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FALL 2011 WHCRWA PLANS FOR WHCRWA BOARD NEXT CONVERSION MILESTONE OF After meeting its 2010 deadline for conversion to surface water ahead of schedule, DIRECTORS the West Harris County Regional Water Authority is deep in planning for an even more ambitious milestone in 2020. Bruce Parker, President Construction has slowed for the time being, but Authority engineers are still busy Voting District 2 behind the scenes with maps and survey equipment, doing the important preliminary work necessary for a massive cross-town construction project expected in the next decade. George L. Rush, Jr., V.P. “The surface water supply we needed for our first 2010 conversion deadline was Voting District 7 available basically on the West Authority’s boundary, on the west side of Houston,” says engineer Wayne Ahrens of Dannenbaum Engineering Corp. “For the 2020Stacey L. Burnett, Ass’t V.P. deadline, we have to go all the way over to the City of Houston’s northeast water Voting District 4 purification plant, which is on Lake Houston.” “It’s much more difficult to bring water all the way across town…but that’s what “Cam” Postle, Secretary we have to do.” Voting District 6 The Authority – which includes 118 municipal utility districts and the city of Katy in West Harris County – is under Harris-Galveston Subsidence District mandate to Eric Hansen, Asst. Sect’y convert from groundwater to surface water. Excess pumping from groundwater wells Voting District 3 causes overlying ground layers to compact, and this subsidence leads to problems like increased flooding and property damage. Karla Cannon, Director The Authority has met the 2010 deadline for converting 30 percent of its ground- Voting District 5 water usage to surface water, provided via the City of Houston system. Currently, 38 districts – in an area roughly between West Road on the north, Clay Road on the Johnny Nelson, Director south, Brittmoore Road on the east, and Barker-Cypress on the west – are receiving surface water from the City of Houston system, via the Authority. Voting District 9 The next 2020 deadline raises the mandate to 70 percent. To meet that goal, the Authority is partnering with the North Fort Bend Water Authority to build a 9-mile- Larry Weppler, Director long, eight-foot diameter water line from Houston’s northeast water plant near Lake Voting District 1 Houston, and a 30-mile-long, eight-foot diameter water line crossing Harris County.Mark G. Janneck, Director The 2020 conversion also will require 75 miles Voting District 8 of distribution lines, expansion of Houston’s north- east water plant, and construction of Luce Bayou to Legal: James A. Boone, bring water from the Trinity River to Lake Houston. Allen Boone Humphries The Authority is partnering with the North Harris Robinson LLP County Regional Water Authority, the Central Har- ris County Regional Water Authority, the North Engineer: Wayne Ahrens, Fort Bend Water Authority, and the City of Hous- Dannenbaum Engineering ton in developing Luce Bayou. The Texas Water Development Board is also providing funding. While construction is years away, Authority engineers are in the process of surveying and even- tually acquiring easements for the new cross-town water line. Part of the route will be new; other parts Continued on page 12 The water we conserve today can serve us tomorrow.
