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

Water thieves are afoot. They sneak in from foreign lands while our heads are turned, multiply their numbers to create trouble-making gangs, and refuse to leave. Who are these villains? Invasive plants – out of place, out of control, and gobbling up resources, including our most precious one, water.

By definition, an invasive species is “a species that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” (U.S. Department of the Interior, Federal Invasive Species Advisory Committee) Invasives lack the natural controls that exist in their own native habitat. As a result, they’re usually fast-growing and rapid reproducers. These bad guys alter the forest in a variety of ways including sucking up A LOT of water.

Because of their heavy water consumption and their prevalence, many are concerned that might actually dry out our forests. Is the problem really that bad? According to the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report, “invasive species are altering large portions of the earth’s terrestrial surface and are considered one of the ‘most important drivers of change in ecosystems.'” Although billions of dollars are being spent to battle invasives in the U.S., the report also predicted rapidly increasing negative effects in the future such as loss of soil health as these water thieves drain up to 250% more moisture than our native vegetation.

Before and after photos showing the invasive vine removal efforts of volunteers.

That battle against invasives is fought locally as The Woodlands Township crews and contractors spend about 200 days a year on vine and invasives removal and control. And for the past three years, volunteer invasives removal task force has joined the fray, with much success. During 2020 alone, nearly 100 volunteers spent 1020 hours removing three dump-truck loads of invasive vines, shrubs, and trees from along our pathways. Their participation freed up the Township’s contractors to work on larger areas of infestation.

Some of the worst crimes of bad guy invasives?

  • Disrupting ecosystem interactions and functions

  • Displacing native species and destroying habitat

  • Using 50% to more than 250% more water than natives

Let’s turn the tables and gang up on these water thieves invading our forest! To start, each of us can examine our own landscapes and kick out the bad guys, replacing them with natives that better serve us. Then help restore the health of forest soils by volunteering to remove invasives from our pathways and green spaces. If you’re ready to join the Task Force, sign up HERE.

For more information, contact Environmental Services at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call 281-210-2058.


Learn more about invasives from these past articles:

Our forest needs our help. 3 ways you can lend a hand.

Thanks to the environmentally minded planners, natural areas are seemingly ubiquitous in The Woodlands with nearly 8,000 of The Woodlands’ 28,000 acres preserved as open space. Take pride – this fact sets us apart from most common communities in North America. However, our forest areas represent just a portion of the native forest expanse (what existed here pre-development). This presents a challenge as our forests do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to cleaning the air and water, capturing and storing carbon, and providing wildlife habitat.

Cue our residential landscapes to the rescue! They offer tremendous potential for supplementing those critical forest services, provided we’re mindful in how we tend them. Some basic considerations regarding what we put into our landscape and what we allow to flow off it carry a lot of weight.

Read on to find out how easy it is to turn your landscape into a resource for the environment and all of us who depend on it.

Encourage soil health

In healthy soil fungi, bacteria, and invertebrates work constantly at breaking down nutrients, making them available for uptake by trees, grasses, and shrubs. There are many critical functions of healthy soil and this is one of the biggest.

When we apply chemicals to our landscape we sever these microscopic relationships, stemming the production of soil nutrients. Organic lawn care methods, as opposed to chemical methods, support these relationships, promoting healthier soil which is the foundation of all healthy ecosystems.

Composted organic material – leaves, grass clippings, etc. – is chock-full of beneficial soil microbes. When you leave cut grass and leaves on your lawn or apply a layer of compost to it, you’re automatically introducing soil microbes which get right to work producing nutrients and building healthy soil! Composting is an easy yet powerful way to ramp up your landscape’s ecosystem value AND it’s a lot cheaper than chemical applications.

Give your lawn what it really wants

Warm season native grasses such as St. Augustine, which comprises most lawns in The Woodlands, depends on fungal soil networks to supply their nutrients. Compost, not chemicals, helps build those networks. The more roots interact with their fungal friends, the stronger they get, which then allows more energy to funnel to the leaves resulting in, you guessed it, that lush, green look we all love.

A healthy lawn needs, and wants, far less water. If you “set and forget” your sprinkler system you’re apt to overwater and harm the microbes. Use a moisture meter to avoid overwatering (they’re available at any home and garden store for a few bucks). Or make things even easier for yourself and subscribe to the weekly water recommendation email from Woodlands Water Agency – let the experts tell you when and when not to water. Installing a rain sensor on your irrigation system is another easy way to avoid overwatering by automatically shutting off your system during a rain event. Did you know you can install a rain sensor yourself in about 15 minutes?

