By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in the water.
--Loren Eisley, The Immense Journey
Last week we discussed the crisis of less water in West Texas. Here is how other arid locations have dealt with, and are continuing to deal with, our water future.
Las Vegas and other arid land cities have learned how to do more with less water. Water reuse, desalting brackish and saline waters, individual and community water conservation and on-site sources of water are not only possible but being used in the Permian Basin. And there is so much we can do as individuals starting with our own landscapes.
First and foremost, we can cut down on irrigating our water thirsty yards. Irrigation is roughly 60 to 70% of urban water use and we are often irrigating in the least efficient way. First, treat bed (flowers and plants) and turf (lawn) areas differently, use appropriate irrigation equipment for each area and retro fit your sprinklers or bubblers to increase your irrigation efficiency. Decrease the amount of turf you have in your yard. Remember more water means more fertilizer which means more mowing which means more water. Our native plants including turf grasses and forbs know how to survive on less water and have strategies such as going dormant in a dry season to survive droughts.
Second, check your system regularly to insure there are no leaks and that all the equipment is working properly.
Third, manage your system: make the most of what you have. Different soil types and plants require different amounts of water so know how to measure soil moisture and manage your controller box to apply the right amount and depth of moisture.
Examine the onsite sources of water that you can use. Can you use your air conditioner condensate to water plants? Can you make good use of the rainwater that falls on your land? The limiting factor to harvesting rainwater is the size of the container that you use to hold the rainwater. But what if you could, in the words of Brad Lancaster, plant the rain?
Brad Lancaster and the city of Tucson have been leaders in the development of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) which filters and absorbs stormwater where it falls. These techniques can be used on a scale from an individual yard to a community to a city and range from rainwater harvesting in a barrel to the use of rain gardens and swales. To see what Tucson has done checkout: https://climateaction.tucsonaz.gov/pages/gsi and https://stormwater.wef.org/2021/05/what-tucson-can-teach-us-about-green-infrastructure/
So, as we move forward into uncharted waters be ahead of the curve and start thinking about how you can plan for a greener future even in the midst of a drought.
For more information try these resources:
PERMIAN BASIN MASTER GARDENER PLANT SALE!! April 9 from 9 to 1:00. Ector County Coliseum, Building A. Come early-the plants sell out.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.