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 Have you ever wondered how much water is withdrawn from our water source (Lake Georgetown) in one day?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.

Save Water this Summer

The weather has been hit or miss so far this summer, with very little rain since July.  The City’s water use, as a whole, has doubled since the beginning of July!!  We were using close to 18 million gallons of water per day; now we’re up to 37 million gallons of water per day!  That’s a huge increase (city-wide, our use has doubled) all because of the heat.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say the high temperatures don’t mean we need to crank up the sprinklers.  That would be doing a disservice to our lawns and native plants AND our water source, which is Lake Georgetown.

While we aren’t in any mandatory water restrictions right now, the potential is there.  The lake levels have dropped from 100% full at the beginning of July, to 86% full as I’m writing this (mid-August).  That’s a lot of water reduction in only about 6 weeks!

I’d like to offer you several specific ways to help keep Round Rock’s water use low, so we don’t have to enact mandatory water restrictions.  You don’t have to do them all (however saving water = saving money and saving energy), so I just ask that you do as many as you can!

  1. Fix any and all leaks at your house; this could be a leaking toilet, a dripping faucet, or a pipe leak on the mainline. It could be leaks in the irrigation system.  Yes, there are a lot of places for water to leak from! 
    • The City’s Utility department has dye tablets and Teflon tape (aka plumber’s tape) for free in the Utility Billing Office. You can also request a free leak kit from the website here or see all our tips for leak detection at your property at roundrocktexas.gov/leaks
    • You can also view your water use on your city water portal; here you can see your weekly, daily, or hourly water use. You would be able to see if you have a leak if there is constant water use all day, even when you are sleeping or gone.  This isn’t in real time, there’s about a 12-hour delay, but it’s also great way to see how much you are using for different activities.
  2. Do not water more than twice per week. This is crucial to keep your lawn and landscape drought tolerant.  There are exceptions to this, like brand newly installed plants, gardens, plants in pots, but generally speaking, nothing needs  to be watered more than twice per week—some plants even less.
    • The problem with watering frequently is that the plant roots don’t grow long and strong.  They stay short and close to the plant—knowing they do not need to grow, as water will appear every day, or every other day.  Your landscaping goal should be to have a yard that you don’t have to water each summer, right?  Get the plant used to occasional watering, by not watering more than twice per week, and even cutting back to once per week.
    • Another great way to save is to not water if rain is forecast, or it has just rained—especially if it’s rained more than ½ an inch. Keep the water off for at least a week after a good soak.
  3. Is your yard thriving this summer? Looking lush and green and not realizing that it’s been over 100 degrees for weeks?  Does it look like it needs mowing once per week for sure, if not more?  If that’s the case, then I’d say you can reduce your runtimes (minutes) slightly and see if you notice any difference in the yard.  If not, great!  You’ve just reduced your water consumption.  You can try to reduce again, slightly, after a week or two to save some more!  By slightly, I’m talking 2 minutes.  That’s it—it’s not much, will your lawn even notice?    Try it! 
  4. Can you tell when your irrigation system has run because you have water all over your car, or back porch, or running down the street? That’s water is being wasted.  That’s water you’ve paid for, but not getting any benefit from.
    • Adjusting heads is relatively easy.  sometimes over time, the sprinkler heads just move and need some slight adjusting back to spray what they are supposed to spray.  In some cases, you can physically turn the head to face the direction it’s supposed to be spraying (this works best when the system is turned on, so you can see if you’re turning it to the right spot). 
    • Sometimes the head is just spraying water too far—over the landscape and into the street or driveway. We have a nice video that shows how to make that adjustment.  It’s also pretty easy, you just need a small, flat-head screwdriver and be willing to get a little wet! 
  5. Consider a smart controller for your irrigation system, rather than a traditional timer.
    • A smart controller will adjust for the weather, versus the traditional timer that waters every, just because it’s the set day to water, regardless if it is about to rain, or has just rained. The city’s irrigation rebate program may also cover a portion of the cost of a new controller, if it’s a WaterSense labeled controller.
    • Another way to achieve this would be to just water manually, not on a schedule. Actually look at your yard to determine if it looks stressed out (don’t do this during the heat of the day, because of course it will!); look at it first thing in the morning.  Is the grass leave blade upright, green, looking strong?  Then it’s good, no extra water is needed.

If you are going to water your lawn, we ask that you voluntarily stay on your water days; this way if we do go into mandatory restrictions you won’t need to make any changes.

    • For odd addresses, that’s Wednesday and/or Saturday.
    • For even addresses, that’s Thursday and/or Sunday.
    • No automatic irrigation is permitted between 10am – 7pm on any day.
    • Watering by hand allowed any day, at any time.

