Rain, rain, come and stay! Isn’t all this rain wonderful? The plants and flowers in my yard are looking fantastic! And everyone’s rain barrels are overflowing! Driving around town, I see plenty of great looking landscapes. The best part is that we haven’t had to water our yards for a few weeks now, thanks to Mother Nature.
For those of us with automatic sprinkler systems that may forget to turn them off during rain episodes, I highly encourage you to purchase and install a rain sensor. This will help save some water, save a little money, and certainly, save your image by not allowing your sprinklers to water during or just after a nice rainstorm. I know I’ve seen many properties doing just that (watering while it’s raining)–and it drives me nuts!
Rain sensors prevent an irrigation system from turning on during or after a rain event, after a specified amount (you set this on the sensor) of water has fallen into it. It then allows the system to turn back on and run according to its schedule after it’s dried out. A sensor doesn’t stop the irrigation system from turning on when a rain storm is predicted, though there is technology out there that does just that. That would be a weather station, that receives weather data several times a day to determine if watering is needed on any day or not. One such sensor like this is called idd; all of the major irrigation manufacturers (Rainbird, Hunter, Toro) have weather-based sensors that can be installed and set to water based more on weather conditions, or soil moisture, rather than just a set schedule. This type of watering schedule is better for the landscape and can be modified to work with restrictions on watering days.
Any type of rain sensor is rebated by the City’s Water Conservation program, at 75% of the cost of the sensor. Just submit the rebate application after the sensor is installed. And if you haven’t yet turned off your irrigation controller, please go do it!
Well, if you hadn’t yet heard, the City is now under mandatory water restrictions! I am personally not a fan of the word “mandatory” as it elicits the repsonse that you now have to do something…in this case water your yard. This is a constant struggle, when to use the “M” word and when not to. Too many times, mandatory water restrictions cause water use to increase in a community or town. That’s exactly what we don’t want to happen! Folks think that since it’s their day to water, they’d better do it, or else it’s x many days before they have the opportunity to water again. But, hopefully, common sense will prevail…especially with all the rain this week!
With the cooling temperatures, onset of Autumn, and regular rainfall, twice per week watering is more than enough. Quite frankly, it’s too much for many areas like native plants beds and shady turf areas. Of course, hand-watering is permitted at any time for any area that may need some extra help. Properties that use rainwater to irrigate with are exempt from the water restrictions; so that’s another good reason to collect and use rainwater!
We have been asked why it has taken Round Rock “so long” to enact mandatory restrictions, which isn’t an easy or quick answer. It stems from a variety of factors, with the two main ones being: 1. our Drought Contingency Plan (in Chapter 44) states that the City will enter into Stage 1 when Lake Georgetown reaches a level of 770′, currently the lake is at 773′, so we still haven’t met the first criteria for restrictions; 2. Our overall City monthly water usage has been low this year, much lower than use in 2012 or 2011, or 2009. We’ve seen monthly usage very similar to 2010, which was a wet year. This means our customers (our residences) have already been using water efficiently at their properties.
So, if you choose to water once the rain has all passed, you may hand-water at any time you choose. Homes with an even address water days are Thursdays and Sundays; homes with an odd-address are Wednesdays and Saturdays. All commercial and multifamily properties days are Tuesdays and Fridays. No irrigation is allowed between 10am – 7pm.
The photo is Lake Georgetown, Round Rock’s main water source.
One of the most hotly talked about topics when it comes to watering your yard is: When do I water? or another version is: Does it need water? Is the answer “on Wednesday”, because that’s my day? Or when the plant actually needs it?? You can probably guess the right answer, but it’s hard to know when, exactly, the plant needs it. I can help you determine when it doesn’t need it.
With the rain showers we’ve had recently, it may not be necessary to water at all. Knowing how much rain has fallen in your yard helps make the first–and really, most important–decision for you: is it even necessary for me to water today? The rainfall measurements I take at my house don’t always match up to the City’s collected amounts at the Water Treatment Plant (which aren’t too far apart), so I highly encourage you to take your own rainfall measurement.
The rule of thumb is that half an inch of water is enough on a weekly basis for the spring, fall, and parts of summer. Less than that is needed in winter. More, during the heat of summer. So having a rain gauge, any simple one, is the first way to judge if water is needed. All you have to do is check the gauge to see how much rain your house received, if close to 1/2-inch or greater, then no watering is needed. Easy!
To help make that even easier for you, the City’s Water Conservation Program is giving out free rain gauges like the one pictured. You can pick one up at the Utility Billing Office in City Hall (limit one per address). There’s a limited supply, of course, but try to get one if you can.
Now, thanks to Mother Nature’s rainfall, you can leave your irrigation system off for about a week for every half inch of rain–depending on the current temperatures. With the current storms and the temperatures in the low 90s, no outdoor watering is necessary for the next week. Enjoy letting nature do the work for you!
I’m very excited to start a new blog for Round Rock’s Water Utilities and Environmental Department! I’m Jessica Woods, the City’s Water Conservation Program Coordinator and my plan with this blog is to provide timely information regarding the City’s water conservation program–what new rebates we are offering, landscaping information, drought updates, water reuse project information, and whatever else seems interesting to me and hopefully to you!
What was a major catalyst for more water outreach is the drought. We (along with the rest of the State) have been experiencing a drought for the last four years (more or less) and have received many questions from our residents about starting a program to encourage folks to remove grass from their yard and install native shrubs and plants instead (like Austin’s programs). Well, we haven’t created a program like that yet, but we have begun taking a hard look at our own, outdoor water use and are slowly converting the landscapes at the City buildings to native plants and shrubs, smaller turfgrass areas, and more efficient irrigation systems.
One of our major accomplishments so far is the Police Station. The property had two front parking areas and a lot of grass and weeds in the front. Police Chief Tim Ryle was interested in a major landscape overhaul, as the front parking lot was going to be removed. See the before and after pictures of the remodeled Police Department below as proof. It is still a work in progress, but the majority of the landscaping is completed–there are now crushed gravel walking paths, all native plants, trees, and cacti, and three types of turfgrass (Habiturf and two Bermuda varieties). The existing irrigation system was basically junked and new drip irrigation was installed in all the beds. The turfgrass is watered with efficient rotary nozzles. Plant identification markers have been installed to name what the plants are and some interesting features about them.
Part of the parking lot is still under construction; however in the spring it should be looking fantastic! We’d like to hold small landscape and irrigation seminars on-site to take advantage of the beautiful space. Go past and see it for yourself!
Now, I would love to see what changes you have made to your home landscapes to increase the drought tolerance and water efficiency of it! It could be anything from removing turf, to collecting rainwater. I drive around town A LOT during the work day and see many, many gorgeous yards that I do occasionally take pictures of for inspiration. Please, send me pictures of your beautiful, water-smart yard and a little caption about why you changed it, or what you’ve noticed since changing it. We’ll post these on our City Flickr page (in the Native Landscapes set) to give everyone a change to admire your hard work! And, I’d personally love to see what you’re doing to get ideas for my own shady yard! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Send me those pics!! 🙂