The Truth About Turf and Water Use... Lawns don’t waste water...people do! As recently as a decade ago, how many of us would have thought we’d need to worry if we’d have enough water to keep up our lawns and landscape areas? This is Texas, isn’t it? Surely there’s enough water to go around? Perhaps not in years ahead, however, if you take a close look at the Texas Water Development Board’s State Water Plan. In fact, reading it is enough to make you concerned - very concerned - about having adequate water supplies for our children and grandchildren by 2050. Forty years...seems like an eternity away, doesn’t it? It can take at least that long to realize the benefits of long-range plans“The bottom line when it comes to water infrastructure. Consider, for example, what would have happened if the City of Houston’s visionary planners is that people in the 1950’s hadn’t been as forward looking as they were to build reservoirs and lakes. We most certainly would not be in as good a need to know position as we are today relative to current water supplies. Thanks to their foresight, we’re able to rely on both ground and surface water to help meet the needs of our growing population. more about So, back to the water problems at hand. Is it time to forfeit dreams of the coveted Yard of the Month award? To take on thewhich turfgrass homeowners association, strip the grass out of your front yard and maybe fill in with rocks and cactus? Don’t go to those extremes justthey plant and yet. There may be a more positive alternate direction for you to consider. Fortunately, the folks at Texas A&M University Department of Soil and Crop Sciences have been working on this scenario for how to care quite some time and can offer some real assistance - not only with new turfgrass products with great survivability properties, but by for it in the providing excellent information and education on the topic, as well. According to Dr. David Chalmers, Texas AgriLife Extension long-term.” professor and co-author (with Dr. James McAfee) of Turfgrass Selection for Texas and Turfgrass Establishment for Texas, “The bottom line is that people need to know more about which turfgrass they plant and how to care for it in the long-term.” Dr. Richard White, also a TAMU Professor, mentioned that a survey of some 800 residents revealed that when it came to water usage, 25 percent of the respondents used 50 percent of the available drinking water. About 90 percent did not know how much water they 2
consumed each month...yet 85 Studies over the yearspercent considered themselves have shown that the real key toto be “efficient irrigators.” survivability in a severe drought isThat’s a pretty big disconnect; the depth of the soil. One study,but wait, there’s more. sponsored by the Turfgrasses Water consumption by Producers of Texas and Santhe group surveyed increased by Antonio Water System, comparedas much as 400 percent during the results when planting 25the summer months because of different varieties of turfgrasses inlawn and landscape watering. an agricultural native soil that was“By initiating some simple, more 16-18 inches deep to the sameefficient watering practices the 25 varieties planted in soil with 4group could have realized a inches of topsoil. In both yearssavings of 24 to 34 million gallons of the study (2006 and 2007)of water a year!” White explained. the first group – deep soil – all So, what are those varieties survived 60 days withoutsimple practices that will save water. In the second group – withthat much water, and how do rate when it is available in the soil. 4-inches of topsoil – none of thewe implement them? Much of the grasses’ persistence grass survived. Pretty convincing, First, let’s accept the and survival if water is restricted,” huh?assumption that lawns don’t waste he pointed out, “depends on theirwater, people do. The tried and drought tolerance – or beingtrue recipe for growing healthy able to survive without rainfallgrass while saving water is tied or irrigation. The better able ato selecting the right grass for the turfgrass variety is to adapt tolocation, having really good soil, the realities of a Texas summer,and understanding exactly how the better equipped it will beto take care of it. At the heart to ultimately survive.”of the recipe is knowing when The soil is the fundamental Chalmers says it isn’t evenand how much to water! component for growing a healthy necessary to have 16 plus inches In Texas, more than lawn no matter which grass is of soil...that 10 to 12 will do nicely.half the lawns are planted with selected. “It is more than just One of his concerns, however, isSt. Augustine grass, which which turfgrass the resident what happens when new homesmany believe is especially decides to put in place,” the are built and the soil is compacted“thirsty.” That might be a professor explained, “but which by all the heavy equipment thatbad rap, says Dr. Chalmers. soil they have, how deep it is, and travels over the ground. “All grasses use about the how appropriate it is in which to “When you pit heavysame amount of water at the same grow their choice of grass.” construction vehicles against a Continued on page 4 3
