Mandatory watering restrictions in effect for City of Houston amid drought

Miya Shay Image
Monday, August 28, 2023
City of Houston under mandatory watering restrictions amid drought
Houston enters Stage Two of the city's Drought Contingency Plan, mandating water restrictions. Here are tips on how to keep your plants alive.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The City of Houston is under mandatory watering restrictions as the area faces record-breaking heat this summer.

The hot and dry weather is impacting all Texans in so many ways. In Houston, it's resulting in major water main breaks, and people are experiencing problematic water pressures.

"We need additional contractors to deal with the water main leaks," Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "Mother nature is mother nature. It is what it is. We're going to have to manage this crisis."

In a press release, Houston Public Works Director, Carol Haddock, said, "Our goal is to reduce water usage from all customers by 10%. Our crews are working diligently in conjunction with area contractors to repair water leaks across the city."

The City wants Houstonians to cut down on random watering of lawns. It's safe to say, unanimously, that our lawns have been a little rough during the drought in southeast Texas, but the restrictions are aimed at helping make the most of each drop.

Stage 2 restrictions of the city's Drought Contingency Plan include:

  • Even-numbered street addresses can water on Sundays and Thursdays between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Odd-numbered street addresses can water on Saturdays and Wednesdays between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Tuesdays and Fridays for all other customers
  • Any outdoor water use that drains onto adjacent properties or public or private roadways or streets or gutters is prohibited.

Violating these watering restrictions can lead to a written warning for a first-time violation. Any subsequent violations are subject to a fine of up to $2,000 for each occurrence of the offense (Section 54.001 of the Texas Local Government Code).

For residents living in communities nearby, check with your local municipal district for water restrictions. But the bottom line is: if you don't have to use water, then don't. This is the time to conserve water to avoid making a growing problem even worse.

Mandatory restrictions are already in place in Katy, Tomball. Beginning Monday, mandatory restrictions begin in select areas of Missouri City.

Voluntary restrictions are in Bellaire, Deer Park, Fulshear, Galveston, La Porte, Pasadena, Pearland, and Rosenberg.

For more information on Houston's Water Drought Contingency Plan, you can visit the city's website.

Other Ways to Save Water

  • Use a broom to clear debris from walkways and driveways instead of hosing them down with water.
  • Take advantage of using commercial car washes because most use recycled water.
  • Use a pool cover to reduce evaporation.
  • Call 311 to report leaks in fire hydrants, plumbing, or other public facilities so that they can be repaired.

Houston Public Works also suggests not to water on windy days. This helps to keep the water on your thirsty plants instead of being taken away by the wind.

Another way to make the most of your resources in Texas is to use mulch. It will improve soil health and save water.

Mulch isn't just for looks. It adds an extra layer between plant roots and air which helps to protect plants in several ways. It reduces evaporation and helps plants thrive by inhibiting weed growth, preventing soil erosion, and moderating soil temperature.

Fertilizer will be your best friend. If you apply fertilizer only in the spring and fall, your grass will be healthy, use less water, and require less mowing. But, be cautious not to over-fertilize. A soil kit can help you figure out what nutrients your soil needs.

Pro tip: Use native or adapted-to-the-climate plants. These plants are adjusted to Houston's climate and rainfall, so they don't need extra water.

"Native plants are adept to this," Lauren Simpson said.

Simpson runs a Facebook page called St. Julian's Crossing and is dedicated to her front yard and native plants.

On Sunday morning, the Texas Frogfruit is thriving, so much so it needs to be trimmed, despite the unrelenting heat, and lack of any water.

"About 95% of the plants in our garden are native to this part of Texas, and we have chosen the native plants that tend to have low water, and that means we use less water," she said.

For Simpson, the city's mandatory water restrictions are not a surprise. In her view, it's a necessity given the unrelenting drought. and frankly, a necessity.

"It's what we need to do to be responsible (and) to deal with this ongoing drought. I've never seen a drought quite like this," Simpson said.

Joshua Kornegay, who owns the popular native-focused plant store Joshua's Native Plants in the Heights, said to focus on saving trees right now because it is a good time to evaluate your yard.

"Water your trees, don't worry about the little plants and your lawn," Kornegay said. "There are 10 dead trees on my block. You want to water your trees. Forget the lawn."

He said to look at which plants are doing well and are not doing well. Consider replacing your dead grass with native, easy-to-grow groundcovers like horse herb and frogfruit.

In addition, there are many Texas native trees, flowers, and shrubs you can use for landscaping that will tolerate our droughts and hurricanes.

"Native plants, they've been here for a thousand years," Kornegay said. "They are well suited to our droughts, our floods, our specific insects. So they're used to this drought. This is not anything new to them."

Building a yard more in tune with the Texas weather is something Simpson began about eight years ago. In the midst of this drought, she's more grateful than ever that many of her plants are still thriving.

"We actually don't own a sprinkler. So I spot water as needed; When the plants are showing stress, and there are some that I haven't had to water, even in this drought," she said.

To learn more, you can check out the non-profit Native Plant Society of Texas.

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