Karen Siddall
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Although the recent rains have taken the outdoor watering burden off your back, there could be a monster lurking right around the corner. The holidays are fast approaching, and with them comes more family, more friends, more cooking, more cleaning, more indoor water use. To keep from creating a monster of a water bill, put a few simple water conservation practices in place now and tame that beast before it can say “BOO!” 


More family, more friends at home

Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and save around two gallons per minute. If you brush for a full two minutes as dentists recommend, that’s a water savings of almost four gallons every time you brush.

Adhere to using one glass for water per person per day. Each person reusing their glass cuts down on the number to wash.

For cold drinks, keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap.

When running a bath, plug the tub before turning the water on, then adjust the temperature as the tub fills up. However, a short shower uses less water than a full bath.


More cooking, more cleaning

Don’t use running water to thaw food. Defrost food in the refrigerator for water efficiency and food safety.

Wash fruit and vegetables in a pan of water rather than running water from the tap.

Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Compost vegetable food waste instead and save gallons of water every time you would have used it.

Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.

Keep in mind that a dishwasher uses less water to clean a full load of dishes than doing them by hand. Energy Star™ dishwashers use between 4 and 6 gallons of water per load depending on the cycle selected. If washing dishes by hand is necessary, fill the sink and rinse the dishes when they have all been scraped and scrubbed.

When doing laundry, match the water level to the size of the load.

Small adjustments such as these will reduce your daily water consumption, but more importantly, their daily practice can lead to them becoming long-term habits. Over time, these habits can add up to some significant savings of water and money, and instead of creating a monster your water bill will only be a ghost of its former self.


For more information about water conservation, visit the Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District website at

Karen Siddall
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Planting trees and shrubs that are native (or well adapted) to our area can benefit homeowners in a couple of ways. Natives have a better change of thriving in our heat and under our on-again, off-again watering restrictions so they won’t need replacing after a bout of extreme weather. Also, not having to provide supplemental watering for these natural beauties saves you time, water, and money.

According to Texas AgriLife Extension, fall is the perfect time to add a new tree or grouping of shrubs to your landscape. Planting during the fall months of September through December has distinct advantages.

Plant roots grow anytime the soil temperature is 40 degrees or higher, which may occur all winter in Texas.

During the winter months, the root systems of the fall-planted specimens develop and become established.  When spring arrives, this expanded root system can support and take advantage of the full surge of spring growth.

According to Bonnie Reese, owner of Beautiful Landscapes, a landscape designer and consultant, some of the best trees for our area include Chinquapin Oak, Texas or Shumard Red Oak, Cedar Elm (but only if mistletoe is not a neighborhood problem), Burr Oak, and Live Oak. These are great large native shade trees.  Lacey Oak is a small native evergreen oak and Caddo or Shantung Maples are smaller shade trees but are not native to our area.  For smaller ornamental native trees, consider Vitex, Possumhaw Holly, Yaupon Holly and Carolina Buckthorn.  A couple of noteworthy non-native ornamental trees are Desert Willow, Chitalpa, and Crape Myrtle. 

When considering shrubs, there are just not many native shrubs that are suitable for landscapes except for Texas Sage, various yucca and agave.  Non-native considerations could include many varieties of nandina, yew, holly and abelia.

When making selections, homeowners should keep in mind the ultimate size that the tree or shrub will attain and whether that will work for the location they are being planted, water needs, and the amount of sun the location receives on a daily basis. Remember new plants should be monitored and watered deeply as needed and allowed to dry between irrigations.  Always water plants before a hard freeze if we have been in drought leading up to the freeze.

Texas SmartScape ( hosted by the North Central Texas Council of Governments was designed to help local residents determine some of these factors. The site features do-it-yourselfer design assistance as well as a simple-to-use Search function that suggests native or adapted plants that perform well in our area under a wide variety of circumstances. You can learn more about Bonnie Reese at

Karen Siddall
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The Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District office will be closed Monday, September 3, in observance of Labor Day.

The District will resume business on Tuesday, September 4.

Have a safe holiday, everyone!

Karen Siddall
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Water Conserving Showerheads

Before the deluges of rain we've seen this past week, many cities and other water providers have been asking their residents and customers to voluntarily conserve water. Most will offer a couple of tips known to help in reducing water consumption around the house. All are good and doable but one, in particular, can really make a dent in your family’s daily water consumption. And it’s one that may carry with it memories of military service for some of our family members.

That tip? Take short showers.

Short is a relative term but if you search online “What is a short shower?” one of the most common offerings is a discussion of the “navy” shower. Also referred to as a “combat,” “military,” “sea,” or “G.I.” shower., this water-conserving shower may be familiar to relatives that are veterans whose duty station necessitated strict conservation of water resources.

