Drip Irrigation? It's a Winner!

Automated sprinkler systems are the way to go if you are only watering you lawn. But most of us also have garden and flower beds to add beauty and functionality to our landscapes. This is where drip irrigation systems really shine! Drip out performs sprinkler heads hands-down when it comes to irrigating the parts of your yard that don’t have grass.

A spray head waters from the top down. Most plants don’t like to be watered on the leaves; it can promote the spread of fungal disease. Directing water to the base of the plant makes the water more readily available for uptake by the roots, resulting in healthier plants with less water.

Sprinkler heads supply uneven watering to your garden. Drip lines apply water precisely and reliably. Each part of a drip system can deliver an exact flow rate. It’s easy to match each plant’s needs with the right amount of flow; not too much, not too little.

A study by Colorado State University found that drip irrigation exceeds 90% efficiency. A sprinkler system is between 50-70% efficient at best.

Back to those lawns for just a minute: It’s a good idea to routinely check your sprinkler system. The spray heads require regular adjustments to keep the water where you want it – on the lawn and not the street. Misdirected water from improperly aligned spray heads leads to costly runoff – water wasted. And the setting matters too. Spray that is too fine evaporates faster – as much as 30% can be lost. Be diligent about keeping your sprinkler heads tuned up and efficient.

Still not convinced it’s worth the effort? Converting a spray zone to drip is easier than you think. Most homeowners can set up a full system by themselves with supplies readily available from your local hardware store. If converting the entire yard all at once is too big a project, install it in phases, one zone at a time. Attaching a drip line to a hose faucet makes it even easier. Each of these options will give you healthier plants, waste less water, and lower your water bill.

As a bonus, if you live within the areas of the Township that are served by Woodlands Water Agency (formerly Woodlands Joint Powers Agency – WJPA), you are eligible for a rebate on your drip irrigation purchases. Turn in your receipts to receive up to 50% of the purchase price as a rebate on your next water bill (up to a maximum of $150). Check with WWA for more details on this offer. Now that really is a winner!

If you’re ready to learn how easy it is to install or convert to drip irrigation, we have the class for you! On Saturday, March 7, The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department presents a workshop on Drip Irrigation at The Woodlands Emergency Training Center, located at 16135 IH-45 South, Conroe 77385. Local Drip Irrigation specialists will explain the advantages, the nuts and bolts f planning and offer hands-on demonstrations of assembling the needed parts to create a drip system for your yard and gardens.

This is always a popular workshop and space is limited. Sign up early to save your seat. Class details and registration available online at www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/environment. For questions, call Environmental Services at 281-210-3800.

Are you ready to take the next step in serving your community?

Volunteer to help educate others about water conservation!

Residents across The Woodlands Township are seeking help with conserving water. These water heroes may already irrigate wisely, fix leaks quickly, and use low flow devices, but they want to do more. And, they live right in your neighborhood. Perhaps you know who they are; perhaps you are one of them. If that’s the case, how about joining in to help spread the message about water conservation to even more Township residents?

The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department has launched a new program: The Watershed Project. It’s packed with training and volunteering opportunities.  There are a variety of ways to get involved; participants can choose the ones they are most excited about. Opportunities include:

Water Conservation Education

  • Learn how to conduct a sprinkler system audit and teach others in your area.
  • Staff outreach booths at events, spreading the word about water conservation.

Working with Youth

  • Assist with classroom and field study activities related to water conservation for student groups.
Students learn about aquatic ecosystems during field study activities

Hands-On Tasks

  • Apply storm drain decals to raise awareness of water quality impacts from run-off from lawns and driveways.
  • Learn about invasive plants in our waterways and help remove them.
  • Train to become a water quality monitor, collecting pollution data for the State.

Logistics Help

  • Support classes, workshops and volunteering events by checking in fellow volunteers, handing out materials, or overseeing equipment.

Neighborhood Information Resource

  • Organize educational meetings and other activities for small groups.
Volunteers monitor the health of local waterways

So, you see, being a resident water volunteer can be about more than just saving water in your own home. Increase your impact by helping others to do the same. Ready to get started? Come to our upcoming workshop and learn how to be our next water information resource. 

The Watershed Project kick-off workshop is this Saturday, February 22, at H.A.R.C, 8801 Gosling Road, from 8 a.m. to noon. Register here.


Looking for more ways to save water? Follow the monthly actions above for simple ways to save water all year long

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

Mom always said "eat all your veggies…"

But did she tell you it saves water?

