In Texas, Brown is the New Green

In this community, “keeping up with the Joneses,” doesn’t mean lush grass and perfectly manicured lawns. Find out how water conversation and a friendly neighborhood challenge are helping area aquifers.

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One Texas community is using a grassroots campaign to conserve water. And township leaders are confident the efforts will successfully preserve limited freshwater resources.

The Woodlands, a special purpose tax district with a population of 100,000, has implemented the Water-Wise Village Challenge, encouraging residents to turn off their sprinkler systems and cut down on water use on lawns and gardens until April 15. It’s an effort the region — located 30 miles north of Houston — is hoping will catch on to help stem a long-term issue, water conservation.

Although the area is not at perilously low water levels now, the Houston area did have a significant drought in 2011. And, according to the U.S. drought monitor, about two-thirds of the state is either abnormally dry or experiencing some drought conditions.

In addition, aquifer issues might lead the area to depend more on surface water, according to Lynne Aldrich, environmental services manager for The Woodlands.

“Water conservation has kind of become one of the key things everyone is talking about,” she says. “The Houston region is growing like crazy … [and] the aquifer is not recharging as quickly as we’re withdrawing.”

The challenge was created to help spread the word on a grassroots level. After registering their pledge, residents can post a free yard sign to indicate participation.

“Our thought is that people will pledge … then their neighbors will,” says Aldrich, adding that this program is a “kind of a gentle nudging” to get everyone involved. And it’s a great way for neighbors to get to know each other better.

“It’s just one piece of a public education campaign” on water education, she adds, noting the area has done previous challenges, such as an Earth Day “trash off” to encourage people to pick up trash in the community.

Although the water campaign is voluntary, not mandatory, each pledge — limited to one per household — will earn a contest point for the resident’s village. The winners will get bragging rights and also the possibility of winning some sponsor money toward scholarships.

Aldrich notes there are many reasons why citizens should participate. The St. Augustine grass widely used in The Woodlands, she says, goes dormant during winter and does not require irrigation. And watering lawns in winter can contribute to fungus disease and shallow root development. Another problem with overwatering is it can create a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Having many reasons why the initiative should be followed is important, Aldrich says.

“We use many different ways of getting people to conserve water as possible. You want to frame it in different ways,” she says.

Winners of the challenge will be announced at The Woodlands’ second WaterFest, which will be held May 9.

For more information about the challenge, click here


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