Water is one of Texas’ most valuable resources. It will become even more precious as the population grows and water supplies shrink over the next 50 years. The following are tips to conserve water and protect its quality.
How to Determine If Your Lawn Needs Water
- Dull, dark appearance
- Leaf blades begin to roll
- Less than 1 inch of rain has fallen over the last week
Effective Water Techniques
- Water early in the morning (before 10am) or late evenings (after 10 pm) to avoid water loss to wind and evaporation
- Give leaf surfaces time to dry before nightfall to deter disease and decay
- Water deeply and infrequently to encourage deep, well-established roots
How Long To Water for Maximum Efficiency
- Wet the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches to reach roots
- Soil type, amount of rain and season affect the water amount
- To calculate how long to set your sprinklers to water a depth of 6 inches
- Set shallow cans (tuna or cat food) randomly spaced within watering area
- Run sprinklers for 30 minutes
- Measure the depth of water in cans and determine average depth by adding total from each can and dividing by 5
- Insert spade or probe into soil to measure dry area
- This gives you the amount of water needed to wet the soil in 30 minutes
- Adjust your watering times accordingly
- Routinely check to ensure water is being applied in a uniform manner needed and make adjustments as necessary
- Avoid watering sidewalks, driveways or streets
- When you notice runoff, take a break from watering until ground can absorb water again
- Cycle and Soak Method (Recommended for clay soils)
- Run multiple short cycles instead of one long cycle to avoid runoff
- Allows for deeper water infiltration in clay soils
- Run multiple short cycles instead of one long cycle to avoid runoff
Types of Sprinklers
- Low- output sprinkler heads, bubblers or drip irrigation decrease runoff
- Drip irrigation takes longer to wet soil but lose very little to evaporation
- Avoid leaving in-ground irrigation on automatic settings
- Adjust system manually according to weather conditions to avoid over-watering
- The best sprinklers throw large drops of water low to the ground rather than misty sprays that allow water to evaporate quickly. Try a pressure-regulated spray head, which keeps the pressure constant.
- Flag locations of sprinkler heads in lawn
- Turn system on to verify heads pop up and are aimed correctly
- If a sprinkler head is not working
- Remove sprinkler head and clean with soap and water
- Reattach and re-aim sprinkler head
- Get replacement to any that can’t be fixed
Basic Landscape Practices
- Mulch to retain water. Experts recommend 4 to 6 inches to prevent evaporation and keep soil moist. Plant hardy, water-saving plants, trees, and shrubs, particularly native species. Ask your local nursery or landscape professional for advice. Limit lawn by using gravel or bark.
- Mow less frequently in dry times. Raise your lawnmower blade and cut grass to a height of 3 inches—this shades the soil, which reduces evaporation, so your soil requires less water and allows roots to grow deeper, making for a healthier lawn.
- Never use a water hose to clean up grass or lawn debris on sidewalks or driveways. Use a broom or rake.
- Check for leaks in taps, pipes and hoses. It’s an easy way to save water. One slow drip can waste 20 gallons of water daily (7,000 gallons per year).
For information on exactly how much water your lawn needs each week, based on current weather conditions in the Brazos Valley, visit BV WaterSmart at https://bvwatersmart.tamu.edu/.
- Wash cars efficiently. Choose a car wash that recycles water. At home, use a shut off nozzle and wash your car in small sections. Direct runoff water to landscaping.
Pools and Spas
- Cover pools and spas to reduce evaporation.
- If you own a pool, pay close attention to the water level. If it varies drastically from day to day, you probably have a leak and need it serviced immediately.
- Swimming pools should not be drained and refilled during the summer except to replace normal water loss.
- Avoid overflows and splashes by reducing water levels. Water landscaping with wading pool water.
- Never submerge a watering hose into the pool to refill it. You won’t hear the hose running underwater and could forget that you left it on. Not only is it wasteful, but you might flood your yard—or the neighborhood. Plus, unless you have an anti-siphon device installed, your chemically treated water could back flow into the City’s water supply. Position the hose above the water surface so you hear the hose water running. That way you’ll remember the water is on.
