With 30-60% of the US facing drought conditions over the last year according to a recent US Drought Monitor report, many homeowners are looking for ways to keep their lawns healthy while complying with new water restrictions. Seis Lagos Utility District (SLUD) in North Texas is a customer of North Texas Municipal Water District located in northeast Collin County just off the shores of its water source, Lake Lavon. As a 30-year old community, SLUD faced strained water infrastructure, incremental growth and development, rising water costs, and continual water restrictions. During summers, the community was always at capacity with their two ground source tanks and one elevated tank, so they kept running out of water. SLUD recognized landscape watering was the primary use of water and decided to address the need for conservation at the source.
The Seis Lagos Utility District made the bold move to save water for homeowners by fully funding the purchase and installation of more than 430 weather-based irrigation controllers. These controllers held the promise of saving landscape water by irrigating based on plant need rather than schedule and also exempting homeowners from watering restrictions.
After identifying which manufacturer’s products and services worked best for their particular needs, SLUD selected Weathermatic to develop and execute a water conservation program for the community. First, SLUD made an amendment to the building code to eliminate the use of timer-based irrigation systems, known for overwatering by 20–50%, in favor of smart weather-based irrigation systems that take into account the property’s weather and plant, sprinkler, and soil type by zone. Then, SLUD addressed retrofitting the existing 430 homes by offering every homeowner the opportunity to upgrade to a SmartLine weather-based irrigation controller and wireless on-site weather station through an exchange program that removed the old timer-based systems.
SLUD used existing reserve funds and offered the system for free, including installation and a repair report by Weathermatic certified professionals. SLUD also offered an exemption to watering day restrictions, since SmartLine control systems only water based on plant needs. Further, homeowners could elect to purchase an extended 5-year equipment warranty and add a SmartLink Aircard for web-based access and monitoring of their system.
Despite a new development of 206 lots and district annexation adding to the demand on infrastructure, the new smart water program has extended the life of SLUD’s existing infrastructure by two years. While implementing the smart water program with a water restriction variance resulted in higher demand, it has also balanced the usage to the extent that SLUD was able to delay the addition of an extra storage unit thanks to the community’s water conservation. Because smart water residents have been allowed to continue watering throughout phase 2 and phase 3 water restrictions, SLUD has been able to absorb major price increases from NTMWD, adding to their revenue. From their savings and this additional revenue, the district is able to fund the new storage tank with cash rather than increasing their debt.
“We wanted our homeowners to use the latest technology to reduce landscape water use and reduce polluted runoff into our streets and lakes,” said Rolando Ramon, head of Seis Lagos Utility District Board. Ramon is pleased to note that the district’s smarter use of water has “minimized the impact that SLUD properties have on the amount of chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, etc.” being washed into the environment as a result of excess landscape irrigation water running off treated lawns and pavement. “Meanwhile, we have found that if our homeowners will water based on plant requirements we can all have healthy, green landscapes. We’ve seen savings of 30-50% for many homeowners over the last year. I’ve personally achieved water savings of 45% from my system.”