One community gets its feet wet saving water

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With the advent of the San Jacinto River Authority’s massive plan to convert the county’s largest communities to surface water, Montgomery County residents are starting to pay more attention to their water — where it comes from, and how much it costs.

The SJRA recently announced it has signed contracts representing 65 percent of the 22.9 billion gallons pumped in Montgomery County each year. Those users will be part of a huge project to convert users from groundwater to surface water from Lake Conroe.

The SJRA’s water system is estimated to have a price tag of $2 billion 40 years out. The initial phase of the project is scheduled to cost $480 million. Participants start paying a pumpage fee of 50 cents per 1,000 gallons in September. That fee could climb to $2 per 1,000 gallons by 2016, when the SJRA system goes into operation.

Inevitably, water is going to cost more for all Montgomery County residents, so now is a good time to begin paying attention to how we use it — and waste it. Irrigation alone consumes anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of water used by homeowners, according to experts

One community that is taking a stab at water conservation is Bentwater. The community recently launched a program known as the Bentwater Water Wise water conservation program. It’s a joint project of Bentwater Civic Association, Bentwater Property Owners Association and MUD 18 water utility. Eight homeowners have been selected to demonstrate water conservation practices and serves as an example to other homeowners, according to .

Each of the pilot homes is equipped with a handheld water monitor that gives the homeowners instant feedback on water usage, so they can monitor their progress.

One of the first steps focuses on lawn irrigation. The eight homeowners have repaired and adjusted their sprinkler systems to ensure effective coverage and minimize waste. They now are working to adjust their watering practices to minimize water use. According to an initial look at each home, it appeared the homeowners were watering their lawns well in excess of the suggested 1 inch of water per week. The homeowners are attempting to reduce usage by following some well-known conservation practices: watering when the sun goes down , mowing their grass at maximum length to minimize evaporation, and sprinkling no more than three times a week — that encourages grass to send its roots deeper and makes it more drought tolerant.

One home has gone high-tech in combating water use: it is equipped with UgMO wireless moisture probes buried into the ground that actually tell the sprinkler system when it is time to water. That home, according to the Bentwater Property Owners Association, is watering at a rate of 0.75 inches per week — well below the recommended levels.

It’s a great program — and it will be interesting to see how the eight homeowners have done after the end of a long, hot summer. Even better — maybe other communities throughout Montgomery County will adopt a similar focus.

Jim Fredricks is editor and publisher of The Courier; he can be reached at (936) 521-3400 or jfredricks@hcnonline.com.

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