productive soil...the vehicles win about 0.09 inches per hour...every time. It is critical to put the not very fast. Irrigation systems,soil back the way it was. Plants on the other hand, may applycan’t do the remediation on their water at a rate of 0.25 to 1.5own,” says Chalmers. “They have inches per hour or more.to have good, noncompacted So...here’s the bottomsoil in which to grow. The best line...for efficiency, the irrigationscenario for growing grass is controller should be set to applyhaving the deep soil well aerated half...and still have great looking only about 0.10 inch of water atthrough the root zone. When lawns! He says that there are a time. Applying water fasterthat’s the case, the grass can many variables to consider about than a soil can absorb in onego longer between irrigations, how much to water. setting results in water movinggradually go dor mant if no Consider this conundrum: across the soil surface, runningwater is available, and persist rain gauges measure rainfall in into the gutter, and down thelonger through a drought.” inches; irrigation recommen- storm drain. Setting irrigation Another important main- dations – in the absence of rainfall to repeat this type of cycletenance tip in dry times is to cut – are usually stated in inches; every few hours allows waterthe grass on the “taller side” but customers are billed for to move into the soil.of the recommended mowing water use by gallons. Irrigation Try this approach...stopheight range – no scalping. A controllers or hose and sprinklers training your grass to be a watermore generous height will help are usually set to water for a hog...and then allow enoughmaintain a dense canopy, and certain number of minutes. The time to give the grass a chanceprovide for optimum root growth challenge is to find the common to adjust to the new water “diet”.and development, he said. denominator – to figure out how The results will be deeper roots “Some people just can’t to get the irrigation system to and longer survivability - just thestand to see their grass experience apply the correct amount of results you had in mind!any ‘stress’ at all, and turn on the water by relating both minutes There is a wealth ofwater at the first sign that the and inches of water to the gallons information about this topic ongrass starts to wilt. Here we come that will be consumed in the the TAMU website – go for ato the most critical factor in having process. Piece of cake. visit but be prepared to explorea healthy lawn...when do you Actually, if you know a it for hours! http://twri.tamu.water it...and how much?” few simple facts, it isn’t all that edu/publications/txh2o/ Fortunately, this topic is difficult. First, throw out the “inch summer-2011. right down Professor Chalmers’ of water a week” advice. That Source: Portions of this article arealley. Let’s start with the assertion may – or may not – prove to be from txH2O Volume 6, number 3,that most homeowners could the formula that will work for your Summer 2011, a publication of thereduce the amount of irrigation lawn. Here’s a clue: water moves Texas Water Resources Institute,water they apply to their lawns by into most clay soils at a rate of and are included with permission. 4
It has now been almost a year since years), cores of sediments of sand dunes andwe’ve had any appreciable rainfall...a few lakes, and archeological remains. This proxyshowers now and then, but not the gentle, climate data, as it is called, can also be extendedsoaking relief that we so desperately need. by written historical documents such as newspaper “Who would ever think that Texans would accounts and personal diaries and family records.be hoping for a hurricane or tropical storm?” During medieval times, for example, itfolks are asking, shaking their heads in disbelief. appears that Texas endured several megadroughtsSeeing clouds gather in the afternoon...the in the 1100’s and 1200’s; and another struckclouds that used to promise a shower or two... in the last half of the 16th century. Slightly earlier,now just get our hopes up. Climatologists tell us when Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca arrived inthat this isn’t over yet – not by a long shot. Texas in the 1530’s, he As devastating and destructive as this current encountered a populationdrought is – with its relentless, blistering temperatures, of Native Americanwildfires and the loss of billions of dollars in crops – farmers near the siteTexas is no stranger to this climate phenomenon. of present-day Presidio,In fact, paleoclimatologists have found that where it had not rainedmegadroughts, at least as bad as the 1950’s drought for at least two years.of record, have occurred numerous times over He was treated as a godthe centuries – some lasting 20 to 40 