Round Rock reminds residents to turn off sprinklers as fall weather settles in

Cooler fall temperatures should translate to good news for you — lower water bills! As winter gets closer, the plants in your yard are going dormant and have very low water requirements. You should have already moved to a once per week watering schedule and turned off your sprinklers altogether when rain is expected. If you’re not ready to go cold turkey on watering, you can start by decreasing run times in some of the less visible zones of your yard.

In addition to cost savings to you on next month’s water bill, here are some other great reasons to consider lowering your water use:

The City of Round Rock uses the average of your water consumption during cooler winter months to determine wastewater charges for the rest of the year. The City assumes these months will be the lowest water use months of the year, as there is no or minimal outdoor use due to typical rainfall and climate conditions. Therefore, all the water you are using is going down the drain or is for indoor use. During the summer months, any consumption above that winter average is not charged additional wastewater fees because it is assumed to be going on your yard, or into your pool.

Believe it or not, the Brazos River Authority (BRA) is reporting drier than normal conditions at Lake Georgetown, which provides a large portion of the City of Round Rock’s drinking water. The BRA has already implemented drought contingency measures for Lake Georgetown, which includes a voluntary ask for a 5 percent reduction in water use. Though the City has not yet implement conservation stages from its drought contingency plan, Stage I could take effect once Lake Georgetown elevation’s falls below 770 feet above mean sea level (msl) for three consecutive days. It is currently just under 777 feet.

By turning off your sprinklers, you’re benefitting both your wallet and your community! For more ideas on how to save water, visit roundrocktexas.gov/conservation.

Do I Really Have a Water Leak?

Dear Round Rock Water Customer:

I wanted to provide you a courtesy message to let you know that you may have a water leak at your property. If you ever receive an alert from the City regarding abnormal water consumption, you might feel a sense of confusion or panic. Do not panic, everything will be okay! First, we recommend looking all around your property to locate the leak. (That means inside and outside.) We are calling a leak 24 hours of continuous water flow through the meter. So, sometimes leaks are easy to find and sometimes you realize that the water hose was left on! In some cases, you might be left scratching your head because you did not find any signs of leaks. Therefore, we alert you so that you aren’t confused looking at a high water bill. Leaks can be outside in the yard or underground, so just because you cannot see it, does not mean it is not there! What I mean by underground is that the line from the meter to your property can have a leak. Leaks can also occur in irrigation systems, pools, under foundations, and basically anything that uses water at your house.

Who is responsible?

There is some confusion about who the leak belongs to and who is responsible for fixing it. I completely understand the confusion because some people are not aware that private leaks that go through the meter are counted as consumption. If you are alerted of a leak it is important to check your water meter. If you are not sure if the leak is yours or the city’s, the easiest answer that question is to check the water meter. If the meter shows an alert or is reading a certain water flow (Gallons per minute), then that means the water has already passed through your property line. Look at the face of the meter; it is digital and shows the gallons per minute (gpm) going through the meter in the upper left of the meter face. If any of the numbers move or if an arrow symbol appears in the upper center square (where the red circle is on the meter face to the right), that means water is flowing through the meter. This means that you are paying for the water passing through the meter into your property.  The City is not responsible for finding or fixing leaks in private property.  Again, do not panic! In many cases, leaks can be an easy fix, like a toilet leak or a faucet. In the case that the leak is something you cannot fix, then you will have to hire a professional. That is why we try to alert people as soon as possible. The faster you can find and fix a water leak, the less expensive your water bill will be.

Will This Leak Effect My Water Bill?

I receive this question a lot, and it is understandable. If you are not intentionally using water, then it might be frustrating to have to pay for it. That is why we strongly recommend checking your water usage at your property regularly. To view your monthly, daily, or hourly water usage, register at our customer portal at www.RRTXwater.com.  (Please note you need your CID-account number to register.) You will be able to see an easy to read line graph that represents your water usage! This is a great way to keep an eye on your water usage and catch anything that looks abnormal. Many people have learned that their toilet refills for hours in the middle of the night. Many people also realize that their irrigation system runs in the middle of the day rather than at night. Some people might even be more conscious about their water habits after seeing how much water they use in a day. Catching leaks fast prevents not only high bills but water damage to your property!

