Master gardeners warn of water conservation 'con-artists', give tips on how to save

Broken sprinkler heads can contribute to high water bills (Source: KTRE Staff)
Broken sprinkler heads can contribute to high water bills (Source: KTRE Staff)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - East Texas wallets are about to get a whole lot smaller this summer as wasted water and high water bills begin to pluck dollars from pocketbooks.

Master gardeners say broken sprinkler heads and lackluster drip irrigation systems are the biggest con-artists during the summer because they pull in extra water needed to make sure East Texas landscapes survive the "droughty" Texas summer months.

Richard Campbell, a master gardener, says one of the biggest issues are sprinkler heads that run water down the gutter.

"Waste of money," Campbell said.

According to Texas A&M AgriLife, water use increases anywhere from 30 to 60 percent during the summer, and faulty sprinkler heads are usually to blame for high water bills.

Campbell showed the East Texas news a broken valve that wobbled back and forth.

"It shows you the gasket - the rubber gasket - is working too much," Campbell said.

He says he sees broken sprinkler heads all the time, and the problem is that it contributes to 50 to 60 percent of wasted water.

Texas AgriLife Extension Agent Cary Sims said water is the number on agricultural issue that Texans face.

"The number one consumer of municipal water supplies is our landscapes and this is May and we're dry. We had a good rain last week, but as we are preparing for our typical hot, droughty summer we need to be on top of our game as far as conserving water in our landscapes," Sims said.

Campbell said setting up a drip irrigation system is a great way to conserve water because it waters the area that you need.

Texas A&M AgriLife Research Extension Center said some ways to prepare for water restrictions include mulching planted areas and checking for pipe and valve leaks, breaks, clogged heads, and broken sprinkler heads.

Campbell said the best way to see if your plants are getting enough water is to stick your finger down into the soil near the roots. If your fingers come out damp, that means the irrigation system is working.

Sims added that watering should always happen after 6 p.m. and before 10 a.m. He also said do not fertilize because the "plant growth naturally slows down and plants go dormant during a lengthy drought."

Master gardener Vickie Boren said planting drought-tolerant plants, like native plants, can help the amount of landscaping water needed. She also said that it can help keep insects like bees and monarch butterflies in our gardens.

"If we don't have the right plants, the native plants, for the birds to nest and to have shelter, it will be bad. And, of course, the bees are important because they cross-pollinate our flowers and things and like our vegetables. So, it's very important for them to be cross pollinated. Bees are on the decline and so are the monarchs," Boren said.

Texas AgriLife also said that you can check for problems by making sure the sprinkler head is not spraying onto the sidewalk, driveway, or road, the spray nozzle isn't missing, the sprinkler head is not bubbling, grass or shrubbery is not blocking the distribution pattern, and runoff occurs before adequate water is applied.

The Angelina County AgriLife Extension Office hosted a seminar with Dr. Dotty Woodson, an Extension Program Specialist-Water Resources, on Monday night. She will be hosting an in- house seminar for Texas AgriLife workers on Tuesday. For more information, visit

Copyright 2014 KTRE. All rights reserved.