It is estimated that the average shower lasts 8.2 minutes. If your showerhead was manufactured before 1980, it probably produces around 5 gallons per minute of use. An 8.2-minute shower would consume 41 gallons of water (not counting the amount of unused water that went down the drain getting to the desired temperature.)

Newer showerheads typically produce 2.5 gallons per minute with the newest Water Sense-rated models emitting 2 gallons or less per each minute they run. That same 8.2-minute shower with one of the newer models would cut that consumption in half but you’re still looking at 20 gallons or so.

However, the “navy” shower method can reduce your water waste even more substantially.

This method of showering involves turning OFF the water in the middle of the process. You turn on the shower to wet skin (and hair) then turn off the tap to soap up, scrub, and shampoo. The shower is turned back on to rinse. No “soaking” in the shower! The goal is to reduce the amount of time the shower is turned on to a scanty 2 minutes!

Even with the oldest showerhead, the two-minute shower would reduce your water use to 10 gallons for the entire chore! If your home has a higher-efficiency showerhead, a “navy” shower would expend 5 gallons or less for your entire shower. Multiply that savings by the number of participating family members and the number of showers taken and gallons saved can really add up to something significant.

For additional water savings, keep a clean bucket in the shower to catch some of the water expended just warming things up. Use whatever water is collected in the bucket for additional rinse water when you shampoo or for watering plants, flushing the toilet (fill the reservoir after a flush rather than letting it fill automatically), or even small cleaning jobs (washing toothpaste off the sink, mopping the floor).

A two-minute shower goal may be just too extreme for most of us, but keep in mind that the water we save today increases the amount of water we have for use tomorrow and may stave off changing volunteer conservation to mandatory restrictions.

For more information about water conservation, visit the Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District website at

Karen Siddall
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The week of March 11 - 17, 2018 is National Groundwater Awareness Week. In Texas, groundwater provides 62% of all freshwater used, supplies 78% of the water used by agriculture, and is a source of drinking water (from both public and private wells) for over 11.14 million Texans.

In the Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District which includes Ellis, Hill, Johnson, and Somervell counties well owners reported using almost 6 billion gallons of groundwater in 2016 alone. The majority of those gallons, approximately 83%, were pumped to provide water to homes, businesses, and schools. The second largest category of groundwater use in the four-county area was for manufacturing or industrial uses so many of us also depend on groundwater for our livelihood.

During this week of groundwater recognition, keep in mind the following facts about this hidden resource.

  • Groundwater is found in the spaces between particles and cracks in underground rock in formations known as aquifers. Even though it is out of sight, groundwater should not be far out of mind.
  • Although the groundwater in the aquifers beneath our feet (the Trinity and the Woodbine aquifers) is replenishable, it does so very slowly. Groundwater is recharged by precipitation falling on the surface of the land and seeping into the water-bearing layers of sand and gravel that make up the aquifers. It takes thousands of years for water to move through the tightly-compacted layers from where it can seep into the ground to where we are located.
  • Pollutants that can contaminate rainwater seeping into the ground can also contaminate the aquifer it recharges.
  • It is recommended that water wells be given an annual checkup to make sure equipment is in good working order especially in advance of peak water use times of the year (spring and summer). No one likes to be out of water especially during times when it is needed the most.

Texans are fortunate to have the advantage of vast natural resources, among them clean and safe sources of drinking water. However, to ensure these continued resources we must all take a greater role in protecting our sources of drinking water through conservation and pollution prevention.

Prairielands GCD may be able to help. For ideas on how to conserve water, visit the Prairielands GCD website at And should you encounter incidents of water waste or water pollution, please contact the district office at (817) 556-2299.

Karen Siddall
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So many options?

Spring is coming to the Prairieland Groundwater Conservation District which includes Ellis, Hill, Johnson, and Somervell counties, and one of the tasks area homeowners will pick back up as the weather gets warmer is yard maintenance. To make that chore a little easier, most of us keep the necessary tools on hand. Now, while the weather is cooler, and before they’re needed, is the time to give those tools a good examination to make sure they’re as ready for action as you are!

One tool that many overlook is the garden hose. Using the right garden hose in good condition will not only get your watering job done, but will prevent water waste, and save you money on your water bill.

It is estimated that a good garden hose should last from 5 and 10 years which is a pretty broad range. Like most anything, that estimate is affected by age, use, and construction (not a lot of maintenance is involved with a hose other than draining and storing for winter).

Check the hose’s body for cracks and holes and the couplings at either end. Depending on what you find and your skills and interests, you may not need to replace the whole hose. There are instructions and videos galore on the internet for making your own repairs. Repair kits are even available at your local hardware store.

However, if you need a new hose, there are a couple of considerations before you buy.


1)      What are you going to use it for? – The most common uses that come to mind are for watering a lawn, irrigating a flower bed or vegetable garden, or for keeping the ground around a home foundation watered during the high heat of the summer when the ground is really, really dry.

