McAllen Public Utility is dedicated to providing clean, safe drinking water for many generations to come. We are committed to consistently providing quality services and quality of life to all who live, work and visit the city of McAllen. We are working hard to educate the public on the issues surrounding water use and conservation.
Why Do We Need Water Conservation?
While it may not seem like a major issue at this time, water use is going to become increasingly important as our population continues to grow at an unprecedented pace. According to U.S. census data, the population of McAllen increased 22 percent in the last decade (2000-2010). Government agencies estimate that by 2050, the population of the Lower Rio Grande Valley will increase by 175 percent. There will be significantly more people needing access to clean water, and if we maintain the current rates of consumption, there just won’t be enough to go around.
What is the Current Status?
Effective April 1st, 2013, McAllen residents will be required to implement Stage 2 of the Water Conservation and Drought Contingency Plan. Stage 2 requires that all McAllen citizens use water only during the hours of midnight to 10 AM and 6 PM to midnight on designated days for the specified zones. To view the current levels at Amistad and Falcon, please visit the International Boundary and Water Commission. For more information on water alert status and to view the City’s conservation and drought management plan, please click here.
Water Conservation Facts
The bathroom uses the most amount of water indoors and the toilet alone can account for 27 percent of that water. A toilet with leaks can waste about 200 gallons of water every day. Combine that with all the households of the United States and this sneaky problem cause 1.25 trillion gallons of water to be wasted! Toilets are the number one cause of leaks inside a home. To check your toilet for leaks, remove the cover on the toilet tank and add a dye to the water so that you may be able to see any seepage that goes into the toilet bowl. Wait 15 to 30 minutes and don’t use the toilet during this time period. If some of that colored water appears in the bowl, then you have a leak. Usually the flush valve has been worn down and needs to be replaced. Visit your local home improvement store for a simple do-it-yourself project of replacing the flush valve. With little effort you can stop the waste of hundreds of gallons of water and save on your water bill at the same time.
Did you know that for every cup of coffee made, another 590 cups of water went into growing and processing the beans? Also, if all Americans avoided wasting one cup of coffee a day (by making too much and pouring out the rest), we could save enough water over the course of one year to provide two gallons of water to each of the more than 1.1 billion people around the world who do not have access to fresh water.
According to the American Waterworks Association, if all U.S. households installed water-saving features, water use would decrease by 30 percent, saving an estimated 5.4 billion gallons per day. This would result in dollar-volume savings of $11.3 million per day or more than $4 billion per year.
We could go on and on with more shocking information such as this, but instead, we want our residents to focus on saving water now. As responsible citizens, we can all take small steps to change our habits and conserve water now so there’s enough to go around in the future.
Tips for Summer Lawn Care
With another hot summer just around the corner, MPU wants to keep you informed on ways to best manage your outdoor water use. It is entirely possible to maintain a lush, green lawn and beautiful flowering plants while saving water at the same time. Just follow these water-efficient guidelines and you can not only look forward to a pretty landscape, but a lower utility bill as well!
Those of us with automated irrigation systems can program them to water only on the designated days for their city zone, and regularly check all sprinkler heads to ensure they are in working order and not pointed at the sidewalk or street. Of course, an in-ground drip irrigation system saves the most water, but those without irrigation systems can save water by manually watering the yard using a handheld shutoff nozzle attached to the hose. If this is not feasible, then the best alternative would be to use a hose with an impact sprinkler attached. These usually are attached to a stake that you drive into the ground and have an adjustable spray zone. Another good option are the tractor-type sprinklers that travel along a path via water pressure and stop when they reach a specially designed ramp that you simply thread onto the hose. Always look for sprinklers that emit big drops close to the ground rather than “misting” sprinklers, which lose a great quantity of water to evaporation, or the oscillating fan type, which spray so high in the air that evaporation loss is prevalent.
Most lawns do not require daily watering. Daily watering can cause the soil to become too saturated, creating potentials for water loss due to evaporation and runoff. Another damaging side effect of watering too often is that this process promotes shallow root systems, which will need more water to survive. It’s actually better on the lawn to water slowly and deeply once a week than to run the sprinkler for fifteen minutes every day. A lawn with deep roots will be able to get more water during a drought since the roots grow deeper into the ground, where the soil is moister. Shallow root systems do not hold down the soil very well and lead to greater rates of erosion. They also tend to need more fertilization to keep the grass alive and growing, which can be costly.
A garden hose without a shutoff nozzle can pour out 530 gallons of water in an hour. If you use a garden hose to water your garden or lawn, a quick and inexpensive fix would be to purchase a shutoff nozzle and use this at all times when you have the attached faucet turned on.
Composting improves the structure, texture and aeration of the soil enabling your plants to develop stronger, deeper roots. Compost provides plants with vital nutrients by improving microbial activity that helps release soil nutrients for plants. Compost is natural and reduces or sometimes even eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers that can be costly and potentially damaging to the environment. Using compost can reduce the need for watering your garden. The City of McAllen offers mulch, compost and potting mix for sale. These materials are made from 85% of McAllen resident’s yard trimmings instead of being sent to a landfill.
If you do not already use mulch in your garden beds and around trees, consider doing so. Mulching your flower beds with about 1.5 inches of mulch will help conserve water by trapping moisture and preventing some evaporation during the heat of the day. Trees require a thicker layer of mulch at approximately 3 to 4 inches. Be sure to evenly distribute the mulch around a tree with a rake or by hand, as mulch mounded high around the trunk can make the tree more susceptible to disease or decay. Another benefit of mulching is that the groundcover creates a barrier against sunlight, discouraging weed growth.
If you are worried about pests, there are now mulches available made out of recycled materials such as rubber or plastic composites, both of which will still keep the topsoil from drying out so quickly without becoming a haven for termites and other undesirable insects. Another option quickly becoming more available is recycled glass “mulch,” which not only functions like traditional mulch but has the added benefit of being aesthetically pleasing.
Gravel and rocks are other options for covering wide expanses of soil and act as moisture barriers and prevent topsoil from eroding due to wind and water. Any gravel or rock cover should be applied 2 to 3 inches deep. Also keep in mind that rock-based covers will trap and retain heat, so plants with a tendency to wilt in higher temperatures should not be surrounded by this type of groundcover.