years. by the Indians, and they Paleoclimatology is the study of past climate. entreated him to “tell theThe word comes from the Greek root paleo-, or sky to rain.” There is noancient...and the term “climate”, meaning weather record of whether or not Cabeza de Vacaconditions over a period of time, usually decades. he succeeded.Paleoclimate, therefore, is the climate that existed Droughts also occurred during Revolutionarybefore scientists began collecting weather data, such War times – where tree rings reveal several extendedas temperature, precipitation, wind speeds, etc. periods of drought around the time when the RoanokeThese scientists reconstruct historical conditions, colonists (1587) disappeared, and when settlerssuch as drought, from data that is preserved in were trying to establish Jamestown (1607). Thesetree-rings (which can extend back 300 – 1000 droughts were extreme and lasted between three and 5
six years; unusual for that region of North America. Since then, several shorter and less severe Stephen F. Austin’s early settlement was droughts occurred in the 1970’s, usually ended byimpacted by drought, as well. In 1822, the colony’s Tropical Storms. There was, however, a massive heatinitial corn crop dried in the fields from lack of water. wave in the early 1980’s that was soon accompanied Drought struck again by a blistering drought over much of Texas. around the time of the The late 1980’s saw a three-year drought Civil War in the 1860’s. that was remarkable on several accounts: first, not After the state opened new only was it the costliest in U.S. history, but it was land for immigrant farmers also the most expensive natural disaster of any kind in 1883, one of the worst to affect the U.S. at that time – with losses in energy, droughts in Texas history water, ecosystems and agriculture totaling almost $40 occurred in 1884-86, billion. It was during the summer of 1988 that massive forcing most of the settlers forest fires burned across western North American, to abandon their new including the catastrophic Yellowstone fire.homes, as they were unable to endure the lack ofrain. This drought also had a negative impact on thealready waning cattle drives, as the herds of longhornswere forced to travel over increasingly dry territoryonly to find traditional water holes dried up. Historical records indicate that there hasbeen at least one serious drought in some part ofTexas during every decade of the twentieth century.The most catastrophic one occurred during the firsttwo thirds of the 1950s in every part of the state.It began during the spring of 1949 in the lowervalley...moved to affect the western parts of thestate by the fall...and covered virtually all of Texas In 2009, drought gradually crept acrossby the summer of 1951. The drought lasted until the state, with 88 percent of Texas experiencinga slow soaking rain abruptly ended it in the spring abnormally dry conditions and 18 percent of theof 1956, but only after water shortages had reached state in either extreme or exceptional droughtcritical stages with lakes, rivers and streams drying up conditions. While the widespread lack of rain was nocompletely. Two hundred forty four of the state’s 254 laughing matter, folks still tried to maintain a sensecounties were declared federal disaster areas. of humor. Farmers were asking each other, “Heard the one about the Texas farmer whose land was so dry, his cow was giving powdered milk?” In this case, a La Nina weather pattern settling over the central Pacific Ocean was behind the drought conditions, as it brought the likelihood of below normal rainfall and above normal temperatures. Water providers agree that water conservation is the right thing to do. With the drought today, however, water conservation may be the only thing we can do. With that in mind, water suppliers are asking everyone to do what they can to use water efficiently to help stretch this precious resource. 6
pipes and waterlines; causing the pipes to sag and crack. There have been reports of hundreds of system breaks in Houston’s clay- At the beginning of ($750 million). like soil – as many as 700 waterS e p t e m b e r, 2 0 1 1 , m o r e Breaking Old Records... line breaks a day – that makethan 95 percent of the state Setting New Ones! it difficult to maintain pressure.was experiencing critical or Robert Mace, Texas Water Austin is also experiencing twiceexceptional drought conditions, Development Board Groundwater the number of pipe breaks thiswith our own area in the Resources Director, says we have year. Repairing broken pipes,“exceptional drought” category. the “perfect storm” in Texas – it which must be dug up from under-Climatologists are calling this the continues to be too hot, too dry ground, is hugely expensive –worst drought in more than four and too windy. He points out that up to $350 per foot.decades. Devastating wildfires it has gotten hotter in Texas, and With usage during thehave made headlines across the