Give your irrigation system the winter off

Winter watering feeds the weeds — and your sewer service bill — for 2024.

As you enjoy the fall harvest this Thanksgiving, you can also celebrate the opportunity to catch a break on your SAWS bill — by turning off your irrigation system for the season.

That’s right, as the warm growing season comes to an end in South Central Texas, water needs for warm-season landscape plants like grass decrease dramatically as they slow down, drop leaves and/or go dormant. (Irrigating dormant grass will not make it grow, no matter how much water you apply.)

Although our home landscapes have benefitted from recent rainfall, the plants really greening up now tend to be cool-season plants and winter weeds like dandelions and henbit, along with cool-season weed grasses such like fescue, Poa annua, winter rye and rescue grass.

An El Niño weather pattern may provide above-average precipitation this winter, but the Edwards Aquifer is still fluctuating around a 30-year low — meaning conditions are still serious and it will take many, many rainfall events before Stage 2 watering rules are lifted.

So, once you’ve stopped weekly mowing and parked the mower, do your part for water conservation by turning off sprinkler irrigation (just run it manually once a month if there’s no rain) until warm weather returns in late March.

For the Edwards Aquifer — and homes with in-ground irrigation systems — this is the opportunity for some of the biggest water savings of the year. And it can lower your sewer bill!

Your SAWS sewer rate is based on your average water use from mid-November to mid-March, a time when most water use is indoors. (Winter months are used for sewer rates because, in winter, water use is assumed to be primarily indoors, meaning it exits the house via drains and pipes into the sewer.) Corralling your winter water use now can reduce your current water bill, plus save money on your sewer charges every month next year.

Next time you’re near the irrigation controller, switch it off or set it to manual operation. Your budget will appreciate the attention to detail.

Picture of Brad Wier
Brad Wier
Brad Wier is a SAWS conservation planner. Years in South Texas landscaping and public horticulture gave him a lasting enthusiasm for native plants that don’t die when sprinklers -- and gardeners -- break down. He’d rather save time and water for kayaking and tubing. He is a former kilt model, and hears hummingbirds.
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