Since the historic drought of 2011, we’ve heard about other parts of Texas implementing water restrictions, dealing with Stage 3 water emergencies, battling low lake levels, and searching for new water supplies. While much of the state remains abnormally dry with moderate to extreme drought conditions, the dry spell hasn’t had an immediate impact on College Station because our water supply comes from groundwater wells.
College Station has become a leader in water conservation through our inclined water rates and the implementation of a reclaimed water system to irrigate Veterans Park & Athletic Complex, which saves about 300,000 gallons of potable water a day.
Since about 50 percent of annual residential water use is for outdoor watering, we’ve also partnered with Texas A&M Agri-Life and the Brazos Valley Groundwater Conservation District to provide our water customers with the information they need to water their landscapes more efficiently.
Tailored water budgets
For the last five years, we’ve worked with Agri-Life to develop a database that tracks residential water usage and calculates a home’s water budget for irrigation.
In 2013, thousands of letters were mailed to individual residential customers with graphs showing how much water they used for irrigation and compared that to the budget calculated for their yard. It also showed how they compared to their neighbors. The content of these letters has evolved over the years and has resulted in an excellent response and database.
New letters to our top 5,000 residential water users are being mailed this week.
This benefits all water system customers, who enjoy a dependable, long-term water supply that enables the city to keep growing. Customers who have used this information to reduce their consumption have also seen lower water bills without compromising the appearance of their landscapes.
BVGCD grant expands capabilities
This year, we’ve taken the program to an even higher level, thanks to a grant from the BVGCD that allowed us to install a weather station and rain gauges to determine exactly how much water should be applied in specific areas each week.
By mid-August, customers will be able to access local weather information from a website that provides specific landscape watering recommendations based on neighborhood conditions. You can also receive weekly push notifications on your mobile devices.
A handful of other cities in Texas are using similar systems, but College Station’s project is innovative because we partnered with the local groundwater conservation district for grant funding, which will also will cover annual maintenance and cellular data charges. The rainfall information will be linked in time with runoff and storm channel flow data, and the database will be available to the public and for researchers to study the dynamics of rainfall and runoff patterns.
We are working to expand this system to the City of Bryan, Wickson Special Utility District, Wellborn Special Utility District and Robertson County. By reducing demands on the region’s potable water systems, the irrigation information system delays future capital expenditures to increase the water supply and extends the existing supply to enable continued economic growth.
College Station’s water conservation programs have been highly effective, and the latest initiatives will help the city reduce its water consumption well into the future.
Director of Water Services