says we’re back up to temperatures drought hitting all-time highs,state, while drought conditions like those experienced during water -- racing through older,have hit agriculture and livestock the Dust Bowl and drought worn out pipes -- bursts throughespecially hard, with recreation during the 1950’s. spots where the soil has fallenand the environment suffering, Houston received approxi- away. The combination of thesetoo. mately 1.5 inches of rain between and other drought and high A c c o r d i n g t o To d d February and April; that’s about temperature-related factorsStaples, Texas Agriculture what the Sahara Desert might are stressing even the best ofCommissioner, droughts are receive during the same period. systems...with little relief in sight.“unplanned, unexpected, According to Rep. Bill Callegari, In Houston, adding insultunwelcome natural disasters.” R-Katy, “Water supply issues are to injury is the plague of fleas and He explains that this bigger than just the drought.” He the potentially deadly introductiondrought is destroying crops, and warns that “needed infrastructure of the West Nile Virus, broughtforcing ranchers to sell their repairs could be the Achilles Heel by mosquitoes being infected bylivestock – unless they can afford of the Texas economic miracle.” birds that carry the disease.to buy hay from as far away as State leaders have We can each do something!South Dakota – because the identified at least $53 billion in Residents don’t havestate’s hay crop is virtually non- investments needed to repair and to wait until official droughtexistent. He says that the state has expand the state’s aging water restrictions go into effect, however,experienced at least $5.2 billion infrastructure and $142 billion in to think about initiating their ownin losses – that’s a conservative capital costs for water treatment water conservation measures.estimate – and the toll is still and distribution projects — just It is just common sense to userising. That number only covers to keep pace with an anticipated water more efficiently and avoidlivestock losses ($2+ billion), doubling in population by the wasting it down a drain. Thesecotton ($1.8 billion), and lost hay year 2050. Texas hasn’t opened current conditions are a “wake up a major new water reservoir since call,” reminding us that we take 1987 although many more are adequate supplies of precious needed to be able to sustain the water for granted! Sadly, much of state’s economic growth. the water “consumed” every day One of the casualties of is wasted through well-meaning drought is the impact on the soil but careless behavior. No one and everything in it. The ground wakes up and says, “I think I’ll dries out so much that the soil waste some water today!” But it shrinks, leaving gaps around happens, nonetheless. 7 Continued on page 8
There are actions that you checked the settings on your spraying – strength and leave it oncan be taken to help minimize irrigation system controller? until an 8-inch screwdriver goesthe impact of prolonged periods Maintaining healthy, attractive easily into the earth to a depth ofwithout rain. Conservation now lawns and landscape areas 6-8 inches where the water hascould help stretch precious requires much less water than been applied. This “test” will helpresources for the months ahead. you think. In fact, you can easily you determine how long to leave Water efficiencies are get by on one – maximum two it on and can program your timerpossible at both the residential waterings a week (if it doesn’t to do this deep watering once aand commercial levels. End- rain and if the grass needs it). week.users can examine how water This will help the turf grow deep Water deeplyis used in the home or facility, roots and not be as “thirsty” For trees older than 3inventory water-using appliances during dry periods. years that are not planted alone,or equipment, examine the habits It is also important to set use the garden hose about onceof individual water users, and the system to complete watering a week. Placing the hose midwaymake any needed repairs or cycles before 4 am, which cuts between the trunk and the edgemodifications. The blueprint down on evaporation loss and of the canopy and roots, waterfor creating a water budget and doesn’t interfere with weekday slowly and deeply, avoiding anyincreasing water conservation morning “water rush hours,” runoff. Move the hose aroundlie in these basic steps. when families need water for the tree until every quadrant has Meanwhile, here are a starting the day. been soaked. Do this about oncefew timely and specific tips about a month. Consider purchasing aone of the most critical ways to (or making your own) Treegator,conserve – efficient watering of which is a slow release bag oflawns and landscapes. water that will water the tree over According to some studies, a 5-9 hour period.80 percent of the water used Mulch Mulch Mulchat home during April through The more you mulch,October is used