Expert: Homeowners can save water and big bucks using the site
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, email@example.com
AUSTIN — Austin-area homeowners and renters could save hundreds of dollars on their monthly water bills and still maintain a healthy landscape by taking advantage of a “PET” project at the Morris Williams golf course in north central Austin , according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service experts.
PET stands for potential evapotransporation, and relates to how much moisture turf and other landscape plants need depending upon daily temperatures, sunlight, humidity, wind and other factors, said Dr. Guy Fipps, AgriLife Extension irrigation engineer, College Station.
Fipps and his AgriLife Extension associates recently aided the Austin Water Utility in getting a scientific-grade weather station back online at the golf course after a three-year hiatus.
“It’s back online just in time for the summer irrigation season,” Fipps said.
The weather station’s data is uploaded to AgriLife Extension’s TexasET Network website at http://texaset.tamu.edu/. Software routines on the website do most of the hard number crunching to make the data usable without requiring math skills, according to Fipps.
By going to the website, those who irrigate home landscapes can find specific recommendations — not just for the water requirement under given conditions, but the site will also calculate the run time of a sprinkler system.
“In fact, users can create a profile on the website and have their irrigation recommendations automatically emailed to them,” Fipps said.
The homeowner will need to know a few basic facts, such as weekly rainfall, if any, and the inches of water per hour his or her sprinkler system applies, he said.
The website also has calculation routines designed for managers of professional turf landscapes such as golf courses and growers of commercial crops, he said.
Jacob Johnson, conservation program specialist with Austin Water Utility, said that with the city’s tiered billing system, being able to put on just the needed amount of water needed can result in big savings for customers. The tiers are for every 1,000 gallons above the base usage.
“At the end of the month, if you are in these upper price tiers (above 25,000 gallons), every thousand gallons you take off your water bill is $12.19 less on your monthly water bill,” he said.
In terms of irrigation, 1,000 gallons isn’t a lot of water, considering a homeowner’s nightly irrigation cycle can consume three or four thousand gallons, Johnson said.
“It happens often, but it isn’t ubiquitous among all our customers,” he said.
But if they can curtail irrigation duration time and possibly eliminate a watering or two a month, it’s easy to save $50 to $100 a month, Johnson said.
“Just by such scheduling alone, we work with customers who can save $200 to $300 a month,” he said. “It can add up over the course of a year.”
This is especially true if seasonal scheduling is done, he said. If people who look at PET-based turf coefficients over wintertime in Central Texas, they find the need for irrigation is outweighed usually by rainfall, Johnson said.
A PET-based watering system also works well with water use restrictions, Johnson noted.
The Austin area has been in Stage II water restrictions since Sept. 6, which allows watering with an irrigation system or a hose only one day a week. A violation is a class C misdemeanor, making the homeowner subject to a $475 fine for a single violation, according to the Austin Water department website at http://www.waterwiseaustin.org .