By Bob Dailey, Woodlands Water
In 2017, residents of The Woodlands needed to irrigate their lawns only 12 weeks out of the year. Sounds unrealistic? Not with new information and technologies developed by Texas A&M and research conducted by other universities.
Now, A&M turf experts can track needs of turf grass by on the spot testing of various environmental factors which directly affect lawn irrigation. These factors include rainfall, humidity, temperature, solar exposure, soil moisture and wind velocity. A&M currently operates 56 Evapotranspiration Testing locations across the state.
Woodlands Water system takes in rainfall information from locations in the county, including some strategically located in The Woodlands.
Using a series of equations, the systems calculate the amount of water needed a geographical area of the state for a variety of turf grasses. Warm season turf grasses, such as St. Augustine, Zoysia and Bermuda, flourish in southeast Texas. Other grasses, such as fescue, buffalo grass, Kentucky bluegrass flourish in the colder parts of the state.
To accurately provide irrigation information to residents, Woodlands Water maintains rainwater collection devices that communicate daily to an evapotranspiration system managed by the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District. Using the Texas A&M equations to calculate how much extra water is needed for turf grass in The Woodlands, the system then relays the information back to Woodlands Water. That info is then transmitted, via weekly emails, to residents. (If you aren’t on the email list and wish to be, please access the Woodlands Water home page at http://www.woodlandswater.org and sign up.
Full-blown ET systems are expensive. One thing residents don’t know, though, is that they can install a “mini-ET station,” also known as a “smart controller” set up to receive all the evapotranspiration information, link it to their irrigation system and stop worrying about how much they should irrigate their lawns.
These smart controllers automatically receive data from the Texas A&M ET stations, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other ET stations, convert the information into your specific turf irrigation needs, and automatically set your irrigation system accordingly. These can even be set to operate your irrigation system on your designated watering day.
The new stations are inexpensive, can be operated remotely from PCs, laptops and even smart phones and can save substantially on water costs. One perk that residents in The Woodlands served by Woodlands Water is that they can receive a 50% rebate on the purchase and installation of one of these systems (up to $150). The rebate can be substantial. With many home ET stations costing less than $300, a 50% rebate would pay for half the cost. The rebates are deducted from the resident’s water bill.
Rebates are available on a wide variety of water saving devices. In-home ET stations, smart controllers, rain water harvesting systems, and drip irrigation are also available to residents. For more information, call Woodlands Water at 281-367-1271.