TRWD Green Industry Drought Meeting Report

now panic and freak out
On Friday May 24, 2013, Tarrant Regional Water District Conservation Program Managers Dean Minchillo and Mark Olson hosted a meeting to provide information to and get input from the Green Industry regarding upcoming irrigation restrictions. They really might want to consider having a few more of these meetings as a drought avoidance strategy because we did have a nice rain Friday afternoon.

Twenty-nine people attended the meeting.  Eleven worked in golf, five for political subdivisions, five for the Fort Worth Botanic Garden (it was convenient!) and that leaves me and seven other people to represent the rest of the green industry.

 2013 is looking a lot more like 2011 than 2012, and Stage 1 restrictions are scheduled to go into effect on Monday, June 3rd,  as lake levels drop below 75%. The west fork lakes, Lake Bridgeport and Eagle Mountain Lake, are already at 61%.  Here’s a quick review of Stage 1:

Outdooring watering is limited to this twice per week schedule:

  • Monday–no landscape watering (this is traditionally a peak water use day–no one quite know the reason)
  • Tuesday and Friday–non-residential locations (this does include apartments, which are residential, but special)
  • Wednesday and Saturday–Residences with addresses ending in even numbers
  • Thursday and Sunday–Residences with addresses ending in odd numbers

This includes golfcourses, parks, sports fields, etc, but large properties who can’t reasonably make it through all their irrigation zones on their designated days can apply for a variance.  Each zone can be irrigated no more than two times per week.  Fort Worth water customers can call Jimmy Burgdorf at 817-392-8740 to request  a variance.  Previously granted variances are no longer valid.

There are exceptions to the restrictions.  Supervised testing, repair, or maintenance of a sprinkler system may be done at any time.  There is a 30 day variance to the restrictions for newly installed landscapes.  Daily watering for 30 days is technically allowed but of course not encouraged.  Golf greens and tees can be watered every day.

The target reduction in water use in Stage 1 is 5%.  That might or might not be achieved this time since year to date use is down about 7% from normal thanks to the regular, though not about average, precipitation we’ve had so far.  July and August are peak demand months. 

Stage 1 restrictions are all reasonable measures that might cause some inconvenience but that shouldn’t result in the loss of trees, turf, or landscape plants.  With the 30 day variance for new installations, no one should be afraid to plant if they need to. 

It’s more complicated as we move into Stages 2 and (heaven forbid!) 3.  The lake level triggers for those restrictions are 60% and 40% respectively.  One really significant thing Dean Minchillo said at the meeting was “The triggers are not changing.  The response could.” 

That’s why it is important to attend these meetings, even if you don’t think that they make it rain.

Here’s a slightly shorten version of Dean’s post meeting e-mail:

Thank you all for attending the TRWD drought meeting on the 24th at the Botanic Gardens.  We had a good group of industry representatives, although, I would have liked to see more landscaper/irrigator folks there. Regardless, the discussion was good and centered mostly around: variances, consumer education, and more use of technology. Below is a brief recap of the meeting, some action items as a result of the meeting, and a list of all who attended.

The golf course industry representatives expressed their desire to establish consistent methodology to measure a 5% reduction in water use. They also shared several ideas and methods to consider.  

Variances for new landscapes and large properties was a concern for several. Micah Reed from Fort Worth talked to the group about Fort Worth’s enforcement procedures and variance process answering a lot of questions and easing some concerns. Also noting that watering by hand, drip and soaker hose were not affected by the restrictions.

It was also mentioned that more should be done to educate home owners regarding proper irrigation scheduling and how much water to apply through run-time suggestions and/or evapotranspiration (ETo) rates. Also, the topic of recommending the use of more low volume irrigation equipment along with drip irrigation and soaker hoses.

Action items:

1. Have variance process/procedures included in the drought plans as well as contacts for addition information on variances.

2. Increase education to homeowners on the benefits of using drip and low volume irrigation and proper irrigation techniques and scheduling to meet twice weekly watering schedule

3. continue to work with the golf course community on defining reduction percentages and variance processes to meet the variety of golf courses and irrigation processes.

Dean’s contact information is:

Dean Minchillo ǀ LI#16715, Conservation Program Manager, Tarrant Regional Water District

P:  817.720.4368 ǀ C: 817.682.7370

dean.minchillo@trwd.com

@SaveTarrantH2O

Please do let him know what you think and thank him for asking.

About Laura Miller

Laura M. Miller is the Texas AgriLife Commercial Horticulture Extension Agent for Tarrrant County. She provides informal educational programs and problem solving services to all aspects of the commercial horticulture industry, from green industry professionals to fruit, vegetable, and ornamental plant growers. Prior to taking on her present position in March 2008, she was a University of Florida/IFAS Extension Agent for seven years. A sixth generation Texan, she’s a graduate of Eagle Pass High School who earned a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and a Master of Education in Agricultural Education from Texas A&M University in College Station.
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