Institutions such as hospitals, schools, universities, municipalities and businesses, are primed to be leaders for WaterSmart practices. These facilities typically have landscaped areas viewed by hundreds of people every day. Homeowners are following their local institutions’ lead by mimicking their landscapes at home. Unfortunately, these beautiful landscapes typically require large amounts of water and are not usually environmentally friendly. WaterSmart landscapes focus on three guiding principles:
- Increased Water Conservation,
- Improved Water Quality and
- Enhanced Habitat for Wildlife.
By implementing WaterSmart practices, institutions can help reduce the growing outdoor water demand in Texas, which can conserve both water and money. WaterSmart landscapes can also significantly reduce the amount of polluted runoff water from entering the storm drain system and cut the amount of water used for irrigation by utilizing practices that require little or no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, minimal grass cover and maximum use of native plants.
Institutions can be leaders in WaterSmart practices by applying the three guiding principles to their landscapes and by using their unique position to educate both their employees and the public about how they are WaterSmart. Successful institutions communicate their WaterSmart message within their organization. This message should include what the landscape practice is, its purpose and how it can help the environment. This will encourage employees to understand the landscape around them everyday and give them the knowledge to share. Adding interpretive signage, providing lectures, email blasts and newsletter articles are all easy ways to inspire people to implement these practices at home. Institutions should consider adding these WaterSmart practices to their company policies and philosophy. To further communicate the role of WaterSmart landscapes in an overall healthy institution. These efforts can also help meet Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit requirements.
WaterSmart practices are visually appealing and easy to maintain by using:
- Native plants that are well suited for the local climate and soil conditions.
- Use less turf grass. Replace with native plants which encourage wildlife such as butterflies and hummingbirds to surround your landscape.
- Compost to add nutrients to soil, improve soil structure and increase the moisture-holding ability of soil.
- Low-volume irrigation to apply water in an efficient manner where it’s needed, when it’s needed without contributing runoff into storm sewers, drainage ditches or waterways.
- Little to no use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides which improves the landscape for wildlife and for streams and bayous by reducing polluted runoff entering our waterways.
- Rain gardens to filter pollutants from stormwater runoff before it has a chance to enter the storm drain system.
- Rainwater harvesting systems as an alternate water supply and stormwater-management approach which stores rainwater for later use.
By adopting WaterSmart practices, institutions set a positive example, showcasing the steps anyone can take to have a beautiful landscape with an effective purpose. A landscape that reduces runoff pollution flowing from green spaces and flower beds into our streams and bayous. A landscape that protects Galveston Bay.
Some examples of Houston local institutions that have implemented WaterSmart practices include:
- MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
- Wildflower meadow, native plants, butterfly garden, prairie pothole wetland
- Dickinson Public Library, Dickinson, TX
- Rain garden
- The City of League City’s Ghirardi Family WaterSmart Park, League City, TX
- Rain gardens, rainwater harvesting, native plants
- Medical buildings in Webster, TX
- Green roof
- Discovery Green, Houston, TX
- Green roof
- Pasadena Public Library Central, Pasadena, TX
- Rain garden, WaterSmart garden, native plants
- US EPA’s Water-Smart Landscapes
- Lower Colorado River Authority, Austin, TX