Three out of four residents pledge every year to save water!

The annual Water Wise Village Challenge is about more than conserving water. When you pledge to turn off your sprinkler system for the winter (from October 15 to April 15), a lot of good things happen.  

More and more residents are finding their lawns are healthier than ever when they avoid overwatering and when they stop watering altogether in the winter. They’re saving money, too. Healthy lawns need fewer chemicals and they better withstand pests and disease. Remember Kevin? He said he hadn’t turned on his sprinkler system in over a year and his yard looked great! He simply follows the weekly watering recommendation he receives by email from Woodlands Water Agency  and sets out a manual sprinkler when needed. A hose-end spray nozzle for his flowerbeds does the rest. 

Want to read more about the changes Kevin took to reduce water use in his lawn and garden? Check out this article.

As the Challenge has grown, water savings in our community have grown with it. In 2019, the Challenge saved 11,600,000 gallons. That equals the amount of water that flows through the San Jacinto River in ten days. That’s a lot of water! 

Your Water Wise Village Challenge pledge not only serves your lawn and your pocketbook, it provides assistance to area college-bound students. The three villages with the greatest number of pledges receive cash donations for their scholarship funds. What a great way to demonstrate to our youth that natural resources are precious, and conservation is our gift to them.  

So, let’s see… 1. Water savings, 2. Healthier lawns, 3. Scholarship funds, 4. Support our community’s conservation ethic, 5. Fill in this blank with your own reason for becoming a water hero in your neighborhood!  

Pledge now, pledge every year, and be “that person” on your street who sets the standard for others. Join the movement and live in harmony with nature in The Woodlands Township and take the pledge for 2020-2021.

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

Creature Feature: Skunks

“Do you smell that?” One whiff and your alarm bells start ringing – skunk!  Like all skunks, our two local species, Striped and Spotted, are equipped with an unforgettable sulphuric spray. While we may not appreciate their smell, skunks have plenty of likeable qualities. Keep reading to learn more about our odiferous neighbors. 

Fast Facts: 

  1. Skunks are omnivorous.  Their diet varies with the season – insects and bugs during the spring and summer, small animals in the fall and winter – and the occasional berry or leaf. Like most urban wildlife, they’re opportunistic and will take a quick snack from the garbage can, pet food bowl or garden. 
  1. Their spray isn’t a weapon, it’s a warning. Spraying is about defense, not offense. The organic sulphur compound ejected from two small glands (known as a musk) tells potential predators that they taste bad, don’t waste your time.  
  1. It takes 10 to 12 days to replenish their stinky supply. Their spray supply isn’t endless. It can take nearly two weeks to produce enough for a few more shots. 

Why do we need them? 

Valuable garden allies, these natural pest control heroes feast on crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, grubs, small rodents and moles. Should the insects feasting in your garden seemingly disappear overnight, you might have a skunk to thank.

Defensive Behavior 

Skunks are passive, shy animals, who would rather flee than fight. Their bold white stripes or spots are all the warning most animals need. When their markings don’t get the message across, skunks give additional warnings with agitated foot stamping, hissing and growling. If the aggressor continues, the skunk will form his body into a “U” shape with both head and tail aimed at the attacker. 

Skunks spray their musk only as a last resort and are impressively accurate up to about 10 feet. Spray that enters the eyes causes temporary blindness. Combined with the lingering malodor, it’s likely their attacker learned a lesson it won’t soon forget. 

A nosy family dog is a common spray victim. If yours takes a hit, mix up the following remedy. Wear rubber gloves and do NOT get the solution in the dog’s eyes. Also, do NOT store this mixture or make it ahead of time, as it is not stable. If your dog has been sprayed in the eyes, call your veterinarian for appropriate care. 

Remedy 

Mix together: 
1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (available at a pharmacy) 
¼ cup baking soda 
1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid soap 
 
Rub the mixture all over and scrub deep to neutralize the odor. Leave it on until the smell abates – but no longer, peroxide can bleach fur. Rinse thoroughly. 
 

