New AgriLife publications give ‘undiluted’ truth about urban landscape water use

COLLEGE STATION — Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists have produced two new free downloadable resources to help educate Texans about how much water is actually used on urban landscapes, the benefits of green spaces and other ways to save water.

Authors of the new resources are: Dr. Kevin Wagner, Texas Water Resources Institute associate director, College Station; Dr. Raul Cabrera, associate professor at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, Uvalde; and Dr. Benjamin Wherley, assistant professor, department of soil and crop sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station.

AgriLife researchers have developed two new downloadable publications to provide Texans with accurate information on urban landscape water use. (Texas Water Resource Institute photo)

AgriLife researchers have developed two new free downloadable publications to provide Texans with accurate information on actual urban landscape water use and measures they can take to increase urban water-use efficiency. (Texas Water Resource Institute photo)

The first publication, which appears as an article in Vol. 4, No. 2 of the Texas Water Journal, provides an evaluation of urban landscape acreage in Texas and associated water use. Related information can be found in the second resource, an accompanying Texas Water Resource Institute informational brochure. Both are available for free download.

“Addressing the current knowledge gaps and developing practices that significantly enhance water-use efficiency in urban activities, particularly landscape irrigation, is necessary to the Texas economy,” Wagner said. “These materials help empower Texans to continue maintaining landscapes while using water efficiently.”

The Texas Water Journal article, “An Evaluation of Urban Landscape Water Use in Texas,” available at http://texaswaterjournal.org, explains the often complicated issue of how to calculate water use.

“The journal is an online, peer-reviewed journal devoted to Texas water resources management and policy issues from a multidisciplinary perspective, integrating science, engineering, law, planning and other disciplines,” Wagner explained. “It is published by the Texas Water Resources Institute and the nonprofit group, the Texas Water Journal.”

The “Urban Landscape Water Use in Texas” brochure is a succinct summary of the Texas Water Journal article and a useful resource to those interested in water conservation education and outreach, he added. It can be downloaded from http://twri.tamu.edu/publications.

Wagner said the brochure complements another publication provided by the institute, “Status and Trends of Irrigated Agriculture in Texas.” Together, the publications provide Texans “an accessible survey of some of the state’s major water users and opportunities for improvements,” he said. This publication is also available for download at the institute website.

Wagner said the new publications cover strategies for improved water conservation in urban landscapes, such as water-efficient plants, smart irrigation controllers and alternative water sources for irrigation.

Behind agriculture, the urban-municipal sector is the second largest category of water use in Texas, and landscape irrigation is its largest component, according to Cabrera.

“These resources summarize how much water is used by the sector and also offer strategies and practices that can significantly reduce water use for urban landscape irrigation,” Cabrera said. “With proper design and maintenance, urban landscapes can be aesthetically pleasing and have little-to-no need for supplemental water.”

For 2011, the total economic contributions of all green industry activities in Texas were estimated at $17.97 billion, plus $10.7 billion in value added and employment for 200,303 people, he said.

“Landscapes are important components of urban environments and provide an array of economic, environmental, human health and social benefits,” Wherley noted. “And to meet the water needs of a growing population, Texas needs innovative strategies.”

Population growth and drought add further complexity to the management of urban-municipal water use, Wagner added.

“Population growth in Texas, largely in urban areas, is expected to increase 82 percent in the next 50 years, and likewise, demand for municipal water over the same period is also expected to increase by 71.4 percent,” he said.

The Texas Water Resources Institute is part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University.

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