Who plans for Montgomery County’s future water supplies?

We’ve seen the news, we’ve heard the call from the Conroe Economic Development Council , The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership, and the East Montgomery County Improvement District, and we can see it with our own eyes—Montgomery County is growing. And fast! In new US Census data, five of the top 10 counties in numeric growth are in Texas, including ours.  

Along with population growth comes a growing water demand.  Additional water supplies will be needed to meet that demand. Most water supply projects have decades-long lead times with local entities making investments years in advance of need. Planning and strategy looks 50-100 years down the road, but we begin acting now to ensure plentiful and cost-effective water long into the future, securing reliable water reserves and creating a strategic plan to manage our most valued resource.  

Water supply planning has been happening in our community for more than 75 years. Created by the Texas Legislature in 1937, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) serves, conserves, and protects the water resources of the San Jacinto River Basin, which includes Montgomery County. One of the many reasons the Texas Legislature created river authorities is to provide a watershed-focused political subdivision with the power to plan for and develop long-term water supplies in partnership with other local political entities, who often do not have the authority or resources to implement plans on their own.  

SJRA considers numerous stakeholders and partners in its ongoing water supply planning efforts including public and private utilities, cities and counties, Municipal Utility Districts (MUD), industry, agriculture, non-governmental organizations, and chambers.  

SJRA planning also includes diversification of water sources.  Utilizing water wells for groundwater, treating and transporting water from Lake Conroe to partners in Montgomery County, and looking for additional strategies are all needed to accommodate the county’s growth.  But, keeping up with growth in a responsible way takes all of us. Find out how you can do your part to preserve and conserve our most valued resource now and long into the future at The Best Water in Texas. 

Air BeeNBee

Looking to purchase new property with a small footprint and a big return on investment?

What if you could build a house for pennies and fill it with tenants who get right to work improving the house and the whole neighborhood?

Sound good? Then it’s time to invest a bee house!

Meet The Renters

Native Solitary Bees, also known as pollen bees, account for approximately 90% of bee species native to Texas. Because these bees are not honey producers and don’t have the ‘job’ of protecting and providing for a hive, they’re not aggressive and are fine around children and pets. Most solitary bees only sting when provoked (smashed, swatted or sprayed) and they’re safe to have in the garden.

The most common bees to take up residency are mason bees, leafcutter bees, carpenter bees and sweat bees. A couple hundred of these friendly neighbors can pollinate as many flowers as a thousand honeybees!

In Spring and Summer, a female bee will select a cavity or ‘room’ in your bee house, fill it with food, lay eggs, seal the room shut, and then move on to her next nest. She won’t revisit or defend the nest. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the stored food, winter inside the nest and then emerge in the spring to start the cycle all over again, providing you an endless stream of renters and pollinators!

Hard Hats Required: Construction Zone

Bee houses come in many shapes and sizes; something roughly the size of a birdhouse is common for most urban landscapes. Whether purchasing a pre-made one or building on your own, consider the following:

Be sure to avoid pressure-treated wood – the chemicals deter would-be inhabitants. If you want to up the curb appeal you can paint the roof and sides; just allow a few weeks for the smell to wear off before bees will move in.

Provide a variety of “room” sizes for bees to choose from – about 1/8″ to 1/2″. A variety of materials provide dark tunnels perfect for nesting: bamboo, hollow reeds, cardboard tubes, small logs or tree branches. Commercial premade nesting tubes or blocks are also available. Whatever material you choose, make sure the tubes are all cut 6″ to 8″ deep, allowing plenty of room for bees to nest. Use sandpaper to smooth any rough edges at the ends. Make (or purchase) extra tubes so you can change out rotten or damaged ones over time.

The back of the house should be closed and the front open. A roof will help keep rain out and should extend 2″ over the front.

After collecting your materials, fill the frame with various sized rooms and add in some bits of nature (pinecones, branches, foliage) in any gaps around the sides, to make the bees feel at home. If you’re concerned about birds or other predators, cover the front of the house with chicken wire.

Room With A View

Find a spot in your yard within 300 fee of plants that flower, aka bee food. Distance is important as some native bees don’t travel very far to find food. Place the house on the south side of a building, fence post or tree that gets morning sun and afternoon shade.  The higher the better: place the house a minimum of 3′ from the ground. 

Avoid hanging your house from a pole or hook; it will swing too much to be considered a safe home by bees. Best to have the back of the house flush with a sturdy object. Once your house has residents, DO NOT MOVE!  If you must relocate, wait until November when most of the tubes will be filled with eggs waiting to hatch in the spring.

Upkeep

Bee houses require little maintenance; however check periodically that the house remains dry and no mold or mildew is occurring. Look for signs of pollen mites, chalkbrood, and parasitic wasps. All are threats to your bee house. 

Your bees may be fine on their own, but the best way to prevent the spread of parasites and disease is to “harvest” your cocoons at the end of the season, or around mid-November. To do this, simply open the nesting tubes and remove the contents. Separate the cocoons from any debris and wash them off in a bowl of cool water. Then place into a container, such as a Tupperware with air holes, in the fridge. Store your cocoons through the winter until temperatures break 50 degrees consistently. At that point, they can be placed in an open container, outside near their nest.

To learn more about harvesting solitary bees, check out this video by Bee Built.

If not harvesting, consider replacing the tubes every few years to reduce potential disease or infestations that are harmful to your bees.

To provide the best long-term housing option, AVOID PESTICIDES in your landscape, certainly around the bee house.

Identifying the types of bees in your neighborhood and meeting their specific needs will help you become the best landlord you can be. Check out the free iNaturalist app for help in identifying and documenting the activity in your yard.

Get your bee house buzzing with activity then sit back and enjoy your new neighbors!

