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Water conservation contest is race to the driest lawn

August 27, 2018

A brown lawn isn’t always necessarily a bad thing.

The Woodlands Township’s annual Water-Wise Village Challenge encourages residents to conserve water by turning off their automatic sprinkler systems, and let the turf grass in their yards lie dormant for the winter months.

As part of the challenge, residents can pledge to manually water their flowering plants and trees exclusively from Oct. 15 of this year through April 15, 2019.

The challenge specifically applies to turf grasses, like the St. Augustine grass common in southeast Texas lawns. The benefit, said Teri MacArthur, the township’s water conservation environmental education specialist, is three-fold.

“You’re saving water, you’re saving money and you’re making your grass healthier,” MacAurthur said. “It’s a win-win-win. Why not do it?”

Lawn irrigation accounts for up to 30 percent of the water used by township residents during cooler months, according to a news release announcing the program and turf grasses, MacArthur said, are especially high-maintenance. They require a period of dormancy — browned tops caused by little to no watering — in order to cultivate deeper roots and stay healthy throughout the blistering Texas summers.

Aside from contributing to emerald-green grasses in the hotter months, the “challenge method” for conserving water saves money for both the individual resident — in the form of lower water bills — and the township, MacArthur said, explaining that the The Woodlands can save money in the future by not having to find new water sources.

“We can put off the cost of digging any new wells,” MacArthur said.

The program increased in popularity since its inception in the summer of 2016 — in the 2016-2017 year, 340 households took the pledge, MacArthur said. By the 2017-2018 challenge, the number had grown about 25 percent to 430 households.

Ultimately, she added, the goal is to increase the number of participating homes by about 20 to 25 percent every year.

The challenge pits the nine township villages against each other in a battle for the driest lawn. The three most water-wise villages get cash donations between $250 and $550 to their scholarship funds.

mrincon@chron.com

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