Avoid A Conflict 

It’s more likely that you’ll smell a skunk rather than see one. A persistent, faint musky smell under a structure or woodpile may suggest a skunk has taken up residence. During breeding season, males can spray frequently when fighting over females.

Deter skunks from your yard: 

  • Keep a tight lid on garbage cans or pull them inside. 
  • Remove pet food before nightfall. 
  • Remove boards or debris where skunks may hide. 
  • Close off openings under decks, patios, or sheds.  Use ¼-inch mesh hardware cloth, burying the wire at least 6 inches to prevent skunks from digging underneath. 
  • If you think a skunk has already taken up residence, it’s essential to be sure the animal (and any young) have left the den before blocking the entrance.  

If you come upon a skunk, simply move away slowly and quietly. 

Threat of Rabies 

Skunks are one of four animals (including the fox, raccoon, and bat) considered primary carriers of the rabies virus and is classified as a rabies vector species.  

Though mostly active at night, skunks sometimes look for food during the day, particularly in the spring when they have young to feed. Don’t be concerned if you see a skunk in the daytime unless they also show abnormal behaviors, such as: 

  • Limb paralysis 
  • Circling 
  • Unprovoked aggression 
  • Disorientation or staggering 
  • Uncharacteristic tameness 

If you witness any of these signs, don’t approach the skunk.  For assistance, call the Montgomery County Animal Control Authority at 936-442-7738, or Harris County Veterinary Public Health at 281-999-3191. 

Removal 

Under state law, a person may trap a fur-bearing animal at any time if it is causing damage or creating a nuisance. If you live trap a skunk, you must notify the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department before relocating the animal.  A permit must be obtained and permission granted from the property owner where you plan to release the live animal.  Always contact a professional wildlife specialist if unable to safely remove wildlife on your own. 

Skunks have a single litter of 4-6 kits around May-June. The young stay in the den until around 8 weeks old. 

Yes, skunks are a bit smelly. But, these impressive animals are important members of our ecosystem. Most of the time, skunks simply pass through your yard at night and you’ll never encounter them.  Make the compassionate choice to live in harmony with nature. After all, they’ve learned to live with us. 


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

Hoping the pet waste fairy picks up after your dog?

What’s pet waste have to do with wading in Spring Creek? Let’s break it down: Based on national averages, our community dog population produces about 55,000 pounds of waste per day*. Most of us are diligent about picking up after our pets, but not all. Too many feel someone else will clean it up – maybe the pet waste fairy. 

When dog waste is left behind, the bacteria it contains is washed into the nearest storm drain during rains, flowing to the closest waterway. It empties unfiltered and untreated into our community streams, creating a health hazard for humans enjoying water-based recreation. 

The contaminated water continues to the next stream, river or lake all the way to the coast and the Gulf of Mexico, adding bacteria along the way as it runs through more urban areas. Houston-Galveston Area Council’s 2020 Basin Report indicates that almost 65 percent of Spring Creek is listed as impaired because of high bacteria levels. The primary source is dog waste.

42% of the streams in our region are impaired due to elevated levels of bacteria. For more information, see pages 4 and 8 of the 2020 Basin Report for more details regarding Spring Creek.

According to the Report, in the Houston-Galveston region one of the most significant water quality issues faced is elevated levels of bacteria in our local waterways – indicators of the presence of sewage and pathogens such as infectious bacteria, viruses, and protozoans. High bacterial concentrations may cause gastrointestinal illnesses or skin infections in swimmers or others who come into direct contact with the water. 

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), to comply with the requirements of the Clean Water Act, set the acceptable level of bacteria in waterways as 126 colony forming units (cfu) per deciliter (dL). On average, Spring Creek levels are between 350 and 800 cfu/dL, with the higher numbers during runoff after rainfall. The tributaries within the Township that flow into Spring Creek, Lower Panther Branch Creek, Willow Creek, Bear Branch Creek and Lake Woodlands, are all included on the list of impaired waterways because of bacteria. 

