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Water Matters: April – July 2024 edition


Long gone are the days when “meter readers” had to walk around to each house, manually writing down numbers and then transcribing water use data back at the office. Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) or “Smart Meters” provide data almost instantaneously and seamlessly, allowing for greater transparency as well as efficiency. Utilizing software called “WaterSmart”, LMUD customers have access to the same information that the utility has about their water use with the ability to view, track, and analyze their usage trends.

Breaking Lawn Addictions

When it comes to altering our environment, lawns are king. Lawn (turf) grass is the most irrigated plant in the United States, but provides the least ecological habitat potential. It’s also big business with millions of pounds of fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides applied to lawns each year. Much of this is leached into our water supply by rainwater runoff and over irrigation. But where does this standard come from and why is it still so prevalent? It’s time to reconsider our relationship with the space surrounding our homes.

Time Line of Grass Lawns

  • 1600s: The middle English word launde originally referred to a glade or opening in the woods, but was later designated as artificial stretches of land that resembled such glades. These open spaces around wealthy homes became popular in Europe. The trend was brought to North America during colonization in the 1600s. At the time, livestock was used to keep the lawns tidy, but the native grasses were devoured so colonists imported more familiar grasses from Europe to replace them.
  • 1700s: With the sturdier, “better behaved” imported grass becoming more readily available, figureheads such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson popularized the concept of large, sweeping lawns of grass, eventually becoming a status symbol for the wealthy. These vast landscapes were maintained by laboring over scythes to cut the grasses.
  • 1800s: A more efficient, horse-drawn “mower” was developed to maintain the swaths of grass, followed by a mechanical mower that first gained popularity in Britain and was brought to North America around 1870. Around this time, a popular book by Frank J. Scott called The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds popularized the belief that manicured lawns “make you a model citizen.” Soon afterwards, in 1871 a patent was granted for a water sprinkler connected to a garden hose, utilizing the wide-scale access to city-supplied water made newly available to all homes.
  • 1900s: The lawn care market became big business and an established part of American culture. Golf started gaining in popularity which required turf tough enough to withstand the demands of the sport, causing lawns to get “better” for everyone. Chemicals, better mowers, and other equipment plus an increase in information about lawn care took off. Ted Steinberg was one critic of the trend, stating grass lawns were “an outdoor expression of 1950s conformism.”

Why Do We (Still) Love Lawns So Much?

  •  We equate green with nature: With the majority of us working inside all the time, it’s soothing to come home to an expansive green lawn.
  • Lawns are no-brainers: Landscaping requires a lot of education and planning, but with turf grass, you just lay it in the empty space and then routinely water, mow, and fertilize it. If you don’t have time to maintain it, you can easily hire someone else to do it for you.
  • Lawns are the standard: Lawns are expected and even required by many homeowners associations (HOAs).
  • “It’s what we’ve always done”: Most people don’t really care what their yard looks like as long as it’s tidy so are unaware of how harmful these swaths of cultured green spaces are for our health, our environment, and nature as a whole.

Wildscaping with Texas Native Plants

Thankfully, there is a better (less-boring and eco-friendly) alternative to yards covered by expanses of green grass and one that requires a lot less ongoing maintenance: “wildscaping” with native plants, after the initial installation, takes very little upkeep and provides food for butterflies and other beneficial insects (pollinators) as well as habitat and food for birds. Many people think native plants are boring, but this is absolutely not the case: there are a plethora of Texas native annuals and perennials that give you color and interest throughout every season.

Native plants can also produce fruits and vegetables. Fruit trees (such as peach, plum, persimmon, apple, pomegranate) and vegetables (such as chard, cabbage, and parsley) can be intermixed with native shrubs and trees or in their own beds.

If you are new to gardening, or new to Texas (and therefore not used to the particulars of our climate and environment), stick with the plants that are easy to grow then move on to more challenging plants as you gain confidence. A few more suggestions:

  • Start slowly: Add a few plants one year, giving them space to grow, then each year, add another few plants. Vary texture, colors, shapes, and sizes to add visual interest. Get ideas on what they look like full grown by visiting gardens like the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. You can also just walk around your neighborhood and take pictures of plants that are thriving.
  • Buy from nurseries that sell Texas native plants: Soil in Texas can vary from rocky to clay to sand and everything in-between, so knowing the environment of your area will also help give your new plants the best opportunity to thrive. Local nurseries will carry what works in your area and can help in your plant selection process. Show them your photos or ask them what may work best in your yard.

