Wimberley, Texas 2011
Who would've thought we'd miss all those insects?
And how does turning on that sprinkler for an hour or so cause any harm?
Thanks to the record-breaking heat and drought conditions Wimberley is experiencing this summer, insect populations have dramatically decreased. Plants of all types, including the hardy mountain cedar, have been withering, then browning out, then dying. Losing the insects may sound like a good thing, but plant decimation has resulted in a serious impact on the insects who are so critical in the seed cycle.
Without insects, fewer plants seed, creating a vicous cycle of dusty vistas replacing the beautiful, rolling Hill Country landscape that drew us here and supports wildlife.
By now, the lucky Wimberley residents who have an opportunity to observe deer, fawning, foxes, and the rest of the remarkable panorama of wildlife making up the continuous nature show have seen the signs: protruding ribs and normally nocturnal animals wandering in the daylight desperately seeking water and food. Some people mistake the behavior of these staggering little foragers for signs of rabies, but the fact is that the large majority of them are dehydrated, starving, and disoriented.
It's all about water.
It's difficult for most of us to understand, but there are still those who run sprinklers in the 107-degree (F) afternoons, sucking precious water from the ever more limited groundwater supply. Water is at such a premium that tempers run high on this issue, and waterhog neighbors find themselves pariahs for using this valuable resource for non-essential reasons. Water rage is replacing road rage.
If you are using water without weighing the value of this irreplaceable commodity, here are some points to consider:
1. A single lawn sprinkler can use as much as 600 gallons of water per hour.
2. With drip irrigation, energy dependency is reduced significantly since watering can be done via a low pressure area and water loss becomes minimal, increasing water savings by 50%.
The average family of four can use between 300 and 400 gallons of water every day. That sprinkler running for an hour could supply a family of four with household and drinking water for 2 days. That's something to think about as you sit in a lawn chair watching the water spraying back and forth into the air where much of it is evaporated.
The type of water use abuse represented by running sprinklers during a prolonged, extreme drought is usually due to a lack of education about water facts and doesn't necessarily happen because people greedily decide to use more than their share. Even the couple of facts about sprinkler use above explaining the inefficiency of the method may be news to most folks. Once armed with this knowledge, any responsible individual would surely choose to think more carefully about where the water they are using is directed.
There is actually an opportunity inherent in this troubling weather pattern. Some plants won't survive more than a few days without a water boost and others may only wilt and wait. Noting which plants survive this kind of heat and dryness will provide the best possible list of candidates for replanting and replacing. The art of xeriscaping is specific to regions...in fact, sometimes specific to much smaller locales within regions. Plants that demand less nurturing through these hard times are keepers, providing years of maintenance-free pleasure.
Here are a few interesting and informative places to find basic and important facts:
» Personal water use calculator
WECalc asks a series of questions about your home water use habits and estimates your water use. It also provides personalized recommendations for reducing that use. One interesting feature is the estimate of water-related energy use you incur. This is a very detailed calculator, but quick and simple to use. Highly recommended.
» Drought Monitor
Maps for viewing drought conditions nationally and locally. Updated weekly.