Tag Archive for: Texas A&M

Easy Way to Reduce Water Usage, Costs, Subsidence and Flood Risk

The Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service, working with local government organizations, has developed a free, customized program that might help you reduce water usage, costs, subsidence and flood risk. It’s called the WaterMyYard program.

A large percentage of the water used in urban areas goes to watering lawns. On average, the EPA estimates 30-60% of residential water irrigates lawns. Your percentage may vary depending on your location, distance inland, average temperature, rainfall, size of yard, etc. But in general, 50% is a good average estimate.

Grass is the most watered crop in America. And many of us overwater our lawns, running up water bills needlessly.

How WaterMyYard Program Works

WaterMyYard uses local weather data in participating areas to provide free, weekly watering advice.

The system collects data from an extensive network of weather stations and rain gauges. It then correlates that data with evapotranspiration rates for major grass types; air and soil temperatures; rainfall; wind; and dew points so you can put the precise amount of water on your lawn that it needs to stay healthy.

Example: data for North Houston in the last 7 Days used as basis for calculations.

When you sign up for the service, you answer a few questions about the type of sprinklers you have and the inches per hour they spread on your lawn. Based on measured weather data, the system then sends you customized weekly water advice for your specific lawn and irrigation system.

The system takes the guess work out of knowing when and how much to water.

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension

For instance, it could tell you how much to cut back after a major rain or how much to increase watering during a dry spell.

If you don’t know how much water your system puts out per hour, don’t worry, you can change the amount after you sign up. You can use typical rates for different types of sprinkler systems. Or you can actually measure it by placing cans around your yard during watering cycles.

You can also add sprinkler systems, for instance, if you have one type for your lawn and another for flower beds and shrubs.

Testimonial: Water Usage Cut in Half

One user I know said he was able to cut his water usage by 50%. “I dropped home consumption in half and my lawn is still green and everything’s still fine,” he said. “Most of us just don’t have enough information. When we go into new homes, we just leave the sprinkler settings the way the last guy had them.”

“I really didn’t pay much attention to them,” he continued. “As long as my grass was green, I was good. But a lot of research out there says that we can be more efficient with that. And that’s what the WaterMyYard program does.”

With water rates constantly going up, it’s easy to see how eliminating wasted water, can save you money. But how does lawn watering affect subsidence and how does that affect flood risk?

Connection to Subsidence, Flooding

Large parts of the region still aren’t on surface water; they use groundwater. And if we use groundwater faster than it’s being replaced, we experience subsidence. Places in northwest Harris County sank 50 centimeters (almost 20 inches) between 2000 and 2022.

From presentation to Harris-Galveston Board of Directors on 12/8/2023.

In a flat area like Houston, an inch per year can be significant. One subsidence expert said it can be enough to reduce the gradient of whole watersheds over a decade or two. That means stormwater doesn’t move away as quickly as it once did. So, in large rainfalls, flood peaks build higher faster.

Now consider this. If lawn irrigation accounts for half of residential water use, and if half of lawn irrigation is unnecessary, up to 25% of water we use could have stayed in the ground. And that could significantly reduce subsidence and flood risk while reducing your monthly water bill.

The sooner you act, the more you save. So sign up for WaterMyLawn weekly watering advisories today.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/23/2024

2398 Days since Hurricane Harvey

AP Article Cites Texas A&M Study Showing Pollution Surged 62% Since EPA Enforcement Rollback

An Associated Press article published this afternoon and already being picked up by many news outlets cites a Texas A&M study of air quality monitors in the most heavily industrialized parts of Houston. The A&M study reportedly shows that air pollution has surged 62% in the three weeks since the EPA announced that it would relax enforcement of pollution regulations due to the corona virus.

The new enforcement standard, announced March 26th, also affects water pollution which I reported on April 1.

The EPA claims its new stance represents a reasonable response to the virus crisis. Many plants, they say, have been crippled by worker absences.

I have no problem with that. I’m sure the virus has affected law enforcement agencies around the country.

I do have one problem, however: the public announcement that you will stop enforcing the law.

Can you imagine, for instance, what would happen if:

  • Houston Police Department announced it would pull all officers out of Kingwood?
  • The SEC announced it would no longer prosecute insider trading during the virus crisis?
  • The Defense Department signaled that it would not retaliate against foreign aggression?

While I do believe that the vast majority of people and companies would continue obeying the law, I also believe that some will take advantage of the lack of enforcement. The public announcement gave a green light to people in the latter category.

A 62% increase in three weeks sounds like a big jump.

Had the EPA used its enforcement discretion to quietly relax prosecution of businesses hampered by the virus, it could have shown compassion and reasonableness without harming the regulated community. However, the public announcement of the relaxed policy may have harmed residents living near pollution sources. The AP article cites many examples.

I wonder how the announcement impacted San Jacinto River sand mines and water quality. EPA enforcement in this area has never been aggressive in my opinion.

Confluence of Spring Creek and West Fork showing pollution coming off West Fork at Montgomery County Line. 20 square miles of sand mines lie upstream on the West Fork. Photo taken March 6.

When someone writes the history of this EPA enforcement controversy, the key question will be “Why the public announcement?”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/19/2020

964 Days since Hurricane Harvey