Need more detailed information about the water restrictions?  Visit the City website’s Drought Restriction page.

 

Smart Irrigation Month is Here

You may have heard by now, that July has been deemed “Smart Irrigation Month” by the Irrigation Association (IA). It’s an IA initiative to promote the social, economic and environmental benefits of efficient irrigation technologies, products and services in landscape, turf and agricultural irrigation. Smart Irrigation Month has been around since 2005 and is celebrated in July, because that’s typically when the hottest temperatures occur (though here in Central Texas, our hottest months tend to be August and September). With high and hot temperatures come higher water use, it’s just a given. We still want our landscapes to look as good as they have the rest of the year, so we crank up the water.

Today’s blog talks about what is the most important aspects of irrigation, but probably the most overlooked. I’m referring to efficient scheduling of the irrigation system, based on the amount of sunlight in your yard, the sprinkler head type, and to a lesser degree, the plant types in your yard.

These three items require some consideration when entering in how many minutes you are setting each station for—there’s no point in having specialized heads, a shady yard, and native plants if everything is going to run for 20 minutes no matter what it is. Unfortunately, I see that happen a lot. Then folks wonder why areas are brown, or moldy, or plants are dying. (There’s also the consideration of soil type and soil depth; we’re not going to get into that here, but it certainly does play a huge role in irrigation amounts.)

shade means less water is needed

Amount of Light
It may seem obvious, but I’m going to come out and say it anyway—shady areas require less water than sunny areas. If you have good tree coverage and areas of the yard receive less than 6 hours of direct sunlight daily, that’s considered a shady yard. The narrow, sides of our houses qualify for this designation. Full sun areas need more water, usually; this is dependent on what the plant type is here. So, when entering time into your controller, you know that the times should be higher for the sunny spots and lower for the shady ones.

Head Type
There are two main sprinkler head types—rotor and spray. There is also drip irrigation, which technically has no head at all! Rotor heads do just that: rotate, so they are not watering the same area the entire time they are running, therefore, they need to run for a longer period of time than spray heads. The minimum I typically recommend running them for is 15 minutes, and that’s in a shady area.

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

rocks and native plants mean less water

Drip irrigation is different. Drip typically emits water very slowly, very minimally, so it oftentimes needs to run for longer periods—30 minutes at minimum or longer in many cases. I caution you to know how many gallons per minute your drip is using before you just set it for an hour. I’ve seen drip that was using 20 gallons per minute, which is just as much as “traditional” spray zones! Unfortunately it caused very high water usage at the property before it was discovered. However, since drip is depositing water where the plant needs it, at the roots (rather than spraying it into the air and on leaves), it can be run less often.

Plant Material
Landscape material is the last component of the irrigation scheduling trifecta. Landscape could include turfgrass, trees, shrubs, groundcovers, perennials, flower beds, annuals, natural areas (like tree motts), bare ground, rocks, and I’m sure many other things. It may be obvious as well, but it does need to be said—areas with no vegetation really don’t need to be watered. The bare ground will just be muddy. Same goes for rocky paths, they don’t grow. Mulched areas don’t grow. Driveways, sidewalks, patios, trash cans, fences, and decks don’t grow. Pools don’t need to be filled by the sprinklers. Trees have usually been growing there longer than you’ve lived there, so they typically don’t need the extra water.

Native plants, established shrubs, or other established perennials do not, I repeat, do not need the same amount of water as the grass. They are natives. They are made for our climate and weather conditions. They will survive without being irrigated twice per week. I can’t count how many times I see native plants being watered more than the grass. So, turn those stations off completely and just water when they look completely stressed out. (I’ll get down from my soapbox now!)

natural areas don’t need the extra water

I like to recommend that people put the stations that are shrubs or plants on a different program than the grass stations and set them to water once every other week (if needed; if there’s been no rain). If you want to keep the shrub stations on the same program as the rest of the yard, reduce the time on those stations. They really just don’t need it. Many natives do best in dry, hot conditions and die with too wet soil.

Turfgrass is a little tricky too. A lot of Bermuda grass gets planted here, yet is watered just as much as any other grass (namely, St Augustine). What I said about native plants is true about Bermuda too, you’re growing it because it’s drought tolerant: it doesn’t need to be watered as much. Bermuda grass that’s overwatered tends to get a lot of weeds growing in it. If you have Bermuda, I recommend cutting back the watering time to once per week. Let it perform. Yes, Bermuda goes dormant in times of drought, but it’s not dead. It will green up when it rains or receives irrigation. It looks better with rainwater though. Also, Bermuda is not going to survive in shady areas, it will thin out and eventually die. It requires full sun to really thrive.