To a kid, mom knows just about everything. Mine always knew when I gave my broccoli to the dog or when I hid peas in my napkin. But maybe, just maybe, there are a few things Mom doesn’t know about the world of veggies. Does she know that it takes 30 gallons of water to produce a single serving of potatoes? Or 522 gallons for a serving of olives?!  So, when we send food to the landfill we send a lot of water with it.


Infographic courtesy of Mother Jones

Perhaps you’ve seen one of the recent national educational campaigns that urge better food shopping practices to avoid waste and save water. Save The Food reminds us that each American wastes almost 290 pounds of food a year. That’s a LOT of food! And water! Especially as many fellow Americans live in “food deserts” – communities where fresh produce and meats are difficult to obtain.


Reducing food waste isn’t a new message. This poster from World War I was a common sight throughout many towns. Photo courtesy of USDA

So, if you’re wondering what you can do to save water each time you sit down for a meal, consider these simple tips. First, think twice before tossing those uneaten potatoes in the trash. Save waste, water and your time by making a plan for leftovers. Consider how to turn them into something new and exciting for tomorrow’s dinner. I like to make frittatas out of leftover roasted veggies and chicken.  My family loves it and it I can turn out a new meal in just a few minutes. Also, I’ve invested in higher quality storage containers so I can save my extras in the freezer and then combine them with leftover foods for a completely new meal.

And for the peels, how about composting those right in your own back yard? It’s easier than you think to create rich soil for your vegetable garden, flower beds or lawn. Join a short and FREE Environmental Services Composting Class this spring to learn all you need to know.


Join us for a FREE Backyard Composting class on Saturday, February 1 or March 7

Here are some more easy ways to save water in the kitchen.

  • Break the habit of rinsing off your plates on the way to the dishwasher. With new high tech dishwashers there’s no need to rinse dishes before loading them. Pre-rinse too much and the sensors won’t find the food particles, causing the machine to run a shorter cycle, leading to a less thorough cleaning. If you’ve got big chunks, scrape them into the trash instead of rinsing.
  • Did you know most people use 10 to 15 times more soap than they need. If you’re using too much dish soap, you’ll need more water to wash away the suds.
  • And remember to wait until the dishwasher is full before you run it. You’ll save energy, too.

So, the next time you can’t eat all your veggies, save them for leftovers, freeze them or compost them. And be sure to let Mom know that you’re saving water too!


For more information on water saving resources, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/environment or contact Teri MacArthur, Water Conservation Specialist, at tmacarthur@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Saturday, February 1, 2020
10 to 11 a.m.
The Woodlands Parks, Recreation and Environmental Services
8203 Millennium Forest Drive
No registration required

Every Yard is an Ecosystem

How well is yours functioning?

Back in November, Andy, a resident of The Woodlands Township, told me he’d made a conscious effort to reduce water consumption in his yard some time ago. He was adding more and more natives to save on water usage and to create habitat at the same time. I wondered how successful he had been, so I inquired about the status of his burgeoning ecosystem. Here’s the update:

  1. Andy has only a small area of turf grass, specifically Zoysia. This is a grass species that doesn’t tolerate a lot of shade, but is otherwise a good choice for our weather. It tends to stay lower growing and needs far less water than the traditional St. Augustine.
  2. Although a few non-native plants and shrubs remain in Andy’s yard, lots of native vegetation has been added. To support pollinators, native flowering plants were added in bunches so bees and butterflies can easily find them, and host plants were mixed in so that caterpillars (future butterflies) have a food source. Andy’s observed a significant increase in pollinators and birds this last year.
  3. Andy converted much of his sprinkler system to drip irrigation, assuring his plants and grasses don’t get over watered. And he can easily avoid watering areas that consist solely of native plants – they don’t need it.
  4. Andy subscribes to Weekly Watering Recommendation emails from Woodlands Water (formerly Woodlands Joint Powers Agency – WJPA) to tell him just how much, if any, water his lawn needs each week. When he does water his lawn he does it in three-minute cycles with breaks in between. This allows the water to soak into the soil, avoiding run-off.
  5. Andy told me he avoids chemicals in his landscape, except on occasion when the nut-sedges try to take over his Zoysia. Otherwise, he’s careful to avoid anything that could be harmful to the pollinators and birds that visit. Twice-a-year applications of mulch to his beds help maintain the moisture level, reducing the need for watering while also deterring weeds. He noted that he sees few insect pests thanks to the many beneficial insects that now live in his gardens.
Andy’s template for native plants in his yard

Andy reduced his water consumption by 11,000 gallons a year by implementing these changes. And, he hasn’t stopped there. He’s been finding ways to avoid water waste inside the home, as well. By installing simple low-flow faucet aerators, fixing leaky toilets, reducing shower time and minimizing waste water in the kitchen, his two-person household  now uses less than 60 gallons-a-day, on average. Compare that to the national average of 180 gallons a day!