More data on impairment levels of Spring Creek are available courtesy of the Houston-Galveston Area Council

Be a responsible pet owner and don’t wait for the pet waste fairy. Picking up after our dogs and keeping our community clean, means water that’s safe for human recreation and for the aquatic organisms that live in it, and better for the environmental health of our community. 

*Resources: American Veterinary Medicine Association and  www.clearchoicescleanwater.org 


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

Why care about invasive plants?

If it’s green it’s good, right? Well, not quite. Invasive plants do add green to our surroundings, some quite strikingly. In the process, though, they cause serious environmental damage. Let’s take a deeper look at the problem with invasive plants and how they disrupt an ecosystem. 

Invasives tend to grow quickly, out competing native vegetation for available nutrients. Invasive vines, especially, can overgrow native trees and plants, smothering out the sunlight. Native wildlife loses habitat when these changes occur. 

Soil chemistry suffers at the hands of invasives, as well. When native vegetation is thriving in healthy soil, their root systems create stability, supply water and essential nutrients, and return more nutrients when they decompose. They help maintain the soil chemistry, its physical structure, and sustain essential soil microbes whose job it is to help store and supply water to plants. Non-native, invasive plant roots interrupt these unseen but essential processes which are the foundation of a healthy forest.

Volunteers remove invasive plants along a pathway in The Woodlands. Photo courtesy of Kathie Herrick

Nearly 100 residents have joined The Woodlands Township Invasive Task Force to combat these problems. This group of trained volunteers removes invasive plants from pathways and greenbelts, helping sustain our native species. You can help, too.  As summer turns to fall, many invasives are at their most prolific and your help is needed. Keep your eyes open and report invasive species on the pathways when you see them. Not sure which are the bad guys? How about watching for just these three: Japanese climbing fern, nandina (sometimes called heavenly bamboo), and elephant ears. Learn and identify more with this guide to invasive species of the Galveston Bay Area. Then use The Woodlands Township 311 app on your phone to report your sighting of these plants.  

If you would like to join the removal work, join us on August 15, 2020. The Environmental Services Department will host a training class on invasive species. You’ll leave informed, inspired and ready to join the Task Force. Register for the class using the link below.


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

Recycling Dilemma #1007 K-Cups: How to stay caffeinated, sustainably

In 2013, roughly 10 billion Keurig brand coffee pods were sold. Popularity of single serving coffee makers has grown since then and manufacturers of pods are hesitant to reveal how many are sold annually. It is estimated that the amount of coffee pods, or K-Cups, in landfills could wrap around the planet 10 times! (The Story of Stuff) Imagine all the wasted coffee grounds that could be composted and all the aluminum and plastic could have been recycled into new products.

We love the convenience of coffee pods, but it comes with a cost: coffee pods cannot be recycled through our curbside program and are considered a contaminant. While some brands label their pods “recyclable” that holds true only in select communities with coffee pod recycling programs.  Currently, those programs are not operating in our region. 

Why cant I recycle them curbside? 

  1. Multiple materials comprise a coffee pod: an aluminum top, paper filter, coffee grounds and a plastic cup. Each material must be separated to be properly recycled, a process too complex for the current technology at standard recycling centers. 
  1. Although our curbside program accepts plastic and aluminum, both the plastic cup and aluminum components are too small to be properly sorted at the recycling facility. Anything smaller than 4 inches by 4 inches (like a post-it note size) falls through a screen and is landfilled with other small contaminants and residue.  

There is a way! 

You can recover your coffee pod aluminum by combining it with other clean aluminum into a ball 4” or larger and place it in your cart.  

Compost the coffee grounds and paper for a great soil additive. 

Take advantage of the one of several mail-in opportunities. These services separate the plastic and aluminum for recycling and the coffee and filter for composting. Check with the coffee pod maker for a free mail-in program. Terracycle, Recycle A Cup, and Grounds to Grow On also provide this service. 

Reduce your use 

If you’re ready to kick the single-use habit and reduce waste

Try another brewing method. Some coffee machines are compatible with a refillable K-cup or coffee pod option. French press espresso makers are capable of making smaller quantities of coffee and require no single use materials to brew.  

Check out these recycling tips from previous blogs:   

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