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Author: Tom Spencer

Rain gardens are like do-it-yourself backyard aquifers that recharge your plants and trees.

Slow the flow with rain gardens

For most Texas gardeners there is no more welcome event than a good rain. Those of us living in the Central or Western parts of the state cheer nearly any rainfall, and increasingly, many of us are finding creative ways to hold onto and more fully benefit from what some folks call “Mother Nature’s Finest” – rain water. Those who water by hand appreciate rain because it saves us a lot of time and effort, while those with irrigation systems, at least those who remember to reset their sprinklers when it does rain, appreciate it because it helps lower their water bills. But, beyond those benefits, all true gardeners can actually see the difference...

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Want a climate change-ready garden? Look west.

Most longtime Texas gardeners do not need to be convinced about the reality of climate change – we have seen it in our own backyards. Here in Central Texas, many tropical plants which once had to be kept in pots and dragged into greenhouses to survive our winters, are now doing just fine outside year-round. Exotic vines and cold-tender citrus trees are now common sights in many area gardens. Responding to this new reality, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has revised its planting zone map to reflect the rising temperatures. As if Texas wasn’t hot enough already, according to a study conducted by renowned Texas Tech climatologist, Katharine Hayhoe, Texas’ annual average temperatures are projected...

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Getting desalination right in Texas

By Tom Spencer and Myron Hess The intense drought that had Texas in its grip from 2010 – 2015 still haunts the state – reservoirs shrank to alarming levels, homeowners struggled to keep their landscapes alive, wild fires raged, and agricultural losses ran into the billions of dollars. Against this backdrop, the idea of desalinating water from the Gulf of Mexico to create a drought-proof supply for use in homes, farms, and factories has great appeal. In response to two pieces of legislation passed in 2015, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) proposed rules earlier this year to streamline the authorization process for desalination facilities to make water withdrawals and discharges along the Gulf....

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