During the winter season, the Tarrant County region averages about 225 million gallons of water use per day. But the hot and dry summer months are another story, with around 550 million gallons of water being pumped to customers each day. 

The difference? Outdoor water use skyrockets during the summer as residents desperately try to keep their lawns and trees alive amid dry conditions, according to Dustan Compton, the Tarrant Regional Water District’s regional conservation program manager. 

“More than two times our indoor average use in the winter is what we’re doing in July and August,” Compton said. “That is a lot of water, and that is what drives our treatment plant sizes, the size of our pipelines, the amount of water supply that we need to meet specific drought conditions.” 

To reduce the need for more expensive infrastructure, Compton and the water district offer educational programs to encourage residents to reduce water waste, especially when it comes to sprinkler systems and outdoor watering. 

Where does Fort Worth draw its water from?

Fort Worth uses surface water from six sources, according to the city’s water department. The West Fork system includes Lake Bridgeport, Eagle Mountain Lake and Lake Worth. The East Texas reservoirs are Cedar Creek and Richland-Chambers. Benbrook Lake is another water source.

The City of Fort Worth owns Lake Worth, and Benbrook Lake is the responsibility of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The other four lakes are owned and operated by Tarrant Regional Water District.

Those initiatives include the water district’s free sprinkler evaluation program. All Tarrant County residents with an in-ground automatic sprinkler system are eligible to request a full evaluation from M&M Irrigation and Illumination. 

One of the company’s experts will provide a 30 to 40-minute consultation and make detailed recommendations for how to improve sprinkler efficiency at no cost to residents, Compton said. 

“It’s an educational tool and educational opportunity,” he said. “This is not an annual checkup to see what’s wrong with it this year. The irrigator will check the controller, mark down all the current settings, and then run a two-minute test of all the zones and make visual observations of improvements that could be made.” 

From there, the irrigator will speak with the homeowner about using a backflow prevention device, which allows water to flow only in one direction, and potentially change sprinkler settings with the homeowner’s approval. 

The expert will not make any repairs during the evaluation. Instead, the irrigation company will supply a detailed report to the resident and the city where they reside, Compton said. 

“Historically, many people are not comfortable with their sprinkler systems, and we’ve had a lot of new homeowners and people moving from other parts of the country to Texas,” Compton said. “They don’t know about our soils and they don’t know about our native plants or the recommended ways to water your landscape or how to program a controller, especially new homeowners.”

With an extreme heat wave hitting North Texas, Compton has seen increased demand for the free service. In past years, irrigation contractors have completed anywhere from 1,600 to 1,800 evaluations. The district is on track to hit 2,100 evaluations in 2022, Compton said. 

“The waiting period right now is about five weeks out,” he said. “We strive to deliver customer service with this program, so we’re really hesitant to do any promotion during the summer time because I don’t want to have people wanting help and hearing it’s five weeks away.” 

The best time to request an evaluation is the winter or spring seasons, when demand is less intense and residents can make improvements for the coming year, Compton said. He doesn’t want to discourage anyone from requesting an appointment now, but the wait time could be several weeks. 

In the meantime, the water district offers a number of do-it-yourself resources for indoor and outdoor water conservation, landscaping in North Texas and sprinkler system maintenance. 

Compton oversees a partnership with Dallas Water Utilities that offers weekly watering advice based on weather conditions in north central Texas. He also points residents to the water district’s own conservation website, SaveTarrantWater.com, for advice on native plants, a list of environmentally sustainable irrigation companies and upcoming educational events. 

The quickest ways to improve your outdoor watering efficiency? Reduce the amount of runoff coming from your property by using the “cycle and soak” irrigation method, which features two to three shorter intervals of watering rather than one long cycle. The process gives lawns a better chance at absorbing water into root zones rather than flowing into storm drains. 

Looking for advice on drip irrigation or hoses?

More resources regarding water-efficient gardening, landscaping, transitioning to drip irrigation and more are available here.

Sprinkler systems are about 50 to 60% efficient, Compton said. For every 10 gallons of water used, only six may make it into the soil due to evaporation loss or running off lawns. Residents should do everything they can to reduce water waste, especially during the summers, he said. 

“There’s lots of improvements you can make with technology, with human behavior, with changing of the landscape plants,” Compton said. “The way we manage our sprinkler systems and the way we do maintenance can help us recognize the value of water and protect it and use it wisely.” 

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman Foundation. Contact her by email or via Twitter.

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Haley SamselEnvironmental Reporter

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org. Her coverage is made possible by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman...