Education Division – Consumer Outreach Committee Blog
All Things H2O March 2017 Issue
The Urban Water Dance
By 2060 the population of Texas will have grown from 21 million (in 2000) to 54 million people, according to EPA projections. Roughly 86 percent of those people will live in urban areas, putting significant stress on the existing supply of natural resources and requiring us to rethink how we utilize those resources. This conversation is especially important when it comes to water; not only will demand for water increase as the population grows but by 2060 the Texas water supply will decrease from 17.8 million acre feet to 14.6 million acre feet. Millions of lives depend on how well Texas manages its water both present and future.
As an educator and instructor at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas, I have the opportunity to discuss, research, and observe many of these urban water management practices and at multiple different levels. The Research Center works diligently to help people be more efficient with water by educating the frontline, the urban community. Our research has found that some of the greatest opportunities for savings can be undertaken through strategic landscaping and at the household level. While these might seem like straightforward target areas, I am frequently perplexed by the lack of basic knowledge about the relationship between plants and water. This lack of knowledge is often the reason Texas landscapes have been blamed for the severe water situation in Texas. However, I’ve never seen a plant turn on a faucet. Instead, homeowners are doing so – and at alarming rates: during the summer, the EPA estimates anywhere from 30-70% of residential water use is applied to the landscape.
This is in part because a large number of homeowners, multi-family, and even business owners are overwhelmingly unfamiliar with how to operate their irrigations systems let alone how to operate them efficiently. While this technology can be a wonderful luxury that reduces the time and labor demands on property owners, utilizing irrigation systems must go hand in hand with a level of education and knowledge on how to operate them efficiently. Without that, the systems will overspray, pouring water into the storm drains, streets, or sidewalks and providing no benefit to the plants themselves.
An alternative option, which is gaining popularity in Texas as watering restrictions worsen is utilizing native and adaptive plants in the landscape designs. This approach significantly reduces water and maintenance demands on the landscape but does not mean eliminating non-natives (as long as their irrigation needs are not excessive). The plant options available to the public and professionals are tremendous, providing the opportunity to achieve any desired landscape style in Texas while simultaneously conserving water and saving money.
It is our goal within the Water University Team at Texas A&M AgriLife Research to ensure that as many audiences as possible are educated and informed on the proper and most efficient ways to irrigate their landscapes. Doing so includes presenting to schools, municipalities, corporations, and homeowner’s associations, among other audiences. This objective also provides the opportunity to create simulations and do research on ideal scenarios for landscape and home water use.
Without water there is no life. As an educator I have a unique opportunity and responsibility to relay this through my projects, classes, and everyday life.
About the Author:
Patrick Dickinson is the Program Coordinator for the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas, Texas. Patrick has a Bachelor’s of Science in Horticulture from Tarleton State University, is a ISA Certified Arborist, a TCEQ Licensed Irrigator, and has over 15 years of experience in the Texas Horticulture industry.
Patrick is part of the Water University Program that falls under Texas A&M Agrilife Research which focuses on water conservation and storm water issues through professional training, public education programs and demonstrations. Patrick addresses professionals and the public to provide the most sustainable information about landscape water use from design and plant selection to water conserving landscape management practices.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Research Extension Center is the state’s premier research agency in agriculture, natural resources, and the life sciences. AgriLife Research conducts hundreds of projects spanning many scientific disciplines to deliver life-sustaining and industry-changing impacts to citizens throughout Texas and around the world.
Program Coordinator – Water University
Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas
17360 Coit Road I Dallas, TX 75252
t. 972.952.9635 I f. 972.952.9216