Water My Yard Program now covers more areas of Texas

Writer: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, b-fannin@tamu.edu 

Contacts: Dr. Guy Fipps, 979-845-7454, g-fipps@tamu.edu

Charles Swanson, 979-845-5614, clswanson@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION – With summer temperatures climbing into the triple digits, residential lawns are requiring more water.

Knowing how much water lawns require can be a daunting task for homeowners, but the WaterMyYard web-app at http://WaterMyYard.org not only has the answer, but will send you a weekly email and/or text message with instructions on how many minutes to run your irrigation systems, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.  

The web-app has the same look and functionality regardless of the type of device used, including desktop personal computers, tablets and smartphones.

The web-app and program assists homeowners with science-based methods to determine when and how much water to apply to their lawns, said Dr. Guy Fipps, AgriLife Extension Service engineer in College Station.

“Studies show that on average, about 50 percent of all water used for landscape irrigation is wasted,” Fipps said. “WaterMyYard uses the best science-based methods available to determine how much water to apply when irrigating lawns and landscapes.

Recommendations are now available for hose-end oscillating sprinklers, also known as fan sprinklers. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Charles Swanson)

Applying the right amount of water at the right time promotes a healthy and quality landscape, conserves water and often saves homeowners money. (The program’s) watering recommendations are based upon local measurements of weather and plant water requirements with special weather stations, and includes local rainfall.”

The program is conducted in cooperation with water utilities and cities who sponsor their areas in the program. Each sponsor purchases and installs special weather stations at locales within their service area, which form the basis for each week’s watering recommendations.

New to WaterMyYard this year is the city of San Angelo and the Harris-Galveston and Fort Bend Subsidence Districts, who are sponsoring the greater Houston area, Fipps said. Other areas participating include large portions of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex area including Park Cities, Plano, Richardson, Garland, Mesquite and Denton County. Portions of the greater Austin area are also included. A list of sponsors and cities currently in the program can be found on the WaterMyYard website.

Watering recommendations are customized for each yard based upon the type of irrigation system, including spray, rotors, multi-stream and drip irrigation. As of August 1, watering recommendations are now available for hose-end oscillating sprinklers, also known as fan sprinklers.

“WaterMyYard was developed in cooperation with the North Texas Municipal Water District which sponsors a dozen cities they sell water to,” said Charles Swanson, AgriLife Extension specialist in College Station. “At the beginning of this year, there were about 5,500 homes with accounts in the program within their service area. We expect to see a continued increase in these numbers, as well as accounts in all service areas this summer.”

The Texas ET Network at http://TexasET.tamu.edu, which has been around for 20 years, provides the backbone for WaterMyYard, he said.

“However, TexasET only tells you how many inches of water you need for your lawn,” he said. “Turning inches of water into how many minutes to run your irrigation system is actually quite complicated. In 2013, the North Texas municipal water district asked us to develop  a homeowner yard watering notification system that would tell homeowners how long to run their irrigation systems without the homeowner having to know all the technical details normally required. This was the birth of the WaterMyYard program. The city of Irving was next to join, and now there are over 80 Texas cities in the program.”

Fipps said to participate in the WaterMyYard program, cities or utilities must have or purchase at least one agricultural, or ET-type, weather station that meets the TexasET Network requirements.

“We will then work with you to obtain the remaining information that is needed to set up your area in the WaterMyYard web-app,” he said. “During this process, we create a map of the sponsor’s service area, and a user/email database for email recommendations.”

Neither the WaterMyYard Program nor the TexasET Network receives state funding, Fipps said. Sponsors help covered the costs of providing these services. There is a set-up fee and an annual program support fee. More information about getting set up in the program is available at http://watermyyard.org .

For those areas that are currently sponsored in WaterMyYard, individuals start with the webapp at http://watermyyard.org . There, after entering a residential address, the user will select which sprinkler type they are using. The web-app automatically accesses the nearest weather station and produces the recommended weekly runtime for that individual. Users have the option to create user accounts and to sign up for text or email messages with weekly recommendations on how long they should water their lawns.

“The text or email will also list any current water restrictions or also tell whether or not to water for the week,” Fipps said. “What we’ve found is when irrigation systems are put in by contractors, the homeowner quite often doesn’t ever change any of the settings on the irrigation controller.  

“Typically, contractors set the controllers for summer watering requirements, which if not changed, will apply way too much water during the spring and fall months. Also, with most controllers, the default settings do not account for rainfall. In spite of the name, a rain sensor only detects the presence of rain, but does not measure the amount of rainfall and make adjustments to the controller’s settings. Not accounting for actual rainfall also results in over-watering of lawns and wasting water.”

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