Healthy lawns to the rescue! They add oxygen to our air, capture carbon in the soil and nourish plants and trees. You’ll be the envy of the neighborhood, to boot.

The most important thing of all

Multiply your impact – spread the word! When you make smarter choices in your landscape you become a model for environmental sustainability. Share your knowledge with others and encourage them to do the same.

If you’d like to learn more and take your impact to the next level, attend the online Smarter Choices Seminar on October 2, 2021 from 9 a.m. to noon. We’ll look at simple, practical steps for developing your landscape’s ecosystem value plus you’ll get an update on the new “smart” water meters Woodlands Water Agency installed across the community this past year. Learn how to track your water use and reduce waste right from your phone – remarkable!

This is a free presentation, sponsored by Woodlands Water Agency, The Woodlands GREEN, Chevron Phillips, HEB, and Alspaugh’s Ace Hardware.

Registration is required to receive the link to the Zoom presentation. Register using the button below.


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

How a Light Bulb Can Save Water

Yes, a light bulb!

Let’s shine some light on the link between water and energy. The fact is, they’re inseparable. It takes a LOT of energy to capture, treat and deliver water, and 90% of all electricity generation is water intensive. Both of these critical resources are in need of conservation as our local, national and global populations grow. Fortunately, conserving one helps us conserve the other.

Let’s take a deeper dive into this critical relationship…

  1. Energy can’t happen without water: 
  • 15% of all global water withdrawals are for energy production. 
  • In the U.S., freshwater sources provide 40% of the water for power generation. 
  • Freshwater availability varies with weather and climate and is coming under ever-increasing pressure from development. 
  1. Water can’t get to our faucets without energy: 
  • Drinking water and wastewater systems account for 3–4% of all energy use in the United States. 
  • Electricity accounts for 25–40% of the operating cost of a wastewater utility and approximately 80% of drinking water processing and distribution costs. 

This intertwined relationship increases the vulnerability of each; what threatens one, threatens both. We’re all aware of the current drought issues in the western U.S.. We see the images of fires, dried lakes and desiccated crops. Less publicized but equally critical are the constraints being placed on power plants throughout the region. It wasn’t that long ago, 2011-2013, that we experienced similar conditions in our region and they are sure to happen again. Our extreme storms pose another threat to the water-energy nexus, only in reverse. Storm-related power outages place great stress on water facilities, especially treatment facilities. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey left hundreds of communities in southeast Texas without safe drinking water. In total, 45 water systems shut down and 171 areas issued boil water notices. Thankfully, The Woodlands avoided that problem. Let’s hope we’re that lucky next time.

These are large-scale issues that may seem out of our control. Fortunately, they aren’t. The individual actions you and I take each day make a difference. More good news, most water and energy saving actions are simple and easy to do. And they save money, too! Essentially, we get paid to do the right thing.

Make a commitment today to take action and you’ll save water AND energy at the same time.

What a Bright Idea

Are there still incandescent bulbs burning in your home? If so, change them over to LED bulbs. They last longer, burn cooler and use a lot less energy. Here’s a great offer: Stop by the Environmental Services office and ask for a free LED Nightlight, or bring in a burned out incandescent bulb and we’ll give you a 75w equivalent LED light bulb to get you started in transitioning to “water saving” lighting (while supplies last). NO BROKEN BULBS please!

  • Environmental Services
  • 8203 Millennium Forest Drive
  • Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Think Like A Plant: How To Water Effectively With Deep Watering

Here’s a deep thought for you: how a plant is watered is just as important as how much it’s watered. Start watering deeply for more robust and rugged root systems and thriving, happy plants. In this article, we’ll take a closer look into deep watering: its benefits, how to do it, and some other consideration to help make your landscape the best on the block.

What Does It Mean To Water Deeply?

There’s no cut-and-dry definition of a deep watering. Most gardeners generally refer to it as when water has soaked at least eight inches into the soil. This gives plants the structure required to survive lack of water, whether from a drought, a busy gardener, or other environmental stresses.

5 Perks Of Deep Watering

  1. Water gets to where it’s needed most – The majority of a plant’s root system is well below the surface. Deep watering ensures water gets down to the roots instead of lingering at the surface.
  2. Develop strong root systems – Plants that receive frequent watering don’t bother developing strong root systems. Why should they? We’re training their roots to stay near the surface where the water is, leaving them susceptible to stress, especially when we miss a few days of watering. Once water-stressed, it may take weeks for a plant to recover, or it may never fully recover!
  3. Protection during drought – The top of the soil dries out quickly. Delivering the water deeply shields it from evaporation.
  4. Use less water – Deep watering is efficient watering. For most plants and vegetables, one inch delivered once a week is adequate. If your plants act like they need more, you might not be watering deep or often enough.
  5. Save money and time – This one’s a no-brainer.