If you do have water leak, you will most likely be contacted by us, but it is important to keep an eye out for anything that looks like a leak. Hopefully, this has settled some confusion regarding leaks on private property. Here is more information about leaks.

https://www.roundrocktexas.gov/departments/utilities-and-environmental-services/water/water-leaks/

Imagine a Day Without Water

We use water every day for almost every single activity in our lives. The City of Round Rock Water Utility participates in Imagine a Day Without Water to remind residents of the importance of water in our everyday lives. In this blog, I would like to highlight some important processes that water goes through to get to you! Learning about your water’s journey will help you understand the importance of conserving water.

Water shortages seem farfetched in economically prosperous cities like ours, but the problem is immanent everywhere. It might be hard to imagine a day without water because that concept seems so foreign to us!

Fresh water in cities must meet peak demand for millions of people every day. Infrastructure for clean water and wastewater must be kept up to standards and safe for the public. These are very important parts of our drinking water system that most people fail to recognize and take for granted. I was one of those people before I started learning about water conservation. That is why we want to educate as many people as we can so that everyone can understand the importance of water and work together to save it!

Our Main Water Source

Between 12-35 million gallons of water is pumped out of Lake Georgetown a day! Can you guess what time of year we use the highest amount of water?  Summer! Water demand spikes as lawn irrigation increases.

 

 

 

 

Our Water Treatment Plant                                                                                                                      

This important infrastructure turns the water that comes from Lake Georgetown into safe and clean drinking water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Water to You

There are miles and miles of pipes that bring water from Lake Georgetown. This hidden infrastructure carries water to the water treatment plant, water towers, your home, and the wastewater treatment plant!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Waste Water Treatment Plant

Everything that goes down a drain including sinks, toilets, washers, shows, tubs, and more end up here! Wastewater is turned into clean water through many sanitation processes. This water will be returned to Brushy Creek or sent to our reuse water customers.

 

 

 

Now that you have learned a little bit about our city’s water system, it is time to act! Participate in Imagine a Day Without Water by checking out our information booth at the Round Rock library  through the entire month of October! We will provide information and goodies about how to keep our water clean, abundant, and healthy.

Residents of all ages are invited to participate in the City of Round Rock’s Imagine a Day Without Water Art Contest! This fun and creative activity can help raise awareness on the importance of water in our everyday lives. Posters will be judged on artistry, creativity, originality, and the ability to communicate the importance of water in our everyday lives.

Click on the flyer for to join!

 

Water Conservation for Kids!

Teaching Kids About Water Conservation

If you have children in your life, whether they are your kids, grand kids, nieces, nephews, students, etc., you can teach them about water conservation! Teaching children the importance of conserving natural resources can help them make educated choices and be more conscious about the world they live in. As young students begin to transition their mindsets from the long summer vacation to the school year, a lesson about water conservation can ease them back into the learning mentality. Since school is online right now, this is also a perfect excuse to have some outdoor activities! This isn’t a topic we usually write about at the Water Spot, but I wanted to include something for the younger Round Rock residents since children are our future!

Easy Activity

An easy way to start the conversation about water conservation is by showing the importance of water in our everyday lives. Kids can make a list of all the activities they do in the day that include water. This activity can start in the morning as they brush their teeth or grab a drink of water. This interactive activity gets children to notice the need for water in almost everything they do.

 

Field Trip!

Take the kids up to see their water source! Round Rock’s main water source comes from Lake Georgetown which is just up the road! With these hot temperatures, a lake day seems just perfect! If you go to Overlook Park off D B Woods Rd, you can see the pipes that intake water for Round Rock! Whether your child has learned about the water cycle or not, the important thing here is to emphasize that rain runoff fills the lake! This lake water is what we use for all our necessities in life! Yes kids, that’s right. We drink lake water! 🙂

Good Reads!