- Don’t let the water run while you brush your teeth or shave. Turn the faucet on briefly to rinse. An electric razor saves the most water.
- Short showers save water. Keep showers under eight minutes and turn off the water to soap up.
- Install a water efficient shower head or put a restricting washer in it to reduce the water flow.
- Filling the tub uses about 50 gallons of water. Try bathing in just 10 gallons.
- Plug the bathtub and start the hot water; wait to add cold water until the water in the tub has reached the right temperature. When you’ve finished bathing, use the bath water to clean the tub.
- Bathe children together.
- To significantly reduce water use, replace your old 5 gallon per flush toilet with a new 1.5 or 1.6 gallon per flush toilet. This is the most effective way to decrease the amount of water used in the bathroom.
- As an alternative to installing a new toilet, retrofit your old one with a water-saving device. Displacing volume in the tank means that less water is used for each flush. A clean, sealed plastic container filled with either sand or pebbles and water will work. Don’t use a brick: Pieces of decaying brick can get under the rubber flapper and cause leaks.
- Be careful that your displacement device still allows a complete flush. With old tanks, less volume may mean less than a total flush. Flushing twice doesn’t save water!
- Leaky toilets can waste a lot of water. Replace the rubber flapper in the tank every two to three years. If black coloring comes off on your hand when you touch the flapper, it’s time to replace it!
- Test your toilet for leaks. Add several drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. Wait 15 minutes. If it’s leaking, the coloring will appear in the toilet without flushing.
- Flush only when necessary. Avoid using the toilet for a wastebasket. Every flush you eliminate can save between two and seven gallons of water.
- Wash clothes wisely. Match washer’s load selector to your load size and wash only full loads. Skip unnecessary rinse cycles, minimize detergent use and save energy by using cold water to wash.
- Washing clothes by hand can be easier and save water if you use only a small amount of detergent and presoak really dirty items.
- Buying a new washing machine? Choose wisely. Front-loading washing machines use 40% less water than top loaders. Another option is to purchase a top loader with a suds-saver. Suds-savers reuse most of the sudsy wash water for a second load. By beginning with the cleanest clothes and reusing wash water for at least one load, suds-savers can cut water use by 30-50%.
- Conserve when cleaning. For heavy cleaning, use water you’ve saved from other household uses and then a clean rinse. Limit soaps and cleaning agents.
- Stop leaks. Twice a year, check all faucets inside and outside for leaks. Replace worn-out fixtures, washers, O-rings, and hose connections. Turn faucets off firmly.
- Install a low-flow faucet aerator.
- When washing dishes or vegetables, fill the sink with water rather than using the running tap.
- Don’t wait for the hot water to come – put the plug in right away.
- Reduce dishwashing. Use a rubber spatula to scrape dishes clean to limit pre-rinse. Let really dirty pans or dishes soak to speed washing.
- Limit dishwasher use to full loads and minimize detergent use. Prepare food with an eye to reduce dishwashing.
- Purchase a power and water efficient dishwasher and use the economy cycle.
- Defrost sensibly. Plan ahead to defrost foods overnight in the refrigerator, use the microwave or put wrapped food in a bowl of cold water.
- Avoid using garbage disposals by composting or feeding leftovers to pets when possible. Use recycled water in disposal.
- Cool drinking water in refrigerator or with ice, not by running tap. Use leftover drinking water for pets or to water plants.
- Use hot water efficiently. Insulate hot water pipes to save energy.
The tips below will help you protect the quality of groundwater.
- Plug wells that are deteriorated; cap wells that are in good condition but not in use.
- Limit the use of fertilizers – apply compost to lawn and other vegetation to improve moisture retention and promote plant growth without fertilizers.
- Properly dispose of chemicals.
- Do not dispose of chemicals or other substances into storm drains as this water empties into streams, rivers, and lakes untreated.
- Pick up dog waste during walks as the dog waste empties into storm drains and causes pollution to surface water.
- Take used motor oil to a recycling center.
- Use “environmentally safe” products such as phosphate-free detergents.
- Limit amount of nutrients discharged from farming/ranching operations.
- Properly design, locate, construct and maintain storage tanks and septic systems.