Watering Deeply How-To

The keys to successful deep watering are simple: infrequently and slowly. But let’s dig a little deeper…

  1. First, check your soil’s moisture. Moisture meters help but your finger will do just fine. Be sure to get eight inches down and near the roots. Does the soil feel dry?
  2. Next, water your plants with a steady and light stream. Fast running water slides off the top of the soil, taking your time and money with it. Clay soil is especially slow at absorbing water so be patient.
  3. Wait 30 minutes for the water to percolate down.
  4. Recheck the moisture level. If the water hasn’t soaked down eight inches, water a little longer.
  5. Wait 30 minutes and recheck the soil.
  6. Once you’ve moistened at least eight inches down, you’re set. Be sure to note the total time it took along with the number of watering cycles and the water flow rate.

Remember To…

Mulch It

Mulch offers a second layer of protection for your plants. It slows evaporation, preserving soil moisture which is especially important for our hot Texas summers. Mulch also deters the spread of garden pests. Check here for tips on effective mulching in our area.

Drip It

Drip irrigation is specifically designed for deep watering. The drip emitter sits at the base of the plant delivering water right to the roots, minimizing evaporation and eliminating runoff. Installing a drip system is easier and cheaper than you might think and it allows you to vary the amount of water each plant receives, ensuring each one gets just the right amount. If you’re new to drip, check out this Environmental Services blog for an introduction.

Plant Native

Native plants and wildflowers are accustomed to drought situations, so they’re naturally inclined to grow longer roots and be more resilient. To really save water and money, choose native plants whenever you can and you’ll have significantly fewer struggles in the garden and landscape.

Go Deep

Deep watering is a game changer. In our hot, demanding climate, proper watering technique is a make-or-break, especially during prolonged dry periods. Save water and save your plants this summer.


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Drought Update: regional drought likely, keep conserving water

Let me guess, you probably had a coat on hand before winter arrived, a spare tire in the trunk in case of a flat, and a flashlight around the house should the power go out. The concept couldn’t be simpler: be prepared, save yourself some trouble. This simple logic is even more critical when it comes to our life-sustaining resources, like clean water.  

The ready availability of clean water hinges on a number of factors. Some we can control. Unfortunately, some we can’t, like the weather. We are at the mercy of precipitation to recharge our surface and groundwaters. When precipitation wanes for an extended period – drought – the accessibility of our water supply wanes, too. The longer and more severe the drought, the harder and more expensive it is to meet our water demands.  

Despite above-average rainfall in December, Montgomery County was in abnormally dry status at year’s end. Weather experts project drought status for the entire state through the summer.  

In December 2020, Montgomery county transitioned from moderate drought to abnormally dry. Click here  for the most recent drought report from the Texas Water Development Board. 

The Texas Water Development Board oversees planning for water needs by region. Their Region H 2021 Water Plan projects future water needs for The Woodlands and surrounding areas. To meet the needs of this fast-growing region, the plan relies heavily on conservation – an 18% reduction in the current demand rate. If conservation goals aren’t met, droughts will require more severe water restrictions – an uncomfortable, inconvenient and expensive step best avoided.  

Most of your neighbors are thinking ahead by conserving now. Are you?   

  • Fix leaks inside and out: sprinkler heads, hose connects, and toilets are likely culprits. A running toilet can leak 26 gallons a day! 
  • Put the right amount of water on your lawn. Our St. Augustine lawns only require an inch a week, including rainfall.   
  • Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators. One aerator takes only a minute to install and can save 3,000 gallons a year!  
  • Put water only where it’s needed. Check your sprinkler heads regularly to ensure they aren’t spraying your driveway and street.  

Will these measures really make a difference? Yes! An average home uses 120,000 gallons of water a year. In fact, you can meet the 18% conservation goal simply by adopting three simple actions: 

  • Turn off the water when brushing your teeth = 4,000 gallons/yr.  
  • Use an efficient dishwasher vs hand washing = 6,000 gallons/yr. 
  • Fix your leaks (toilets, faucets, appliances) = 7,500 gallons/yr.  

Drought will intensify the pressure on our already strained water supply. Plan ahead and conserve now.  Will you join your neighbors in doing your part? 


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


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