Water Conservation Continues Amid Summer Storms

Water Conservation Efforts Continue Amid Summer Rainstorms
Bivins LandscapingAdapted from the spring 2014 Portraits article "Water Wise: AISD's Effort to Conserve" by Chandra Perkins.

September 2, 2014
– Rainstorms have sprinkled Amarillo and surrounding towns throughout the summer, and though some rain gauges have read high rainfall at times, the city of Amarillo has only recorded 11.33 inches as of the August 2014 reading. All counties in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles are classified under Exception Drought D-4 conditions on the U. S. Drought Monitor, a once-in-50-year drought.

As a large part of the Amarillo community, Amarillo ISD feels a responsibility to take action and affect change in the amount of water consumed on campuses all around the city. Wes Green, operations manager for the district, says there are many efforts going on to protect water resources. One main approach is to use more responsible landscaping techniques. “When we have construction and new additions, our approach is to install new landscaping that follows the Xeriscaping concept.” Green goes on to explain the area’s terrain will be studied to learn more about its water usage. Plans for landscaping, including choosing plants which require less water and using better irrigation devices, will be made based on that information.

Nancy Tanner, a long-time Bivins resident, has seen the aesthetic payoff of the efforts by the maintenance department in her daily walk around the neighborhood, remarking in an email to the school, “I just wanted to compliment [AISD] on the revamping of the grounds in front of Bivins school. I walk past that school every day and am very pleased at the new appearance.”

The Bivins Elementary project Tanner refers to was completed last summer. “Prior to the project, it was costly to maintain and water all the plant life,” says Bivins Principal Tim White, who had also noticed despite the extensive watering, some areas of grass remained difficult to keep green. “At that point Wes Green and I decided it was time to start all over. Student traffic patterns were observed and documented. Research was done into plants and trees that do not require a lot of water and maintenance.” White reports, though the changes made to the look of the 82-year-old building did cause some anxiety among community and staff members, the end results have proven pleasing to everyone. “The plant life is more appealing requiring less water, fertilizer and labor hours. The district scored an A+ on the project.”

Bivins teacher Donna Mason was also impressed with the outcome of the renovation. “The old, straight, cracked sidewalks were removed and replaced with a wider sidewalk that flows across the front of the building where our students walk. The wide sidewalk provides plenty of room for students and parents to walk without having to tromp through mud or water.”

Landscaping is not the only method being utilized by the district to conserve water. Wes Green explains the conservation efforts began four years ago when the department worked to establish a central control setup for all campus irrigation systems. Data such as wind speed, temperature, rainfall and hours of sunlight is sent to the central controller in the area, ensuring the district is watering responsibly. Additionally, subsoil irrigation systems, artificial grass, and/or hybrid Bermuda grass have been installed on several athletic fields at the middle and high schools.

“In the past five to six years we have made a conscious effort to cut back on how much water we are using and we’ve reduced water consumption by 30 percent,” said Green. “We decided it was better to not keep the lawns lush but didn’t want to cut back so much we had dry lawns. We’re watering efficiently now to keep our lawns green and healthy.”

The efforts made to conserve water help in keeping our community vital. AISD is leading by example in these conservation efforts in hopes of helping to preserve the area’s water resources for generations to come.

For more information about the City of Amarillo's water, please visit: http://water.amarillo.gov/index.php?page_id=20

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