Considering trying some of Andy’s ideas and transforming your yard into an ecosystem? Here are some things to know:

Benefits of Native Grasses

Our native grasses provide great “texture” in a habitat for birds and butterflies. Providing grasses in multiple heights and native varieties creates resting places, nesting places, and shelter from predators.  More than a simple food source, grasses provide a safe space for wildlife.

The Zoysia grass in Andy’s yard receives controlled amounts of water by hand. Overwatering is avoided encouraging the roots to grow deeper in to the soil in search of nutrients. As a result, the grass is greener and more resistant to disease.Native grasses not only require less water but support healthier waterways, too.  As rainwater runs across your yard, the grass filters out debris on its way to the storm drain.  Keep in mind that any chemicals used in your yard will also wash into the storm drain. Use compost and mulch instead of fertilizers and weed killers to reduce chemical runoff.

Andy’s yard looks healthy year round, even in Winter!

Reducing Chemical Use

Pollinators and other beneficial insects don’t do well in landscapes where chemicals are present. Research shows that many of the commonly used chemicals persist longer than originally believed. More than 90% of pollen samples from bee hives in this study were contaminated with multiple pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified a number of effective alternatives to pesticides and herbicides. Check here for a list of resources.

Tools and Resources

The Woodlands Township has a variety of water saving and native plant resources to help you transform your yard, just like Andy. Now is the time to plant trees, before the warmth of spring and new blooms appear. The best time to integrate native plants into your yard is during the spring and fall.

Simple tools, like a rain gauge, are great for ensuring your grass is getting the right amount of water. Stop by The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department’s office (8203 Millennium Forest Drive) to pick one up for FREE. We’re open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Don’t forget that The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department has a full schedule of FREE programs and classes this spring that can help you transform your yard into your very own flourishing ecosystem. From drip irrigation and invasive plant removal to pest management and organic vegetable gardening, if you are inspired by Andy’s story to change your yard, let us help!

Native plants in Andy’s yard offer food, shelter and nesting materials for a variety of wildlife

Thanks to Andy for letting me tell his story! If you would like to comment, or wish to contact Teri MacArthur, the Water Conservation Specialist for the Township, with your story, email to: tmacarthur@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3928.


Register here for the upcoming, FREE workshop on Drip Irrigation

Is your sprinkler off for the winter?

Every day more and more residents of The Woodlands Township are turning off their sprinkler systems for the winter. Letting grass “rest” for the cooler months is a trend that continues to spread. From soil scientists to turf grass specialists, all agree a “no watering” policy helps cultivate deeper roots and stronger grass while the grass goes dormant.

So, what does that mean for your yard? First off, don’t fertilize during the winter; it makes your grass lazy. By adding nutrients, your grass spends its energy staying green, rather than turning brown and concentrating on improving the root system. Secondly, don’t water your grass. Just like fertilizing, roots become lazy when they find moisture easily in shallow soil. By not watering, they reach deeper into the soil where microbes are working to recycle nutrients though decomposition and moisture is available.

There are many ways to have a beautiful yard and save money and resources. Be sure to check out Take Care of Texas, for more information

When you turn  off your sprinkler system, you will find you will not  need to water your gardens and flower beds at all, or not as often as you think. Use a manual hose-end sprinkler if your landscaped bed needs some moisture.

One resident, Andy, reported saving 11,000 gallons of water in one year by turning off the sprinkler system and using drip irrigation in its place.

Last year, nearly 700 residents took the pledge to turn off their sprinkler systems from mid-October to mid-April. Many of these water-conscious residents have reported their lawns are better than ever! Perhaps it’s time for YOU to join them. If you are a resident of The Woodlands, your pledge also becomes a point for your Village Association in the competition for scholarship funds. The benefits of turning off your system are plentiful: water savings, healthier yards, and the potential for your Village to present scholarships to college-bound students.

When you’re ready to pledge, the form is available ONLINE. And here’s a bonus: Once you pledge, pick up a free hose timer at the Environmental Services Office, located at 8203 Millennium Forest Drive, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Need more information? Contact Environmental Services at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-3800.