for lawn and the better chance your colorfulgarden irrigation…and up to 50 garden plants will survivepercent of that water is wasted. extended dry periods. That extraWe are so convinced that it takes Save the trees! layer can make all the difference!a lot of water to maintain a lush, Pay special attention to Garden beds with perennials andgreen lawn that we just water and shrubs and trees. This high- annuals also can use a soakerwater and water. impact greenery is the foundation hose system. Adding mulch over of our landscape. Trees and the soaker hose and around the shrubs need watering that reaches shrubs and tree drip line helps the roots, where moisture is most conserve moisture even more. effective. Your automatic sprinkler The combination of sustained system may not provide what is periods of brutal, triple digit needed, so consider investing in a temperatures – along with the soaker hose and timer. This hose relentless afternoon sun – can should be no longer than 100 really take its toll on all plants, feet, and should wind between including those in containers. your shrubs and trees. Hand-watering is your best bet to Attach the timer to the help them survive. closest outdoor faucet and Thirsty Lawns Take Control connect the two with your garden Lawns – especially those When was the last time hose. Turn it on to seeping – not made up of St. Augustine grass 8
– are big drinkers. Consider naturally “landscaped” residentiallimiting grassy areas as much as areas, some with seating alcoves,possible, by relying on smaller turf than you might encounter here.areas to contrast with your other Gardening experts suggestlandscape components. that some people cling to their Automatic sprinklers work lawns because they simply cannotbest here, but there’s no guarantee imagine any other option. But,they will keep your lawn green they point out, there’s just no otherduring a serious drought. Grass place on earth where folks havenaturally goes dormant in dry this much residential turf. Theconditions; conserving water for water only as long as it takes to new philosophy seems to be thatits roots. Your goal should be the get moisture down into the soil – “brown is the new green.”same — water as infrequently but that is usually a maximum of 20 According to NASAas deeply as possible. minutes per cycle. It will take at data, lawns have outpaced corn least 30 minutes for the water to to become America’s largest percolate into the soil, so allow it irrigated “crop” by area – at to do this before adding any more about 32 million acres – based water. Water that runs off into the on satellite and aerial imagery street is wasted! collected by the agency over 13 Promote healthy soil metro areas. Experts suggest that During a drought, one the lawns of the future might look important secret to survival is much different, due, in part, to the healthy soil, which protects and rising cost of water. Depending During serious drought sustains the roots of your lawn. on how long the current droughtperiods, it is best to scrub the If you decide to add fertilizer, use continues, the switch to lessBest Lawn Contest, and seek only the organic kind that will thirsty turf might need to occurthe rewards that come from encourage the roots and healthy sooner than anticipated.conserving our precious water soil your lawn needs.resources. Aim instead for land- Autos and Lawns...scape survival over the long term. Not only have Americans had a St. Augustine – on average long-term love affair with their– needs ¾ to one inch of water automobiles, for the past 50per week to stay green. Water years or so folks have also beenlong enough to dampen the wedded to their lush, sculptured,dirt to a depth of 6 inches. (Use and manicured lawns. Today,that screwdriver again to check however, thanks to the droughtmoisture penetration). Avoid and significant requirements for“scalping” the lawn – when St. chemical supplements and lots Go Native!Augustine is kept at about 3 of water, many homeowners Native plants, especiallyinches, the grass can provide are seeking a divorce. Texas Superstars and drought-shade for its own roots. Some are going so far tolerant greenery, are your best Don’t water the concrete! as tearing out their front lawns, allies to minimize your landscapeBecause conditions vary yard to replacing them with native plant watering needs. Plant annuals inyard, there is no absolute rule gardens, or courtyards with ground seasonal containers, and use themfor how long to water. (See the covered, stepping-stoned seating as an attractive focal point for yourTruth About Turf article, page 2.) areas. People returning from yard. Container plants can easilyA reasonable guide for sprinkler vacations abroad often report that be sustained by hand watering orsystems or manual watering is to they were surprised to see more inexpensive drip irrigation options 9 Continued on page 10
