are vital to the environment. It’s the perfect time of year to start planting Wildflower seeds! They germinate in the fall, develop throughout winter and bloom early spring. (Wildflowers do need moist soil to germinate but avoid over watering because they do not like saturated soils.) You can also plant some cool season annuals and vegetables to have throughout our mild fall.

Considerations for Native Trees

Click picture for more soil info.

Although native trees require less attention, it’s still important to consider the preparation. Think about what kind of soil you have in your landscape. Is it rocky? Does it have poor draining conditions? Does it retain water long enough? Here in Williamson County, we are divided between two major soil zones: Backland Prairie and Edwards Plateau.

 The Western side of Williamson County is in the Edwards Plateau zone. Soils are rocky and gravelly because it is underlined by limestone. This soil doesn’t hold water well, has high alkalinity and sometimes a low nutrient content. Consider planting Cedar Elm which can withstand poor soil, or Lacey Oak which can grow on shallow limestone soils. Texas Red Oaks are well adapted to rocky soils, and Bigtooth Maples thrive in alkaline soils. These trees can be watered every 3-4 weeks once well established.

Over to the East, we have Backland Prairie soils. This zone has darker, deep, and clay soils.  This rich fertile soil is great for planting Eastern Red Cedar, which needs deep soil to grow. Chinquapin Oak, Bur Oak, and Pecan all need dark and deep soils to grow their extensive root system. These trees can be watered every two to three weeks once well established.

A Self-Sufficient Landscape

The most important thing to a native landscape is to be self-sufficient. Ever wonder how that giant Oak tree by your neighborhood got so big without anyone taking care of it?  Native plants and trees are adapted to our climate, weather conditions, and soils. I’m not saying you should completely ignore your native plants but let them do their own thing and grow how nature intended them to.

Here’s two great searchable sources of native plants:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

 Austin Watershed Department’s Grow Green program.