Mother (Nature) Knows Best

Spring is springing. Warmer temps are just around the corner and our forests are about to explode with new life: bunnies, otters, owls, deer, foxes and more!

Every year, during this baby boom, kind conscientious people “rescue” young birds and mammals who are perfectly fine. It turns out that most of the time these spring babies aren’t abandoned; they’re just waiting on mom, or dad, to return. Foraging for those growing forest babies is a full-time job, not to mention, wildlife parents need to feed themselves too.

It’s quite likely that mom is even watching from a distance, waiting to return to her little one when it’s safe. If humans don’t interfere, the parents will feed, protect, and teach their offspring to survive. So, even if your intentions are good, you might actually be disrupting an important process. Remember, this is a natural occurrence. You’re just getting the unique opportunity to witness it.

So, what should you do if you encounter young wildlife?

Observe from a distance. Give mom plenty of space so she feels comfortable returning with food. If the animal does not appear injured, cold/wet, or endangered by a neighborhood dog or cat, there’s a good chance that mom will return and provide care. If mom hasn’t returned after 4 to 6 hours, and you’re sure you didn’t just miss her visit during that time, consider asking for help.

Call the experts

If you feel you may have found an abandoned animal, here are some important considerations.

Handling of any wild animal should be done with extreme care and caution. If you’ve determined that you need to intervene, first contact a local wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. And know that you’ll likely need to turn the animal over to them: nearly all mammals and birds are protected by State and Federal laws.

Keep in mind that local wildlife rehabilitators are volunteers. If you don’t reach someone with your first phone call, be patient and follow these guidelines from Friends of Texas Wildlife to provide basic care for commonly found wildlife in our area.

I found a Baby Bird 

I found a Baby Rabbit 

I found a Baby Opossum 

I found a Baby Raccoon 

I found a Baby Squirrel 

I found a Baby Deer 

If you’ve found wildlife, of any age, that appears to be injured or sick do not approach the animal without first speaking to a professional. Contact one of these local wildlife resources who can help evaluate the situation and provide instruction.

So, if you come across babes in the woods, remember that they may not need rescuing. Mom might just be taking a much-needed break or is teaching her young how to be independent. Remember…mother knows best.

Recycling Dilemma #1006 – Online Shopping

Shopping from the comfort of your home in your PJs is easy. Deciphering what to do with all the packaging that comes with those fabulous purchases is the hard part. Check out these tips to learn how to dispose of online shopping waste wisely.

Looking for ways to reduce packaging from online purchases? 

  • Try filling your cart throughout the week and combining purchases into one weekly delivery. Choose “Frustration-Free” Packaging to reduce extra boxes. 
  • Consider shopping at stores that use thoughtful packaging materials. As this concept becomes more mainstream, the demand will increase and gain popularity! 
  • Choose ground delivery to reduce air travel. This option can save you a bit of money and also reduces the carbon footprint of your package.  
  • Shop at local businesses and bring your own bag or containers.

Check out these recycling tips from previous blogs:  

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov


5 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2021

We’re saying good-bye to 2021 and ringing in the new year. Like most of you, we’re looking back at the past 12 months and acknowledging our big moments. Thanks to support from this community, we’ve been able to host some great events, resume our educational classes and continue to grow as a resource for gardening, water conservation, mosquito control, recycling and more. 

And we want to share some of 2021’s best resources. Below are the top 5 most read articles published on The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department Blog this past year.  Whether you missed it the first time around or it’s time for a refresher, these top-rated reads are worth a look. 

1. A Better Way to Keep Mosquitoes at Bay

In addition to flavoring your favorite dishes, garlic is known for its many health benefits: 

  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol 
  • Reduce risk of heart disease 
  • Improve memory 
  • Natural antibiotic 

That’s not all this allium can do! You can use garlic to rid your backyard of mosquitoes. Find out how to put this superfood to use here.  


2. Native Plant Spotlight: American Beautyberry

Each fall, nature puts on a beautiful show. As we slowly move into cooler temperatures, leaves begin to change colors and show-stopping berries appear on many native plants. These berries provide a critical source of food for birds and mammals preparing for winter.  

For a gorgeous pop of color each fall, consider adding American Beautyberry to your landscape. Learn more about this magenta berry producing native, perennial shrub here.  


3. 6 Ground Covers to Replace Turf Grass

Tired of looking at that bare area under trees, where grass just won’t grow? Fed up with fighting brown spots and disease in your lawn? 

Are you ready for a yard that needs less maintenance so you can spend more time enjoying the outdoors?  

Consider adding some of these native ground covers to your landscape this spring. We’ve pulled together our top 6 ground covers for you here.  


4. Bad guys are stealing water from our forests, right before our eyes!

One of our most precious resources is in danger of being stolen! Just who, or what, is threatening to disrupt our ecosystem? 

Learn how you can help protect our forest from the ‘bad guys’ here. 


5. Can your freeze damaged plants recover?

Winter Storm Uri won’t soon be forgotten. Texans were hit hard with one of the most devasting winter storms in history and the costliest winter storm on record. One of the longest lasting effects was the impact on vegetation. To help those feeling overwhelmed by the losses in their landscape, we compiled a one-stop resource to address your freeze related gardening questions here.  


That’s it! Our top 5 most viewed articles for 2021. Check back weekly for new articles and hot topics in 2022.   

The internet is a big place to navigate. If you get lost or distracted easily, sign up to receive a weekly email with the latest from The Woodlands Township Environmental Services. Simply click the button below, enter your email address and be sure to look for a confirmation email.  Once you confirm, you’ll hear from us weekly, or until you decide otherwise.  However, you want to manage your subscription, we will be here, creating new content for you to enjoy.