available at your neighborhood immediately. Shorten your showernursery or do-it-yourself store. by 5 minutes and save up to 25 Here are some tips to help gallons each time you get clean!maximize water efficiency around If you prefer a bath, considerthe house: filling the tub only half full...and Find and fix leaks! save 10-15 gallons. Never allow A leaking faucet can waste water to go down a drain that can be used for something else, such as watering plants. Please make a commitment to save 20 gallons of water every day; you will be amazed at how easy this is to accomplish! Education, Education, Saving water... Education one glass at a time Whether you’re an are offering water table service educator, student, business on request only. And with the leader, or a member of your advent of critical education homeowner association – please budget cuts, many campuses are get involved in local water retrofitting with low-volume flush conservation efforts, or start toilets or using toilet tank water your own program. Help educate displacement devices to reduceup to 100 gallons a day! As long others about the critical need to their total water usage.as faucets, toilets and showers use water judiciously. Other options in the schoolare leaking, saving water is Water efficiencies are possible in environment include adjusting iceimpossible. Don’t let those leaks the commercial sector, as well. machines to dispense only theintimidate you, either – you CAN amount of ice that is actuallyfix them yourself. Help is available used each day, replacing oldat your local home improvement spray nozzles with more efficientor hardware store. varieties, and running washing Collect information about machines with full loads. Schoolsthe leaky item – such as serial or can also fix toilet, faucet or lockermodel number – and take a photo room shower head leaks. Timerswith you for reference if you can be set to irrigate athletichave any doubts about make or fields during the earliest morningmodel. Find a friendly plumbing hours – before the residentialdepartment sales representative water “rush hour” – and weather-and ask for help with your based technology can be installedsituation. They can help you find to factor in recent or predictedthe correct replacement parts, and rainfall before allowing thecan even give basic instructions system to come on at all.on how to make the fix. If the experts are correct, Flush and Bathe Many manufacturing companies, and drought is the “new normal” Experts have calculated hospitals, schools and food service with no relief in sight, it is up tothat almost two thirds of home businesses have already begun each of us to do our part to lessenwater use is for toilet flushing to implement aggressive water its impact. If we treat water as aand bathing. Don’t use toilets as efficiency programs. precious resource today, we canwaste baskets and fix any leaks More and more restaurants enjoy that resource tomorrow. 10
Have you considered a Rain Garden? by Denise Miller It’s hard to think about flooding in the midstof a record-breaking Texas drought. But residents ofHarris County know the rains will come, and whenthey do, the downpour may be torrential. Fortunately, many local properties areprotected by the MUD drainage systems thatchannel water into local retention ponds andbayous. However, homeowners often wrestlewith specific areas that drain slowly or receiveexcessive runoff from surrounding slopes orneighboring property. Underlying clay soils, slowwater infiltration, and the resulting standing watercan provide mosquito breeding areas and kill The answers to the questions will help youresidential lawn grasses. It is possible to contour decide where to position your garden site andyour property or install drains to increase runoff, whether water needs to be channeled away frombut installing a rain garden is a green solution structures.that may be simpler and less expensive. Plants for Rain Gardening A rain garden acts as a biological sponge to A wide range of plants are suitable for rainsoak up excess water which is then held by soil and gardens. A garden contour with gradually slopingwater-loving plants. A properly placed rain garden sides and a deep center or end will accommodatecan reduce erosion and turn a disadvantage into a a range of plants that tolerate both wet and drybeautiful home asset. By incorporating native plants conditions as well as those that really love wet feet.that tolerate wet soil, a rain garden can also turn an Estimate the amount of sun the site will receiveunsightly mud hole into a beautiful Texas habitat. during different seasons, and finally, consider goingNumerous native plants are well-suited to our climate native. Butterflies, hummingbirds, and beneficialand support beneficial insects and birds. insects will thrive in a well-planned rain garden full Rain gardens are sometimes confused with of native Texas plants.ponds. However, rain gardens only contain standing On the upper Gulf Coast, consider incorpor-surface water for as little as 24-48 hours until the