The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center's Urban Water Team, from left, Karen Sanders, Daniel Cunningham, Clint Wolfe and Patrick Dickinson, won the Green Source DFW Sustainable Leader Award for Large Business or Nonprofit Project in March. Photos courtesy of Texas A&M AgriLife. 

April 20, 2015

The Urban Water Team at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center is saving Texas water, one rain barrel at time. 

The Dallas-based team has made it their mission to educate people in Northeast and Central Texas – almost 50 counties – in an effort to save precious water. Those efforts were recognized when Green Source DFW presented them with the Large Business or Nonprofit Project award in March.  

“The award is significant, and we were very pleasantly surprised that we won,” said Clint Wolfe, program manager for Texas A&M AgriLife Research’s Urban Water team. “We spend a lot of nights and weekends trying to get the message across that water conservation is absolutely necessary. The award makes those long nights and weekends worthwhile.”

A 1,000-gallon rainwater harvesting collection system at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center's WaterSense home in Dallas used for landscape irrigation. 

In the past, Texas extension offices served primarily rural residents. However, to address changing landscapes, in 2004, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas began focusing on urban issues, such as water, energy, health and food production. The A&M system has 13 research centers across Texas and according to Wolfe, Dallas is the only metropolitan urban center. 

In 2006, an urban water team was created because of water conditions, i.e. the onset of drought conditions and lowering water levels.

“There was a definite need for water conservation education,” says Wolfe.  “And I and my team want to make everyone aware the water situation is not going to get better. Everyone has to do their part and little things add up to savings.”

Wolfe’s team talks a lot about best management conservation practices, both indoors and outdoors, that people can implement at home at little or no cost.  

“The biggest changes come from people’s habits and the way they value water,” he says.  “Water is inexpensive and people don’t value it is as much as they should, which leads to waste.”   

Most of the education is done face-to-face, as well as social media. Wolfe says that the water barrel class has definitely been their most successful program.

“Last year, we made the 10,000th rain barrel. Amazingly, in a year’s time, you can save 23 million gallons of water,” he shares.  

He further comments that the biggest educational factor or “aha” moment comes when people realize that a barrel holds 55 gallons, so you have to be very deliberate in how you use your water. When the water in a barrel runs out, you realize how precious water is.

“Our lake is like a barrel,” he says. “It has to rain to fill the lake, and people equate the rain barrel to the lake.

“A person can collect on average 2,300 gallons of water from one 55-gallon barrel in a normal rainfall year, which is significant.”  

Right, an example of the 55-gallon rain barrels that Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center's students assemble in their classes.

When asked about whether people will start building more homes with rain barrels and water collecting systems in the design, Wolfe says that is their goal and he thinks there will come a time when that will be standard.

“Maybe not within five or 10 years, but perhaps that will be a standard in the next 20 years,” he says.  

Read the article about Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Research Center's WaterSense home in Dallas.

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