St Augustine grass has such a bad reputation as a water hog, but I don’t buy into it. It’s not setting the controller, people are! St Augustine does great in areas with partial sun or partial shade. I’ve seen it look really good in full sun too, with less water than you may think. Ideally, St Augustine should be kept at 3-4” tall when it’s being cut to keep the soil from drying out. 

You may have picked up that there’s no exact time that works for every station or even every yard! Irrigation systems unfortunately aren’t just a turn it on and forget it device. It will take a little tweaking to determine how many minutes the yard will perform well on, and it may need to be changed every year as the trees grow and give out more shade.

Let’s keep using our water smartly, especially during our Smart Irrigation Month(s)!

Time for a Sprinkler Spruce Up

Spring is arriving here in Central Texas, the flowers are blooming!  The onset of warmer weather can get you itching to turn the water on outdoors. 

Before you ramp up your watering, be sure to 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. You could be losing up to 25,000 gallons of water and more than $90 over a six-month irrigation season!

Now is the perfect time to spruce up your irrigation system. To get started, follow these four simple steps—inspect, connect, direct, and select:

Inspect. Check your system for clogged, broken, or missing sprinkler heads. Better yet, find an irrigation professional licensed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Qualify (TCEQ) to do the work for you. You can apply for a rebate from the City by having your system checked by a licensed irrigator.

Connect. Examine points where the sprinkler heads connect to pipes/hoses. 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.  You can also sign up on the City’s water portal to receive leak alerts and to view your monthly, weekly, and daily water use at www.RRTXwater.com .

Direct. Are you watering the driveway, house, or sidewalk instead of your yard? Redirect sprinklers to apply water only to the landscape.

Select. An improperly scheduled irrigation controller can waste a lot of water and money. Update your system’s schedule with the seasons, or select a WaterSense labeled controller to take the guesswork out of scheduling. WaterSense labeled controllers also qualify for the City’s Efficient Irrigation Upgrade Rebate.

Don’t forget to add “sprinkler spruce-up” to your spring cleaning list this year. Learn more about maintaining a water-smart yard by visiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense website at www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor.

Find the City’s water conservation rebate details and application at www.roundrocktexas.gov/conservation.

Toilet Rebates End December 31, 2018

As we enter waste water averaging season (November through February), we are all trying to use the least amount of water possible so that our waste water averages and charges will be lower next year. So, let’s talk toilets as an easy way to reduce the consumption of water inside your home. It involves no behavior changes, you don’t have to think about it, it just saves water each time it’s used (which is every day).

You have a direct impact on your waste water charges by using less water during the winter months. First, turn off your irrigation system. Easy, done. The next major impact–and my topic today–toilets. Everyone uses one every day. They account for the greatest use of water indoors, using up to 30% of our indoor water use. The less water you flush, the lower your water use will be, and that directly impacts waste water charges. We’ve come full-circle now!

Now, the City has had a toilet rebate program, on and off, since 2009. To qualify for the rebate there are three criteria:

1. You must be a direct City of Round Rock water customer. This is because the water conservation program is funded directly by a portion our customer’s water charges; MUDs and others not on City water do not contribute to the program and aren’t eligible.

2. Your house or property must have been built before January 2006. Here’s why that date is there: In 1991 the EPA determined that all toilets manufactured and sold in the U.S. must use 1.6 gallons of water per flush (gpf) or less. At that time, all the manufacturers did was fill up the tanks with less water but kept all the plumbing parts the same. The toilets were terrible and most had to be double-flushed, which is why the bad reputation of “low-flow” toilets.

So, fast-forward a few years to 1996 and efficient toilets were redesigned and now actually flushing the way they were supposed to. Around 2005, toilets underwent another generational change and dual flush toilets were introduced, as well as those using less than 1.6 gpf. That’s where we stand with the date. However, not all toilets are the same, which leads us to #3.

3. The toilet(s) purchased must be WaterSense approved. WaterSense is an EPA program that is basically like ENERGY STAR, but for water use. Items labeled “WaterSense” have been third-party tested for performance and lasting efficiency. When purchasing a product that has the WaterSense logo, you know the product will perform as expected and will retain its water savings for its life expectancy. The list is continually updated as more products get tested.

If you haven’t already participated in the rebate program to replace your pre-2006 toilets, it’s time to do it!! The rebate program is ending permanently on December 31, 2018, so there is only a month left to take advantage of the rebate!

Why is it ending, you ask? Well, starting January 1, 2014, ALL toilets sold in Texas must use 1.28 gpf or less, per the Texas Plumbing Code. You really have no choice but to purchase an efficient toilet; so, we’d like to start using the toilet funds for another program.