Your uses or needs should determine the type or style of garden hose you select. Hooking up to a movable sprinkler? You’re going to need a traditional hose with a round profile. Irrigating a garden or flower bed, you may want to consider a soaker hose. A soaker hose is a hose that allows water to slowly leak through its walls giving the ground around it time to fully soak up the moisture. Soaker hoses are recommended, too, because they can reduce water waste. Because the water drops are not being hurled into the air to reach their target, less is subject to evaporation or being blown away.

You will also encounter, or are familiar with, flat hoses however, these seem to have fallen out of favor with many gardeners for a couple of reasons. One, to use the thing, you’ve got to roll out the whole hose whether you’ve got that large of an area to water or not. They can be heavy and cumbersome, and there is some water waste as drops are thrown into the air where they evaporate.

2)      Length – Hoses typically come in multiples of 25 feet. Rather than paying for more hose that you need (or will want to move around), measure before you go to the store. If you need a hose to use in multiple areas of your yard, determine the distance to the farther place in the yard where it will be used. Select a hose just over that length.

3)      Diameter – Who knew? Hoses come in three common diameters on the inside: ¾-inch, 5/8-inch, and ½-inch. (A quick research trip to the local hardware store revealed the majority to be of 5/8-inch variety.)

The larger the diameter, the more water will come out at one time. If the weight of the hose could be an issue for you – say you’re using your hose to hand water plants and hanging baskets on your patio, the smaller, ½ inch hose may be your best bet.

4)      Material – The big question here is rubber vs. vinyl. Rubber is said to be more durable but is heavier and pricier. Vinyl hoses are cheaper and much lighter, but they kink easier.

Another important material to consider it that of the couplings or fittings at either end. Many are made of brass or are chrome-plated, but there are plastic ones available as well. General consensus is to avoid the plastic; they break. As for the rest, check for durability of the metal. If you accidentally step on the hose coupling as it lays in the yard, is it going to bend and become misshapen? Even if it stays attached to the whatever it was connected to, a misshapen coupling will allow for water leakage and water waste. Couplings can freeze up sometimes so consider getting a hose with octagonal-shaped couplings, so you can use a wrench to loosen things up if the need arises.

Your yard should be a place of peace and enjoyment, and proper preparation may very well be the key to attaining that. Taking a little time now, in advance of the lawn maintenance season, will cut down on frustration and wasted time when the weather is beautiful, and you’d rather be out enjoying your yard and not sweating over it.

For more information about low maintenance home landscaping and water conservation, visit the Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District website at

Karen Siddall
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Texas SmartScape for the DFW Region

Plan changes to your existing landscape now

Here in North Central Texas, it sometimes gets too cold to go out and work in the garden. Instead of watching cat videos on YouTube all day, visit one of our area’s best online gardening-help sites and start planning an upgrade or a new fresh look for your home’s landscape that will also save water, time, and money.

In 2000, the North Central Texas Council of Governments along with its member cities, launched the award-winning Texas SmartScape™ program. A low-water use, low-maintenance gardening program developed especially for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Texas SmartScape™ was originally distributed on CDs in May, 2001. In 2003, the program jumped to the updatable Internet version that it is today. (

The website can walk you through redesigning your entire home landscape or just that one ugly little corner of the yard that has been annoying you since you bought your home. It will help you keep in mind your needs for your landscape as well as the needs of the landscape itself (soil, mulch, water.)

One of the site’s best features is its easy-peasy plant search engine that contains only plants that are native or adapted to our area, weather, and climate. You want something that has yellow flowers that bloom in spring in full shade and will come back year after year? You can search for that (OOH, Texas Columbine), and the website will have a picture and information all about the suggested plants.

While you’re staying warm inside and planning your garden facelift, keep in mind a couple of other aspects besides new plants.

  • Rather than tackling the whole yard, pick a single area and focus your efforts on that. Looking at the entire yard at once can quickly become overwhelming and you may decide to throw in the towel before you even pick up a trowel.
  • Group plantings according to water requirements.
  • Avoid creating hard-to-mow areas to reduce the amount of future yard maintenance.
  • Walkways and patios provide space that never needs to be watered or mowed. These spaces can also add value to your property.

Creating a plan for your home landscaping with these considerations in mind can save you time and money in both the short and long run.  Knowing what you need before you go to the nursery later this spring gives you focus and a shopping list to work from. Having already done your research, you’ll avoid buying plants that won’t thrive in your landscape, and purchasing plants that are suited to our area may save you from having to repeat this process year after year. In addition, reducing grassy areas and replacing them with low-water-need plants or no-water-needed walkways will reduce the amount of supplemental watering required during the summer which will be reflected on your water bill. A lower maintenance yard may also impact the time you spend working on your yard instead of just enjoying its beauty.


