water restrictions

Lake Georgetown: Go See!

wildflowers at Lake Georgetown April 2015

wildflowers

The weather has been hit or miss so far this spring for getting a little spring cleaning yard work done, but I’m not going to complain about the wet weekends!!  The wildflowers have been gorgeous (check out my pictures) AND the rain has meant we haven’t had to turn on our sprinklers yet this year, which is great.

Even though we’ve had some pretty consistent rain, the lake levels haven’t come up too much.  Lake Georgetown (Round Rock’s main water source) is holding pretty steady at 64% full.  It’s a little higher than it was last year at this time, but still, not full!  Lake Stillhouse Hollow has come up a little with the recent rain, is at 67% full.

If you haven’t been to Lake Georgetown in a while, I encourage you to go.  It’s not too far, I drove over to take these pictures for this article. (What can I say, it was a nice day and I needed a current picture!)  Simply take IH-35 north tLake Georgetown flower pico the HWY 29 exit in Georgetown, head west (turn left at light).  Turn Right onto DB Woods road and follow the signs to the scenic overlook or one of the many parks in the area.  It’s great to actually see your drinking water source in person AND the area has a lot to offer recreation-wise!

On the picture that actually shows the lake, the portion I’ve circled is a screen on an intake pipe.  This is basically like the City’s straws that are in the lake, sucking the water up and transporting it to our water treatment plant.  The screen is what keeps out fish, trash, and other large debris from entering into the treatment plant.  This is supposed to be underwater!  That gives you an idea how low it is.

Lake Georgetown edited April 2015

City water intakes at Lake Georgetown

Because of the continuing low lakes levels, the Brazos River Authority has asked that all users of these lakes reduce their water use, so that’s why Round Rock and Georgetown have enacted their Drought Contingency Plans for the last year and a half.  We are still under Stage 1 watering restrictions.  This means if and when you water your yard, it can only happen on your assigned water days:

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

skink

Remember, when setting your sprinkler controller for the spring, it’s best to start low and slow; watering once per week or less is plenty for this time for year.  When it starts to actually get hot, then increase the times.

Need more detailed information about the water restrictions?  Visit the City website: www.roundrocktexas.gov/departments/utilities-and-environmental-services/water/drought-restrictions/

Sooo…What is Water Waste?

Are you are aware of by now, the City has been in Stage 1 of our Drought Contingency Plan (DCP) since October 2013.  We’re still in them, still Stage 1.  At the beginning of the month, we started increasing enforcement of the restrictions and water waste by putting some signage around town, leaving door-hangers on homes where we’ve seen non-compliance, and sending postcards out to others regarding problems with water waste, watering on the wrong day, and other things.  So, it’s easy to understand what day you can water your yard on, and it’s very easy to figure out not to water during the heat of the dayleaking head…but what is water waste?

To put it simply, water waste is just that–wasted water.  Water that isn’t used for any purpose, it just flows or leaves a property without any benefit to that property.  There are several things we look for specifically when talking about water waste: broken or leaking heads or valves, runoff, water ponding in a gutter or parking area or street, overspray, and misting.  Let’s look at each of them up close.

