University responds to drought with water rationing schedule
In the face of the state’s exceptional D4 level drought and Houston’s Stage 2 water conservation measures, University officials are taking the necessary steps to ensure that they maintain the school’s infrastructure and land while complying with recent water restrictions.
The city has asked that all residents and businesses in the area — including UH — to water their land before 10 a.m. or after 8 p.m. and that watering be done on specific days of the week, depending on the location.
“You will see us watering, but we are doing so mindful of the current drought and with a specific strategy in place,” landscape planning and grounds manager Roger Warner said in a press release.
According to Warner, it takes 12 to 13 hours a day, five days a week to water all 667 acres of campus. The sprinklers normally run from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m., but recent restrictions have required a change.
The Facilities Management team has accommodated restrictions by adjusting the timing of the irrigation control system — which operates 95 percent of the campus sprinklers — to adhere to the water conservation guidelines. The system will now run on a Wednesday through Saturday and Thursday through Sunday schedule. The other 5 percent of sprinklers are manually operated and will run in the early-morning hours.
At a recent press conference, Mayor Annise Parker applauded UH’s water conservation efforts.
“The University is still watering, but very strategically and in accordance with Stage 2 water conservation measures,” Parker said. “They’re having the same problems everyone else is, but they are stepping up as an institution.”
Leaks are of a main concern for the school, and the first stage of a two-stage leak monitoring system has recently been installed.
This new system allows for the detection and notification of leaks and the automatic cutoff of the irrigation control system in that area.
“We are extremely vigilant for leaks,” Warner said. “We are repairing most irrigation leaks within 48-hours of being notified.”
The current drought has left the state, city and school searching for ways to maintain the land and water around us.
According to KTRK meteorologist Casey Curry, the drought — which many believe started in October 2010 — has left Houston 20 inches below the normal precipitation average for the year. Houston has recorded only 10.95 inches of rain this year, and predictions for the near future seem grim.
“There doesn’t appear to be an end in sight to the current large-scale pattern,” Curry said in an email. “Our recent heat wave is adding insult to injury — without any rain, the sun heats up already dry ground, evaporating the little moisture that remains, consequently raising the soil temperature even more. It’s a vicious cycle.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s climate prediction center recently released its Texas seasonal outlook for September through November of this year. The center is expecting above average temperatures with below average precipitation for the next few months.
The lasting effects of this massive drought will likely be felt for many years to come.
With the widespread loss of crops and plant life across the state, the school is feeling the pressure as it struggles to save many young trees that were planted as part of the Hurricane Ike Landscape Restoration Project.
“Plants need even more water during these high heat events,” Warner said in an email. “With the water restrictions, we are limited in when we can water. Recently planted trees are showing the most stress. Unfortunately, we have started to lose some plants due to the drought, heat and water restrictions.”
Even with the small amount of rain the area received this past weekend from Tropical Storm Lee, the city and its residents are still struggling. There are nearly 1000 water main breaks throughout the area and the city does not have enough manpower to fix them all.
All residents, students included, need to be conscious of their own water conservation efforts. The city of Houston has released water-saving tips that include turning off running water, detecting leaks, reporting any water main breaks and being aware of the watering restrictions for your household.
For more information on the city’s water conservation efforts, visit www.houstontx.gov or call 311.