By Kathy Wythe
With rapid population growth and the memory of the worst drought in 50 years, cities and groups are promoting programs that educate their constituents about water quality, water conservation, and landscape management.
Many cities are partnering with federal and state agencies and universities to develop new programs or market existing ones.
In North Central Texas, the city of McKinney and Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Urban Solutions Center at Dallas recently began partnering to develop water conservation programs for McKinney (see story on page 14). Fort Worth is working on an educational plan with Dallas Water Utilities and the Tarrant Regional Water District.
In addition, Dallas has its Save Dallas Water (http://www.savedallaswater.com/) campaign that strives to raise awareness about water conservation by educating local citizens to encourage conservation at all levels of the community. The main goals of its water conservation program are to extend the life of existing water supplies, reduce water waste, and reduce per capita consumption.
"Texas SmartScape®," a program developed by multiple partners in North Central Texas, educates citizens about the ecological, economic, and aesthetic benefits of using landscaping plants, shrubs, grasses, and trees that are native or adapted to the regional climate and local conditions. The program uses an interactive "how to" web site (http://www.txsmartscape.com/) and seminars to teach citizens how to design and care for a garden planted with plants, shrubs, and trees that thrive in the area and need less water. In 2005, SmartScape® expanded to West Texas.
In Central Texas, Austin, known for its progressive approach to conserving the environment, is promoting programs addressing water quality and quantity.
"Grow Green" (http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/growgreen/) is a comprehensive landscaping program designed for Central Texas. The program, a partnership between Austin and Texas AgriLife Extension Service, gives "earth friendly" gardening solutions to reduce water pollution.
Austin is also tailoring a water conservation program, developed for the Texas Water Development Board, to the city's needs. The campaign, "Water IQ: Know your water," educates people about their water source. It offers simple tips to help save water and change the way Texans use water in their homes and businesses. The Lower Colorado River Authority and Austin have collaborated in this campaign and are using ads, billboards, a web site (http://austin.wateriq.org/), and other outlets to inform their citizens about how to curb water use.
The city of Lubbock with the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1, and the North Texas Municipal Water District, are also adapting the Water IQ program to their areas.
The El Paso Water Utilities' water conservation department, created in 1991, has ongoing public information programs and materials that increase awareness about regional water issues. The company recently opened the TecH2O, a water resource learning center with 16 interactive exhibits on water management. The center will provide meeting places and resources to promote the understanding and study of water and water issues to educators, students, policy makers, and the public.
For the Upper Texas Gulf Coast, a group of partners has developed "WaterSmart," a water education program with an interactive web site (http://www.watersmart.cc/). Its goal is to educate citizens on producing beautiful landscapes while using less water, fertilizers, and pesticides. The WaterSmart program provides information about runoff pollution and water conservation to homeowners, garden clubs, environmental groups, and city planners. Organizations that developed the web site include the Galveston Bay Estuary Program of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Coastal Watershed Program, AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M Sea Grant College Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
AgriLife Extension, Texas Nursery and Landscape Association, and Texas Water Development Board recently developed a Texas Urban Landscape Guide. The publication and its web site (http://urbanlandscapeguide.tamu.edu/) are resources of science-based information on designing, installing, and maintaining WaterWise landscapes in Texas. (A WaterWise landscape is a landscape designed and maintained according to basic good horticultural principles that allow for a beautiful healthy landscape with minimal supplemental irrigation and no adverse runoff from the landscape property.)
Dr. Don Wilkerson, AgriLife Extension horticulturist and one of the urban guide developers, said the guide targets three audiences-homeowners, horticulture professionals, and municipal government and water utility personnel. It provides different tracks of information for each audience, with each track containing resources and links to different web sites with specific information for the target audiences.
The TCEQ debuted its "Take Care of Texas" (http://www.takecareoftexas.org/) program in April 2007. In addition to water quality and quantity and air quality, it addresses energy conservation and waste reduction.