    • Broken or Leaking heads or valves–this really could be more generalized to include anything broken or leaking water that can be fixed.  Broken sprinkler heads are what people typically think of as huge water wasters, but it’s really not the case.  Sure, they do use a little more water each minute the system is running with the broken head, it’s really the leaks that are leaking constantly that add up to trunoffhousands of gallons of water overtime.  This could also include the leaky faucet on the outside of the house.  The picture at the top right shows a broken head–it’s spraying water straight up into the air rather than low, like the other heads.  There’s also high pressure here, a broken head may not always spray up that high.  In the second picture, there’s a leaking head that has been leaking for so long there’s algae growing on the sidewalk!  Not good.  This leak is running 24/7 so is wasting a lot more water than the broken head.
    • Water running off propertythe same leak as mentioned above can be used again.  Runoff is just like it sounds, it’s water running off the property.  The water from that leaking sprinkler head is running (flowing) down the street for at least 50 feet into the intersection of the next street.  Really, if you’re watering your yard, you want the water to stay on your yard, right?  If water is running off, it means you’re watering too long and the soil can’t absorb all the water so you need to reduce how long the sprinkler is running; if you have a sloped yard and the angle is causing the water to run off, same thing, reduce the runtimes and water it multiple times (i.e. run it for 5 minutes once an hour at 3am, 4am, 5am so it would water for a total of 15 min.). If a sprinkler head is turned the wrong way and spraying more onto a hard surface (driveway, sidewalk, street) rather than the yard, that causes runoff too.  The head just needs to be adjusted to spray the grass.  All can be easily fixed.
    • Water ponding–This is wasteful, water just sitting in a parking lot or street gutter, or sidewalk that is just going to oversprayevaporate.  It’s caused by the same things that cause the runoff, above, and can also be a hazard due to the algae growth of standing water–people could slip and fall on it, bikes going across it could also slip or become unsteady. The standing water can also erode the pavement and break down the streets quicker than with normal wear and tear, causing added costs to the City to repair or replace them.
    • Overspray–this is an easy one.  It’s simply water that is over spraying the grass and landing in the street, or other impervious surface.  The nozzle can be adjusted to reduce how far the water sprays out by turning the little screw on the top of the sprinkler head clockwise.  The water that is landing in the street or sidewalk leads to runoff and ponding.  In the picture below, the overspray is evident by the wet pavement.  The sprinkler heads are behind the shrubs and spraying way out onto the sidewalk.  misting
  • Misting–this is caused by too high water pressure.  It’s a waste of water because most of the water is simply floating off into the atmosphere, rather than going down onto your yard.  The water droplets are so small, due to the force (the water pressure) pushing them out of the sprinkler nozzle, that the wind then carries them off.  The water droplets need to be larger, heavy, to fall down onto your yard.  Ideally, the sprinkler psi should be between 30-50psi.  If you have high pressure and misting, it can be reduced by installing new sprinkler nozzles with built in pressure regulation or installing a pressure reducing device on the entire system.  The City’s efficient irrigation rebate covers both of these ways to control high pressure.  In the picture below, the misting is the cloud-like appearance of the water spraying out of the sprinkler head.  It shouldn’t be like that, when the sprinkler is running, you should be able to see the individual water drops.

So you can see that a lot of these problems are related and often times caused by each other.  It’s easy to fix them with some simple adjusting of sprinkler heads or runtimes (minutes) in most cases. I ask you to make those changes and help save some water and some money!

 

 

Summer is Headed Our Way

The temperatures have started creeping up into the 80s consistently now…and the beautiful bluebonnets are everywhere!  It’s starting to feel like summer and the City’s water use is going up to further confirm that warming feeling.  Folks have started watering their yards, planting grass and gardens and other outdoor landscaping activities, this is the main reason water use is on the rise.

I want to remind you that the City is still under Stage 1 of the Drought Contingency Plan.  The restrictions were made effective back on October 14, 2013 and haven’t been rescinded yet.  What this means is that IF you are going to use water outside of your property, mainly watering your yard, this can’t happen more than twice per week.  And not during the hours between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Realistically, once per week watering is more than enough currently.  The temperatures haven’t been hot enough to evaporate all the moisture to need to water more than once.  We did have a very dry winter–even with “all” the ice, it’s been one of the driest winters in at least 5 years (that’s how long I’ve been keeping track of the rainfall).  So, some irrigation may be needed in sunny areas of the yard.  Gardens will need water more frequently to establish them.

Because of the lack of rainfall this winter, the lakes haven’t risen either.  This means that the water restrictions will continue for the time being.  If you’d like to hear more about what the current water situation is, come to the City’s public library on April 10 where I’ll be giving a presentation regarding the current water situation and predictions for this summer!

Read the water restriction information with all the details on the City’s Drought Restriction page.

When (Not) to Water, part 2

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 rain shut-offoverflowing!  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, HunterToro) 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!

 

Water Restrictions in Effect

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.  Qlake_georgetownuite 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.

 

When (Not) to Water

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. rain gauge resizedMore, 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!