For more on low-water use, low-maintenance landscaping, go to, and visit the Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District website at

Karen Siddall
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As the holidays come to a close and a new year approaches, thoughts inevitably turn to making resolutions for the future. This year, along with all our weight loss, exercise, and financial goals, why not include a couple of long-term money-savers in the mix.

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen the “Save a penny today, double it tomorrow and so on” scheme that will eventually net you a pretty good-sized payoff come the end of the year. But what if you could make a few household adjustments that, once completed, would net you savings every time you turned on the tap?

Small change

Number 1: Install an aerator on every faucet in your home. (And check and rinse out those already in use.) An aerator is the little screw-on device on your faucet where the water come comes out. Aerators slow the flow of water coming out to a consistent 1.6 - 2.2 gallons per minute, and can be found at the local hardware/home improvement store for as little as a dollar. They even have special little wrenches for those that need some help with removal. Restricting the flow with an aerator limits the volume and increases the pressure of the water coming out. You’ll use less water per minute you have it running but it will be a stronger, more effective stream.

Number 2: Get a shower timer. You may be surprised at how long you actually stay in the shower, and reducing that time can add up to some decent water savings. Actually, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that average shower is in the 7 to 10-minute range. Obviously, my teenage son (for whom a 30-minute shower was not unheard of) was not included in that survey population.

Shower timers are available online for as little as $3 for a manual “sand in the hourglass” version that runs down from a 5 minute shower to higher tech types that will even restrict the water flow when time is up for around $150 and more.

Number 3: If your shower fills a one-gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds, replace the showerhead with a water-efficient model. Water Sense-certified showerheads (they’ll have a label) have been tested and determined to reduce the volume of water coming out to no more than 2.2 gallons per minute. That way, your 10-minute shower is now a 22-gallon shower. (Typically, a short shower uses less water that filling up the tub as a full-sized bathtub holds up to 75 gallons.) New showerheads range in price but you can pick them up at the hardware store/home improvement center for under $20. Even some of the large “rainstorm” style showerheads are Water Sense™-certified.

Chunk o’change

Number 4: Replace the old toilet with a new low-flow, high-efficiency model. This is a product that has really improved its performance since first being introduced. Most notable of those improvements is the flushing and clean evacuation of the contents in the bowl. The top complaint about the early models was that users had to flush 2 or 3 times to accomplish what the old models did in one – negating any water or money-savings in the process. But now, one flush is all that’s required, and there are a variety of designs, bowl shapes, and seat heights on the market for a price range of under $100 to high-end units over $500.   

Number 5: Replace the older dishwasher with one with an Energy Star™ rating. Although older dishwashers only used between 10 and 12 gallons of water per cycle, advancements in dishwasher and dishwasher detergents have gotten those totals down to four to six gallons depending on the cycle and the condition (how dirty the dishes are) of the load. Pricing these dishwashers at a variety of local appliance outlets revealed that you can obtain one of these Energy Star™ rated dishwashers for less than $250. And water savings isn’t the only plus, as the name implies, you’re going to use less electricity as well.

Number 6: Replace the older washing machine - Back in grandma’s day, a load of washing would require about 40 gallons of water to get the job done, however, improvements in laundry technology – both from a mechanical standpoint and a chemical one – have cut that volume almost in half. New washers typically can do a full load of clothes in approximately 25 gallons. There are a couple of high-efficiency models with settings that can reduce the requirement to a mere 12 gallons. No matter the model though, the water conserving feature that really hits the spot is the water-level adjustment. Matching the amount of water used to the size/condition of the load saves water. Choosing an Energy Star™ unit can also save you money on your energy bill. Using a laundry detergent formulated to be used in cold water can also help get your clothes clean and reduce your energy usage. High-efficiency, Energy Star™washers are available at numerous appliance outlets and for under $500.

One thing to keep in mind as you consider purchasing a major appliance such as a dishwasher or washer, is timing. Most shopping sites recommend deferring these purchases to September and October to take advantage of model year changes (when manufacturers introduce their new models). Significant sales of new “last year’s models” ensue. In recent years, Black Friday and pre-Black Friday sales are showing up and extending the saving opportunities into the month of November. But if the goal is to conserve water AND save money, waiting and setting aside funds for the purchase is a plan that serves both interests.

For more information about water conservation, visit the Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District website at

Karen Siddall
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The Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District office will be closed Monday, January 1, in observation of the New Year's Day holiday. The District office will re-open on Tuesday, January 2.
The Board and staff would like to wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday!
Karen Siddall
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Merry Christmas!
The Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District office will be closed Friday, December 22, Monday, December 25, and Tuesday, December 26, to allow staff to observe Christmas with their families. The District will resume business on Wednesday, December 27.
The Board and staff would like to wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday!