This is an article published in the Conroe Courier by Jim Fredricks, publisher concerning the issue of water conservation and shortages in Montgomery County. Please read!!!
Throughout Montgomery County, officials are trying to prod residents to conserve water.
They’re imposing higher water rates in some cases, and in Conroe and The Woodlands at least, paying for irrigation experts to inspect a homeowner’s sprinkler system at their request.
But in one Lake Conroe community, leaders there have launched something different – a public experiment.
In Bentwater, eight homeowners have agreed to participate in a pilot program to encourage conservation, dubbed “Water Wise.” It goes beyond focusing on the most obvious and biggest target for conservation – sprinkler systems – to incorporate a comprehensive approach to changing water habits. High-efficiency shower heads and water-efficient commodes, for example, recently have been installed in the eight pilot homes. Even more, each month, data on water use for the eight homes – for sprinkler systems and uses inside the house (including showers and filling swimming pools) – is posted on the Bentwater Civic Association’s website. You can check it out at www.bentwatercivic.com. Those eight homeowners, in other words, are under a microscope.
The Water Wise program is headed by a committee chaired by Bentwater resident Pat MacParland, who is applying his considerable talents as a retired chemical engineer to the problem of getting people to start saving water.
“Every month we publish data on our eight pilot homes, and we have an update every month we put up there,” he said in a recent interview. “We’ve been at it for six months, we’ve been recording activities and water consumption inside the house, which includes when you wash the car, and even includes filling the swimming pools. It’s kind of all-encompassing.
“We also record irrigation water. And it turns out that at our eight pilot homes, their total consumption over the summertime was right at the 50th percentile of all the community’s homeowners – which is right around 20,000 gallons a month.”
It’s an accomplishment, MacParland said, but he believes the homeowners can do even better as usage data begins to kick on the new, more water-efficient devices in the homes that were installed.
One of the biggest goals was to demonstrate that irrigation systems are dumping way too much water on the lawns of the community’s 1,600 homeowners, and that cutting back wouldn’t diminish a lawn’s beauty, even through the brutal heat of a Texas summer. Irrigation, according to most experts, accounts for about two-thirds of household usage – and half of that is wasted.
One of the eight pilot homes had an UgMo system installed that involves wireless moisture probes buried 4-6 inches below the soil surface. The probes tell the sprinkler system when it is time to water. Meanwhile, the other pilot homes simply tried to watch their sprinkler usage better, eventually getting, on average, down to just 1.25 inches a week. The home with the UgMo system got down to about an eighth of an inch a week. And the lawns are still green. “I think we’ve pretty well shown that an inch a week is quite adequate,” MacParland said.
As a resident of a lakeside community, MacParland says the urgency of conservation is increasing, especially as the county prepares to shift an enormous amount of its water supply from the aquifers to Lake Conroe. Lake Conroe residents continue to be concerned how that issue will affect lake levels, despite the persistent assurances of San Jacinto River Authority officials that they need not worry.
But even more, MacParland said, the pilot demonstrations show that conservation is more possible than many of us think – if we’ll just do it.
“I’m actually kind of flabbergasted with the opportunity that exists. I’m also flabbergasted at the amount of water that is wasted.”
Jim Fredricks is publisher of The Courier; he can be reached at (936) 521-3400 or [email protected].