Five tips to help you water smarter in dry conditions

Following low rainfall this summer, water levels in Lake Georgetown currently stand at 776 feet — a 14 foot drop below its full capacity. This puts the lake just 6 feet away from levels that automatically trigger Stage 1 restrictions in the City of Round Rock. City officials are currently monitoring water demand, drought conditions and the weather forecast to ensure preventative steps can be taken to mitigate water loss if conditions worsen.

In addition to rain dancing, we ask that you help us get through this dry season by fine-tuning your watering habits. Outdoor watering of landscaping is the City’s highest use of water in the summer months, often up to 60 percent of our total water use! 

Here are five things you can do as a homeowner to water smarter (and keep your water bill in check – an added bonus!):

1. Water deeply and no more than twice per week to allow the plant roots to grow deep and strong. Watering too many times per week results in shallow roots, encourages weeds and makes your grass less drought-tolerant. Check out Round Rock’s suggested outdoor watering schedule, which helps the City balance water consumption needs for all customers:

Outdoor Watering Schedule
Property TypeWatering Days
Residential Odd-Numbered AddressWednesday and/or Saturday
Residential Even-Numbered AddressThursday and/or Sunday
Commercial, Industrial, Multifamily, Institutional, GovernmentTuesday and/or Friday

2. Remember to water early in the morning when winds are calmer and temperatures are lower. Avoid watering your landscape too late in the evening to prevent disease and decay from occurring overnight.

3. Don’t increase watering in areas that don’t need it. There are sections of your landscape that don’t typically need extra water, even in August:

  • Landscape beds
  • Shaded grass under live oaks
  • Sides of the house – by some estimates, about one-fifth of summer irrigation water is spent watering side yards, AC condensers, tool sheds and garbage cans!
  • Drip lines (Remember: drip delivers a week’s worth of water directly to the roots in a single cycle; no need to run these more than once per week)

4. Maintain, maintain, maintain. Cracks in irrigation pipes can lead to costly leaks, and broken sprinkler heads can waste water and money. If you’ve been meaning to take a deeper look at your system for these problems, it’s not too late.

5. Pay attention to signs of overwatering. If you have any pesky cockroaches, pillbugs, mllipedes and fire ants sneaking into your house, you could be overwatering! Other signs include dollarweed and fungi, such as mushrooms.

Did you know? City of Round Rock’s Water Conservation staff provides free consultations to direct City of Round Rock water customers. Contact Jessica Woods at 512-671-2872 or email jwoods@roundrocktexas.gov for more information.

Smart Irrigation Month is Here

The HEAT is definitely on!  Welcome Summertime!

You may have heard by now, that July has been deemed “Smart Irrigation Month” by the Irrigation Association since 2005, because that’s typically when the hottest temperatures occur (here in Central Texas, our hottest months are August and September). With high and hot temperatures come higher water use, it’s just a given. We still want our landscapes to look as good as they have the rest of the year, so we crank up the water.

This year, I’d like to challenge you to do something different. It’s been a slightly different year already: we actually experienced a winter (all Native Texans can appreciate that!!) AND it was a wonderful spring—again, that’s amazing since we usually go from winter straight to summer!  We didn’t have a 100-degree day until this last week and really haven’t needed to use the irrigation system until June.

In honor of Smart Irrigation Month, I’m going to ask you to something different by investing in your irrigation system and upgrade where necessary.  Don’t just turn it on and forget it all summer.  I want to focus on sprinkler heads and water pressure. The type of sprinkler head being used determines several things, like how long to water, where to locate the heads, and also how much water is being emitted and, most importantly, how well that water is being used by your landscape.

There are two main types of sprinkler heads—spray heads and rotor (or rotary) heads. Both are usually buried underground and pop-up when watering. Spray heads spray water the same piece of grass, or landscaping, the entire time they are popped up. Rotor heads turn to the left, right, or in a circle, when they pop-up and do not water the same place the entire time they are popped up.  They can have one large stream of water spraying out or smaller streams of water spraying.  With either pattern, they turn, versus being stationary. See the pictures on the right for what each look like.

Rotor heads are the more efficient of the two head types. Tests have shown that the water is distributed more evenly by rotor heads than spray heads. The same amount of water is being emitted close to the head as midway as at the furthest end of the water. Usually people want to replace rotors with sprays, but I urge them not to. Again, they are more efficient than traditional spray heads. Rotor heads are desirable to use in large areas—fewer heads are required to cover a large space since they spray water out a further distance than spray heads.