Here are three great books to for kids to read about water conservation. These are just three that I have picked out and enjoyed, but your child is welcome to read any book relating to water! All three of these books can be found at the Round Rock Public Library.

I Am Water by Jean Marzollo

“I am home for the fish.”

This book is great for younger elementary school kids to start getting familiar with the world around them. It lists water in every way in everyday life.  

 

 

 

The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson

“Nibi” Ojibwe word for water

Great for older elementary age kids.

This true story tells the amazing journey of Nokomis (Grandma) walking around the lakes of North America spreading the word of protection and care for them.

 

 

Wonderful Water by Helen Lanz

Great for middle school age kids and older! This book is filled with interesting water facts and water saving tips kids can easily do at home!

 

 

 

 

Prize!

If your child participates in any of these activities, they are eligible to win a prize! All you have to do is submit the list  your child made about the uses of water in everyday life or send us a picture of the intake pipes you spotted at the lake! If your child read one of these books, they can send over a list of new things they learned from reading. Use this email: waterconservation@roundrocktexas.gov  

 

It’s Smart Irrigation Month!

It’s that time of year again! Smart irrigation month promotes the social, economic, and environmental benefits of efficient irrigation technologies, products and services in landscape, turf, and agricultural irrigation. We are trying to get the word out to everyone this month to participate and do their part and conserve water this summer! Participating in Smart Irrigation Month will help you reduce your water bill, which everyone loves! Not only does participating reduce your bill, and it also helps conserve the most important natural resource- water!

As Texans, we take water conservation seriously. We experience drought quite often during the summer months. As you can see on the Texas drought map, Williamson County is already facing abnormally dry conditions. As temperatures rise and rainfall ceases to exist, July is typically the month that water consumption skyrockets due to irrigation. This is the time to make some smart changes to your irrigation practices if you haven’t already. Click on the picture for more drought info.

The smartest thing you can do to save water is to follow the tips on the smart irrigation page and schedule a FREE irrigation evaluation with us! Only direct water customers contact Jessica Woods via email or at 512-671-2872

If you are a direct Round Rock water customer, the Water Conservation staff can create an efficient watering schedule that is tailored to your unique landscape and environmental factors.

We take many factors that often go unnoticed into consideration when creating a great schedule for you. We determine how much time a certain zone needs to run according to plant material and shade. We determine how many start times you need according to the slope or soil in your landscape. We also determine how many times a week you should irrigate based many of these factors combined. We will also calculate the amount of water (in gallons) used in your current watering schedule. There might be a chance that we find something wrong with your system, like broken sprinkler heads or incorrect nozzles for a particular area, so we can recommend what to do in those situations. Many issues can go unnoticed for a long time since most irrigation schedules run in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep.              

 Please note staff will not make repairs

You can also participate in smart irrigation month by visiting us on each Wednesday for the next month to learn smart ways to help save water this summer—and year-round. We will have awesome free items that help you save water outdoors and indoors! (Staff will be practicing social distancing and wearing masks to be safe and help stop the spread of Covid-19)

Visit with us at the following locations:

  • Prete Plaza, Wednesday, July 8thfrom 2-4pm
  • Meadow Lake Park, Wednesday, July 15thfrom 9-11am
  • Chandler Creek Park, Wednesday, July 22ndfrom 9-11am

Remember, you do not have to have an irrigation system to participate in smart irrigation month! This includes people who water their lawns by hand or use garden hose sprinklers. There are always ways to reduce water!

Don’t forget to visit irrigation.org/swat for more tips!

Please read the blog post from last year’s Smart Irrigation Month! This blog goes in depth on ways to irrigate smart. It has great information about sunlight, sprinkler head type, and plant type.

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.