Adapted from presentation by Louise Placek, Native Plant Society of Texas, LMUD Open House, Oct. 2023 •

WaterSmart/AMI Meter Technology

Long gone are the days when “meter readers” had to walk around to each house, manually writing down numbers and then transcribing water use data back at the office. This method was not only time consuming, but allowed for a wide margin of error. While there have been advancements since then, the latest water metering technology – Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) or “Smart Meters” – provides data almost instantaneously and seamlessly through the use of a radio or cellular transmitter which securely sends water use information from each meter to a receiver, located at a high point in the utility’s service area and strengthened by repeaters. This data is encrypted and sent automatically and securely to the utility; no personnel required. Rather than data being accessible only during readings that revolve around our billing cycles (every two months), we are able to provide our customers with near real-time water usage data. With the addition of software that provides this data directly to our customers, we are allowing for greater transparency as well as efficiency. But with greater knowledge comes greater responsibility: for our customers, this means doing their part in managing their water use to help prevent a precious resource from being wasted.

Lakeway MUD installed AMI meters service-area wide in December 2021. In November 2022, we launched a portal called “WaterSmart” to give customers access to the same information that the utility has about their water use. When customers create an account (for free), they have the ability to view, track, and analyze their usage trends down to the hour with data that is updated every six hours. The portal also provides customers with a comparison to similar homes in the area, a breakdown of where they are using the most water, and tips for how to reduce their water use.

Without even registering for WaterSmart, all LMUD customers receive leak alerts automatically by email if the system detects continuous water use at a minimum of 25 gallons per hour over a 24-hour period of time. “Burst” leak alerts are sent out with a minimum continuous usage of 75 gallons per hour over an eight-hour period of time. Through their portal, customers also have the ability to sign up to receive these alerts by phone call or text message. The alerts include how many gallons are being used per hour; this information can help the customer determine the source of the potential leak. For example: a running toilet uses about 30 gallons per hour whereas an outdoor hose left on overnight uses about 600 gallons per hour. The email alerts include a link to the leak resolution flow which includes prompts for where and how to check for the leak.

Due to the ongoing extreme drought, Lakeway MUD has also begun enforcing watering restrictions. This includes sending out notices of potential excess irrigation based on the data provided by the AMI meters through WaterSmart software. The system’s algorithm detects a pattern of use that it suspects is due to timed irrigation to generate a report and automatically send out notices to the impacted customers on a weekly basis. We expect our customers to pay attention to these notices and make adjustments to their irrigation controller if needed. It’s important to note that the irrigation controller should be checked routinely, especially any time there is a power outage at the property since the controller can reset the schedule automatically causing a customer to be irrigating more than they intend. Depending on the irrigation schedule, customers are assigned a specific day or days when they are allowed to irrigate based on the last digit of their service address; doing so helps prevent peak demand at our water treatment plant, which can stress or overload the system.

Check the Lakeway MUD website for a series of helpful tutorial videos on how to get the most out of the WaterSmart customer portal.

Adapted from presentation by Stephanie Threinen, LMUD Public Information Liaison, LMUD Open House, Oct. 2023 •



Watering Restrictions Update Planning Meeting
Tuesday, March 26 and Thursday, April 4, 2024
from 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Lakeway Activity Center, 105 Cross Creek
Local water utilities aim to adjust watering restrictions so all local residents are on the same schedule. Join us for an informational presentation as well as an opportunity to voice your feedback before the final decision is presented at the April LMUD Board of Directors meeting. The same presentation will be given at each meeting.

Earth Day Preschool Story time
Monday, April 22, 2024 from 10:30am – 11:30am
Lake Travis Library, 1938 Lohmans Crossing
LMUD staff will be reading at this Earth Day special edition of story time: Preschool aged children are invited to stop by to enjoy stories, fingerplays, and songs about, you guessed it: water!


