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Limits to outdoor watering become a permanent part of the Texas landscape

As Smart Irrigation Month ends and summer temperatures continue to rise, outdoor irrigation continues to be limited across much of Texas. Some outdoor irrigation restrictions are always in effect through water conservation policies, whereas others are temporarily triggered as a result of drought response. Water conservation strategies reduce the consumption, loss, or waste of water at all times, whereas drought response is triggered during dry periods to ensure critical water needs are met.

Cities across Texas have adopted water conservation policies that limit outdoor lawn irrigation as a way to reduce water waste and stretch existing water supplies. The City of Fort Worth is among the most recent to adopt no more than twice per week lawn watering as part of their “always-in-effect” water conservation policy. In a unanimous vote on April 8, 2014, the Fort Worth City Council amended their conservation ordinance to include permanent, year-round, no more than twice a week irrigation watering with an irrigation system or sprinklers, and no watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. with the exception of watering by a soaker hose, drip irrigation or by hand-held hose. Additionally, under the new ordinance, residents may be warned or possibly fined for wasting water: knowingly or recklessly causing a “substantial” amount of water to fall on areas other than the lawn (such as sidewalks, roads, or driveways), watering during a precipitation event, or having a broken or missing sprinkler head.

This noteworthy decision to advance water savings through better conservation policies indicates that the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex recognizes the importance of water conservation practices at all times and not just during times of drought. The metroplex is continuing to experience one of the worst droughts on record, as is much of the state. Over half of Texas remains in a “moderate” or worse drought condition. Many of the reservoir levels across the state are very low, as are flows in rivers and freshwater inflows into their receiving bays. Water conservation strategies not only help keep rivers flowing and prevent reservoir depletion, they also help stretch existing water resources, which delays the need for expensive water supply projects. Proactive planning through water conservation policies that limit outdoor irrigation allow us to bank our precious water resources to lessen the effects of drought.

Taking the guess work out of lawn irrigation

It can be difficult to determine the duration and frequency of which to water your lawn to deliver the amount of water it needs. Just because you can water, doesn’t mean you have to, or that your lawn needs it. One option is to let your lawn go dormant. Although the lawn turns brown, this is the natural survival technique for grasses during drought. With patience and small amounts of precipitation, the growing points of grass will come out of dormancy and return to a green lawn.

A variety of online tools, such as Texas ET Network and Water My Yard, provide recommendations for watering based on the type of irrigation system and current weather conditions.

To learn more, attend one of these upcoming workshops:

It is never too late to evaluate your irrigation system, make improvements, and follow the water saving tips below. You will save not only water, but also money. In addition, the more water saved, the more water stays in the rivers, creeks, and bayous that provide the freshwater necessary to keep our coastal bays healthy, including Galveston Bay, which is downstream of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Become water wise using tips from Smart Irrigation Month

Watering the lawn less frequently creates a hardier lawn. Less irrigation forces the plant roots to grow deeper.  Deeper roots provide more structure to the soil and hold more water, which allows lawns to better survive the drought.

grasses

Graphic courtesy of the City of Lewisville.

  1. Turn off or adjust your automated irrigation system to only water when necessary. Follow local water conservation polices and drought contingency plans.
  2. Don’t water while it’s raining. Many of the newer irrigation systems have a rain sensor that disables the automatic features, but if yours doesn’t, consider adding one to your system. Watch the weather and irrigate only when necessary, and never during the hottest part of the day.
  3. Water wisely! Adjust sprinkler heads to water the lawn only. No matter how much you water it, cement will not grow!
  4. Replace thirsty lawns with native or other adapted plants and grasses. Not only do they use less water, but natives provide valuable habitat for wildlife.
  5. Harness the water in your yard. Harvest rainwater by installing rain barrels, or channel your A/C condensate to your garden. Contour or shape your yard into a rain garden to slow the flow of water to help rainwater infiltrate into the soil.
  6. Mow only when necessary and on the highest blade setting. Longer grass keeps the soil cooler, which reduces evaporation and the need to water the lawn.

Implementing practices to reduce lawn watering can be easy, cost-saving, and reap huge benefits for our communities and our state when we all do it. We’re poised with the opportunity to make great strides in water conservation if other cities follow suit to permanently limit outdoor watering. Now is the time to act to pass water conservation ordinances while we are all more aware of the need to save water and the benefits those savings can provide as we continue to endure the current drought that grips most of Texas. Several Texas cities have already seized this time of drought to put in place ordinances that allow no more than twice per week watering year-round—which city is next?

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