What you're about to read will be my thoughts and opinions, and certainly not necessarily those of this newspaper. And, you need to know that I have always preached on the gospel of water conservation and sound landscaping practices.
But the pot had been boiling, and it finally spewed over a few days ago. I went to my Facebook page, and I let the words fly. We have a lot of activity on that page, and it was amazing to see the wide variety of comments back. So, I'll share it with you -- first my initial post and then selected and shortened portions of the replies.
Neil's original post to Facebook last week
Personal Opinion: Having driven 100 miles of urban DFW streets in the past three days, it is my observation that many people are using "water conservation" as an excuse for "never watering." "Water conscious" landscaping, for those people, has given way to "Why should I bother to landscape?" Many Texans have decided they don't need to landscape or have lawns at all, and our towns are quickly becoming unattractive. Water-conscious plantings are a huge start, as is drip irrigation, but I'm talking about people who have gone way farther. They don't appear to care at all. We need to be careful how hard and how relentlessly we send out all these water restriction cries. This is my personal opinion, given because I love my state, and I want it to look better.
Portions of others' posts in reply
"I agree Neil! We still water when we can, and it looks great!" K.S.
"We should be growing food in our yards not grass." B.F.
"I think we need to be in transition to a desert-like landscape plan in North Texas." T.G.
"There are lots of plants besides cacti that are drought tolerant." G.Y.
"... desert landscapes. New Mexico and Arizona do that because they are DESERT ZONES. Texas isn't." T.O.
"In our development, many have basically just turned off the sprinklers permanently. I follow the restrictions and have a garden/lawn abundant with growth and color." D.T.
"People are just letting their lawns burn up and die. It's horrible. We are trying to sell our house, and I can't imagine what people are thinking when they view the neighborhood." J.S.S.
"My husband has planted drought-tolerant plants in my front flower bed. And my lawn is St. Augustine. We only water one day a week, and our yard looks fantastic." S.C.
"AMEN Neil!!! People, get out of in front of your big TVs and get in your front yards. Be water WISE and health WISE in the heat, but make your yard the best looking yard on the block. If everyone does this, we will have our beautiful neighborhoods back." K.V.
"This area did not have St. Augustine and bermudagrass before we came and built neighborhoods. They're not natural for Texas." B.F.
"We need to abandon our love affair with turfgrass and accept the limitations of our climate and soil conditions." V.L.
"I own a landscape company and have planted many landscapes over the past year. It is extremely possible to have a green lawn and vibrant plants, even including a garden, with proper watering AND fertilization. It is also possible to do so while keeping your bill low." T.O.
"Water bill over $200/month = yellow grass. No bueno!" B.F.
"We MUST build more lakes. We now have too many people and too little water." B.D.
"Lawns are detrimental to the environment and do nearly nothing in terms of oxygen exchange and air filtering." S.B.H.
"Back at S.B.H. 'Lawns are detrimental to the environment and do nearly nothing in terms of oxygen exchange and air filtering.' Recent University studies have proven just the opposite. A healthy residential lawn scrubs the air and exchanges more oxygen per year than about ten trees on your property. The growth rate of the grass makes it much more efficient as a pollution cleaner!!!" B.T.
"I don't understand people. I have a nicely landscaped front and back yard. It does take up time, but I LOVE gardening. Most people must be just too lazy. They'd rather watch TV or be out shopping, I guess." M.W.
"Gardening is primarily a hobby. Those of us who love it, try to make it look decent. The rest spend their time on something else." J.K.
"My July and August water bills are usually about twice as much as the monthly average. So is my electricity bill. If I had to choose, I would give air conditioning up before letting adapted shade trees be taken by a few weeks of unrelenting heat." A.V.
Neil's closing thoughts
As long as there have been North Texans, we have watered in excess. I'll leave the many details for another time, but I am absolutely convinced that we don't need to look like the desert Southwest here in Fort Worth and the rest of the Metroplex. We can have attractive, functional and inspiring landscapes, lawns and gardens and still stay well within the boundaries of responsible water consumption.
In the meantime, our cities ought to settle on one benchmark Stage Alert level. Pick a good compromise, say twice-a-week watering, and leave it in place all year long. Make it consistent across the entire Metroplex, so we're all playing by the same rules. Sure, if things get really dry, we understand restrictions would have to be ramped up, but let twice-a-week be the default, and try not to vary it. We can live with that.
It also needs to be noted that there is currently no consistency among different cities' meanings of Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4. It's just crazy trying to explain watering schedules to North Texas readers and listeners abiding by 35 or 50 sets of regulations. Irrigation contractors working in several cities face the same obstacles.
Our team has too many quarterbacks calling out signals and too few linemen to get the work done. Let's all pitch in together.
Again, those are only my own personal opinions. And, as much as I hate to admit being hard-headed, I don't think they're going to change.
Neil Sperry publishes "Gardens" magazine and hosts Texas Gardening from 8 to 11 a.m. Sundays on WBAP AM/FM. Reach him during those hours at 800-288-9227 or 214-787-1820.