Irrigation, conserving water in extreme heat

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) – I got a call from my water provider two weeks ago asking if I had a leak in my water line because my bill was much higher than usual. I assured them that I had no leaks but was simply using more than normal to keep my landscaping from dying.

And I don’t think I’ve won the battle to keep everything in my view alive. To be honest, I prioritized my vegetable garden and landscaping around the house and, by extension, the foundation of my home. Most grass has to fend for itself and doesn’t do very well.

As we continue into this dry season that has seen only a brief respite from a few showers, let’s take a good look at the basics of watering.

First, you can make your existing irrigation system more efficient. Set your timer for early morning and consider changing your spray heads to the most efficient spray patterns. Irrigation heads that spray a stream of large drops reduce evaporation that occurs with fine sprinklers that contain lots of fine mist that drift off target. Also consider adding rain sensors that will delay watering if your hardtop has just received some rain.

Perhaps one of the best tips to share is the “soak and cycle” method. If this is a new phrase to you, be sure to study the “soak and cycle” of your irrigation system. Doing so will give your garden and beds a good, deep drink of water and reduce runoff. Soak and cycle greatly reduces the problem of trying to water too deep and seeing it flow from curb to gutter.

Next, let’s review some of the rules and regulations about home irrigation systems and what they’re allowed to do. Texas law states that anyone can create an above-ground drip irrigation system from a few simple products available at local nurseries. These drip hoses are very simple for the do-it-yourself homeowner. Even for those who feel challenged with home improvement products, drip irrigation kits have a “plug and play” setup that anyone can tackle.

However, there are some serious laws regarding who can install and repair underground irrigation systems. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is Texas’ version of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the national level. Under its jurisdiction, you must be licensed to install almost any irrigation system.

Now, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play a role on TV. So please do not take the following as all you need to know regarding the landscape irrigation law.

According to Texas Administrative Code Chapter 30, “No person shall sell, design, install, maintain, alter, repair, service, or inspect an irrigation system—or consult in such activities—unless the person is licensed by TCEQ As with some laws, there are a couple of exceptions, and one exemption is that you can if you are a gardener or agriculturalist working on your own property.

But we have to go one step further. Some municipalities (Lufkin being one of them) say that even though you may be exempt by the state, you are required to apply for a permit (just like a building permit) and hire a licensed technician to inspect it if part of it is underground.

Why ask all the rules for yard watering? At issue is the safety of the public water supply. If you install a pressurized irrigation system incorrectly and some of the water in your system returns to the city water supply, you can contaminate city water.

The water law is interesting. In general, water laws (who owns it and who can collect it) are set and governed by the states, as opposed to the federal government. Texans have a great deal of latitude with regard to their water rights. Texas law allows you to harvest rainwater. In fact, this practice of harvesting rainwater for landscaping use is encouraged by our state through tax credits and tax credits at certain times.

On the contrary, my understanding is that Colorado residents are generally not allowed to collect rainwater that drips from the roof because it has the “potential withholding water to users with substantial water rights” under Colorado law.

Several years ago, the Lufkin Daily News wrote an editorial titled something like “Lufkin’s Water Problem.” The editorial’s headline was Lufkin blessed with abundant rain and exceptional planning by city leaders regarding ample supplies from the municipal water supply who didn’t realize there was a water shortage across the state during a terrible drought.

The representatives of our state have dealt with wondering eyes from other parts of our state and how they wish to have a part of the water resources we enjoy.

In fact, we usually enjoy more adequate rainfall and have higher quality water for city dwellers. We can actually have incredible landscapes because of our abundance of water.

However, at times like these, let us all remember to use this resource wisely. Water is limited. I suppose we could approach this another way — keeping your water bills down and saving yourself some money. Even during summer droughts like we currently experience, we typically see a rise in landscape water use. But with wise planning, you can save money by implementing water conservation measures.

Cary Sims is the District Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Angelina County. His email address is [email protected]

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