ating some of the following in your plan:moisture infiltrates the soil. In contrast, ponds n Grasses: inland sea oats, bluestem, Gulf Muhlycontain standing water and require a liner, as well n Trees: pawpaw, possumhaw, southern wax myrtle.as water aeration and circulation systems. Generally, n Wildflowers: Louisiana iris, Turk’s Cap, blue mistponds also require more careful management than flower,do rain gardens. n Shrubs: American beautyberry, Flame acanthus, Survey Your Site buttonbush Before installing a rain garden, take time to Additional Resourcesunderstand your yard’s drainage patterns. Some www.wildflower.org Searchable plant data base.questions to ask include: Specify water, sun, and bloom requirements ton Is water draining from a gentle slope and customize your plan.accumulating near the house foundation? http://harris.agrilife.org/files/2011/05/raingardens.pdf.n Does a low spot only become soggy during the Agrilife fact sheet includes a detailed list ofspring and fall but remain damp or dry during the recommended trees, shrubs, and grasses, andrest of the year? wildflowers for wet areas. n Is the water affecting a deck, foundation, or Denise Miller is a science writer andfence line? educator who lives in Cypress, Texas. 11
c/o Allen Boone Humphries Robinson LLP Phoenix Tower 3200 Southwest Freeway, Suite 2600 Houston, Texas 77027Conversion Update As of 2011, the Authority was de-Continued from page 1 livering an average of about 27 millionwill follow existing easements, which gallons of surface water per day. Themay need to be widened, Ahrens said. 2020 goal is approximately 49 MGD, In all, the Authority expects to which is 70 percent of an estimatedacquire about 1,300 new easements total demand of 70 MGD.for the 2020 conversion, he added. So far, since its creation in 2001, “Over the next two years, people the Authority has issued about $306are not going to see the kind of con- million in bonds to finance construc-struction they have been seeing for tion of facilities and purchase of ca-the last several years,” Ahrens said. pacity. Receipts from groundwater“We’re more into planning and getting pumpage fees and surface water saleseverything lined up before we start are paying the finance charges. Wa-the charge for the next conversion ter districts pass these costs along toperiod.” water users. cal project.” One exception is in the Cypress Since 2001, the Authority’s Ahrens estimates it will take an-area, where construction projects are groundwater reduction fees have in- other half to three-quarters of a billionunderway to connect three individual creased from $.10 to $1.75 per 1000 dollars to pay for the Authority’s sharedevelopments to the Authority’s new gallons, starting January 2012. The in projects to meet the 2020 conver-water system. Lines will be extended charge for surface water since 2005 sion deadline.to districts serving Bridgeland, Cypress has increased from $.80 to $2.15 per “The recent drought ought toLakes and Town Lake – Harris County 1000 gallons, starting January 2012. make people understand the need forMUDs 418, 433 and 500 respectively Authority board president Bruce an alternative water supply other than– Ahrens said. Parker wants residents to be aware their wells,” Ahrens said. “Water tables Those districts, which were each that more rate increases are on the have dropped significantly during thefacing the need for a new or additional way. summer due to heavy pumping.”groundwater well facilities, will receive “This is a massive construction “With the growth and the kind ofa much-needed alternate source of project that we are embarking on, weather we’ve been having, there arewater. In return they will pay a share and to pay for this we have to raise districts out there that are being forcedof construction costs for the 2020 the necessary funds,” Parker said. “We to drill new wells because the water lev-system lines that serve them. have no taxing authority, so the only els in their old wells have dropped to “It’s a good deal for the Authority, income we have to cover our costs is the point that they are not producing.”because the developers pay for a por- from pumpage fees and water sales.” Parker agrees that all rate pay-tion of the cost and it’s a good deal for Parker said the Authority will do its ers – regardless of the source of theirthe developers because they are not best to limit the impact on rate payers. water – should practice conservation.putting in wells that, in a couple of “We’re going to try to keep the steps “We’re in a drought and we needyears, they are not going to be using.” small as we incrementally increase our to do everything possible to eliminate There is no doubt that building a rates,” he said. “But, unfortunately, water wastage,” Parker said. “Waternew water system is expensive, Au- these fees MUST keep rising in order is a precious commodity that we needthority officials say. to pay for the next phase of this criti- to use more efficiently.”