According to the 2010 census, Texas population has passed the 25 million mark and climbing. This is a 20.6% gained since the 2000 census and according to Steve Murdock, Texas demographer, Texas basically doubled in population since 1975. Some demographers are predicting the population will double again by 2060. Growth and development is great for the state and the economy. In order to meet the future water requirements for this type of growth, Texas has plans to build new lakes, water treatment and waste water treatment plants and move water from areas with plenty of water to areas with little water. This plan will cost billions of dollars.
All future landscapes must conserve water to be sustainable. Landscape water efficiency practices are easily adaptable in most landscapes.
The 3 most important landscape water efficiency practices are:
- Irrigation efficiency
- Maintaining a two to four inch mulch layer in all non-turf areas
- Planting resource efficient native and adapted plants
Irrigation efficiency will save the most water. Water use increases 30 to 60% during the irrigation season. Check your irrigation system for common easy to fix problems or have a licensed irrigator check the system.
Turn on the irrigation system and check each sprinkler head for the following:
- water spraying on to road, sidewalk or driveway;
- not spraying the correct pattern or distance;
- not popping up;
- leaking at the sprinkler head or at the valve;
- grass too tall or sprinkler sunk too low.
All these problems waste water and create landscape problems by keeping the soil too wet or too dry.
Check the irrigation schedule to make sure the system runs after 6:00 pm and before 10:00 am to keep irrigation water from evaporating.
Add a rain and freeze sensor if you do not have one. A rain and freeze sensor will overdrive the controller schedule during rainfall or a freeze.
For greater savings look at replacing spray nozzles with more efficient multi-stream nozzles. For even greater efficiency, look into converting to drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is the most efficient irrigation method. Smart controllers are now available to run irrigation according to evapotranspiration or soil moisture.
Evapotranspiration is a combination of water lost from soil due to evaporation and water lost from plants due to transpiration, a natural process of all plants. Both evaporation and transpiration increase as the temperature increases, as humidity goes down and as the wind blows. The evapotranspiration rate is measured at weather stations throughout Texas. Both current and historic evapotranspiration and rainfall data is available at texaset.tamu.edu.
Mulch is an organic layer maintained on the soil to reduce water evaporation from the soil root zone. Mulch increases water absorbing and holding capacity, reduces erosion, helps control weeds, moderates soil temperature in summer and winter and eventually breaks down into nutrients plants require to thrive. Maintain a two to four inch mulch layer in all non-turf areas.
Plant native and adapted plants because these plants have proven to require less water, fertilizer and pesticides. A good resource for landscape plant selection for the North Central Texas area is with the Texas SmartScape web site. The web site was written and is maintained by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, (NCTCOG). This web site has a plant selection search with pictures, water conserving practices, and resources to find more information and to visit water conservation landscape demonstrations.
Texas AgriLife Extension, in cooperation with the Texas Nursery & Landscape Association and the Texas Water Development Board, has a web site for plant selection for the state of Texas called Texas Urban Landscape Guide. Go to urbanlandscapeguide.tamu.edu to search for landscape plants ranked by water efficiency and other environmental issues. You can search this web site by criteria or by your zip code.