On Tuesday the Austin American-Statesman featured a guest editorial on water conservation by environmental writer and former Burleson Heights homeowner Paul Robbins, who also writes about water issues in the 2013 Austin Environmental Directory.
An environmental activist and consumer advocate since 1977, Robbins began editing the Austin Environmental Directory in 1995. In 2007, the City of Austin renamed the energy-efficient facility that cools City Hall and about a dozen other large downtown buildings the Paul Robbins Downtown District Cooling Plant in his honor.
It’s been four years since Robbins left our neighborhood for a home adjacent to a southwest Austin greenbelt, which offered the quiet lifestyle the writer and editor craved. But one thing he didn’t count on was the 2011 Oak Hill Fire. He leads off the 2013 directory with a gripping account of the blaze, which was fueled by Texas’ grueling drought and destroyed four homes on his block, including his next-door neighbor’s house. Conditions that likely contributed to the fire — including dead limbs that littered the greenbelt and illicit cooking fires — are eerily similar to those near his old neighborhood, which is surrounded by wooded property.
In addition to covering water issues, the 2013 Austin Environmental Directory, Robbins’ eighth, includes sections on clean energy, green building, recycling, local food and the region’s environmental groups. It’s available online and in print at retailers around Austin. You can read his editorial, Dry lakes demand conservation, on the Statesman’s website.
Water conservation at home
Water flowing into the Highland Lakes has slowed to a trickle since the drought began in 2010, and Lakes Buchanan and Travis, which supply Austin’s water, are now only 32 percent full. Conserving water on the home front should be part of the strategy for ensuring that we have enough to last through a dry spell with no end in sight.
Repairing water leaks and replacing old appliances and plumbing fixtures with more efficient models such as front-loading washing machines and WaterSense toilets and showerheads can significantly reduce water usage.
One of the biggest water wasters at homes is our lawns, which consume about 31 percent of Austin’s residential water, according to the Texas Water Development Board publication The Grass is Always Greener: Outdoor Residential Water Use in Texas. Ways to conserve water outdoors include replacing some of the turf in your landscape with drought-tolerant plants, covering the soil with mulch, collecting and irrigating with rainwater, and applying only as much water as necessary to keep valuable trees healthy, or about 1 inch per week. Use rain gauges to monitor how much rain has fallen and how much you water, and apply only enough water to make up the difference. See Robbins’ Austin Environmental Directory for even more conservation information and tips.
Follow The Hurly-Burly on Twitter @HurlyBurlyATX for rainfall amounts in Burleson Heights and other neighborhood topics, or check the bottom of the right rail on this page for the five latest tweets.
Learn more about water issues in our neighborhood, city and state by using the links along the right side of this blog, which include:
- Water levels in Lakes Buchanan and Travis
- Rebates and conservation tips
- Austin’s watering schedule
- Water-thrifty landscaping
- Water quality in Country Club Creek and other Austin watersheds
- Recent rainfall amounts
- The U.S. Drought Monitor