Conservation Matters August 2013

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

North Texas water district launches

North Texas water district launches

A new pilot project by the North Texas Municipal Water District has the potential to save millions of gallons of water every summer on over-watered landscapes, according to Dr. Guy Fipps, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service irrigation engineer.

The water district services about 60 cities and communities in the north central Texas area, including Plano, McKinney, Terrell, Garland, the Colony and Farmersville, representing about 1.6 million users, according to Denise Hickey, public relations coordinator for the district.

The district has been faced with some serious water supply problems in the past few years, Hickey said. First, there has been the ongoing drought, dropping reservoir levels. And Lake Texoma, once making up 28 percent of the district’s water supply, has been offline since 2009 because of a zebra mussel infestation. The mussels multiply rapidly and clump together causing many problems, including clogged pipelines.

The WaterMyYard project incorporates automated weather stations situated throughout the district that feed data to a website,, which uses evapotranspiration — usually termed “ET” — rates to calculate weekly irrigation recommendations specific to areas within the district, Fipps said.

Evapotranspiration is a measure of how much water plants need to grow and stay healthy, he explained. Water requirements depend not only on the type of plant, but also on local weather conditions such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and solar radiation. This may all sound complicated, but it’s been made nearly a “no-brainer” for water district customers, Fipps said

“The WaterMyYard website employs simple, intuitive images and information prompts,” Fipps said. “With a few clicks, homeowners get recommendations on how long — in minutes — to run their irrigation systems.”

Users can also subscribe to get watering recommendations emailed to them on Mondays of each week, he said. Since 1994, Fipps has been promoting the use of scientific weather station data on websites to promote more efficient use of water in urban landscapes and agricultural crops. The TexasET Network posts daily weather and has tools to determine watering requirements for landscapes and crops that are available to all.

“Evapotranspiration and irrigation needs are calculated from local weather data using internationally recognized and standardized methods,” Fipps noted.

Studies have shown homeowners typically apply twice the water needed to maintain lawns. Even in a ‘wet’ year, this is wasteful as it not only represents misuse of water but the extra cost of energy needed to pump the water, he said.

Read the full AgriLife TODAY article, visit and watch the accompanying video for more information.

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