Traditional spray heads are not quite as efficient, mainly due to variations in water pressure and head spacing (specifically heads placed too far apart). Misting is commonly seen with spray heads—this is lots of “clouding” coming off the heads. This cloud, or misting, is water drops that are so small they are just floating away into the air, rather than going down onto the landscape. You are paying for this water and it’s just floating away. Not good. This means you have to run the system for a longer time to get water down onto the ground, which will get expensive and is just wasteful. This is caused by water pressure that is too high.

An aside here, “good” or appropriate water pressure for irrigation systems is between 35-60 psi.

High pressure can be remedied in two main ways: installing a pressure reducing valve (PRV) on the irrigation system, or replacing the nozzles with ones that adjust or compensate for the high water pressure. So…which is better? That’s a hard question to give a quick answer for.

The PRV is a good fix if the entire irrigation system is running with high pressure. It’s one device that is installed near the backflow prevention device in your yard. A licensed irrigator should be contacted to install this device.

Replacing nozzles is a great way to fine-tune the irrigation system; here, you can just replace nozzles in the zones that have the high misting. This is a little more time consuming because you need to find and purchase the correct nozzle types (full circle, half circle, etc) and then physically unscrew the old nozzles and screw on the new ones, but overall it’s pretty inexpensive. Of course, a licensed irrigator can be hired to do this work as well. There are several brands of nozzles that have built-in pressure compensation and can be ordered online or found in local irrigation stores.

Both types of pressure reducing qualify for the City’s Efficient Irrigation Rebate program. I highly encourage you to take advantage of it if you notice misting in your irrigation system!

#TXWindmills and #TXWatertowers

Reuse Elevated Water Tower

You may be asking what does windmills and water towers have to do with the usual topic of water conservation that we share here?  Well, nothing directly; however for this blog I want to share a fun campaign that the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is running this month.  To put it very simply, the TWDB is the State Agency that oversees all surface water rights in the State and tries to ensure that we will have enough water for the future of all Texans.

The TWDB, Texas Historical Commission (THC), and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) are once again taking a summer road trip—and everyone is invited.  We’ll be on the lookout for two iconic and important Texas water symbols that help define the story of Texas water: windmills and water towers. Windmills helped populate our great state by making water available in areas not supported by rivers and springs, and they remind us that the water beneath our feet continues to sustain vast swaths of the state and will continue to do so in the future.

Join the Board by posting your own photos of #TXwindmills and #TXwatertowers to Instagram.  We’ll be sharing photos and information throughout the month of July and featuring submitted photos, too.

Where will our virtual road trip take us? All over Texas, we hope! Participate for the chance to win cool souvenirs (aka prizes); we’ll be holding a random drawing at the end of the campaign.

To participate:
1. Follow @txwaterdevboard, @txhistcomm, and @texasparkswildlife on Instagram
2. Post your photos of #TXwindmills and #TXwatertowers (make sure your profile is public!)
3. Mention the location and tag us

The virtual tour will run from July 1 to July 31, 2018.  A total of five participants will be selected at random by the TWDB, THC, and TPWD after the campaign ends to receive a swag bag. Prizes may include TWDB, THC, and TPWD swag and/or other items determined by the host organizations. Winners will be notified and announced the week of August 1 via Instagram. More information is available at www.twdb.texas.gov/newsmedia/promotion/index.asp.

Happy Traveling and seeing those wonderful water features!

 

Spruce Up Your Sprinkler System and Save

Spring has arrived! The onset of warmer weather can lead to an increase in landscape irrigation. Before you ramp up your watering, be sure to 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. You could be losing up to 25,000 gallons of water and more than $90 over a six-month irrigation season!

Now is the perfect time to spruce up your irrigation system. To get started, follow these four simple steps—inspect, connect, direct, and select:

Inspect. Check your system for clogged, broken, or missing sprinkler heads. Better yet, find an irrigation professional licensed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Qualify (TCEQ) to do the work for you. You can apply for a rebate from the City by having your system checked by a licensed irrigator.

Connect. Examine points where the sprinkler heads connect to pipes/hoses. 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.

Direct. Are you watering the driveway, house, or sidewalk instead of your yard? Redirect sprinklers to apply water only to the landscape.

Select. An improperly scheduled irrigation controller can waste a lot of water and money. Update your system’s schedule with the seasons, or select a WaterSense labeled controller to take the guesswork out of scheduling. WaterSense labeled controllers also qualify for the City’s Efficient Irrigation Upgrade Rebate.

Don’t forget to add “sprinkler spruce-up” to your spring cleaning list this year. Learn more about maintaining a water-smart yard by visiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense website at www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor.

Find the City’s water conservation rebate details and application at www.roundrocktexas.gov/conservation.