LMUD Open House
All Week: May 20 – 24, 2024
with presentations at 10:00am and 2:00pm daily
LMUD Administration Office, 1097 Lohmans Crossing
Stop in any day this week to peruse a wide assortment of literature and water-saving giveaways. Presentations will be held each day at 10:00am and 2:00pm on a variety of water-related topics from tree care and native landscaping to managing leaks and more. The full schedule will be available at LakewayMUD.org.


City of Lakeway 4th of July Parade
Thursday, July 4, 2024 from 8:30am – 9:30am
Lakeway Drive from Live Oak Golf Course to Activity Center
LMUD is an annual participant in the City of Lakeway’s 4th of July parade which brings together residents and visitors alike to celebrate America’s independence and the City’s rich heritage. The parade is a testament to the community’s spirit, unity, and patriotism, and it serves as a reminder of the values that make Lakeway a great place to live and visit. •

Rebates available to LMUD Customers

Did you know that LMUD customers are eligible to apply for rebates on water-saving home updates? LCRA’s Residential Rebates program provides rebates of 50% of the total cost, up to $600 per residential property, for irrigation evaluations, retrofitting or replacing irrigation system equipment, new pool filters and covers, aeration, compost & mulch, and soil testing.

Irrigation System Evaluations
An irrigation system evaluation will properly assess your sprinkler system’s needs, make you aware of any necessary repairs, and could help lower your water use by up to 30%. After verifying eligibility, LCRA will mail you a check up to $100 for the cost of the inspection.

Pressure-Reducing Heads and Nozzles
50% of the cost of devices up to $5 per head or nozzle

Pressure-Reducing Valves and In-Line Regulators
50% of the cost of devices up to $100

Soil Moisture Sensors
50% of the cost of devices up to $250

Rain Sensors
50% of the cost of devices up to $20

WaterSense Smart Controllers
50% of the cost of devices up to $100

Pool Filters
Up to $250 per high-efficiency cartridge filter

Pool Covers
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), using a pool cover can prevent up to 95% of pool water evaporation. LCRA’s rebates cover 50% of the purchase price up to $50 per manual or solar ring, and up to $200 for a permanent mechanical cover.

Mechanical Aeration
50% of equipment rental or contractor costs up to $100

Compost and Mulch
50% of cost up to $300 per household. No Dillo Dirt™, rock or rubber.

Soil Test
Up to $50 for a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension test or 50% of the cost up to $125 for a Texas Plant and Soil Lab test.

Rebates are subject to change. Learn more or apply now at
lcra.org/water/watersmart/rebates. •


Local Water Utilities Update Drought Contingency Plans in Response to LCRA’s New Mandates

At its February 21, 2024 meeting, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) Board of Directors adopted an amendment to their Drought Contingency Plan that requires firm water customers to adopt and implement a watering restriction limiting irrigation of ornamental landscapes to no more than once per week when certain triggers were reached, including anytime the combined storage of lakes Buchanan and Travis drops below 900,000 acre-feet. In response, many water utilities, including LMUD, are updating their Drought Contingency Plan to accommodate these new mandates. Finalized plan update submittals are due by May 1, 2024. LMUD customers are encouraged to attend one of two Watering Restrictions Update Planning Meeting, held Tuesday,
March 26 and Thursday, April 4, 2024 from 7:00pm to 8:00pm at the Lakeway Activity Center (105 Cross Creek). More information can be found at LakewayMUD.org.

Water Service Drought Rates Remain in Effect

As was announced to LMUD customers after the April 12, 2023 LMUD Board of Directors meeting, the Board approved a motion to add a Drought Rate fee structure to the LMUD Rate Order in the event “Stage 3” watering restrictions are enacted. Trigger levels of the then-current Drought Contigency Plan occurred on August 15, 2023. Drought surcharges are intended to reduce demand immediately as a precautionary or emergency response to a temporary and severe limitation in water supplies. Customers that fall in the top-3 tier water users (using above 30,000 gallons per bill cycle/every two months) are impacted by these higher rates: LMUD customers using over 30,000 gallons in one bill cycle (2 months) receive an increase of $1 per 1,000 gallons; customers using over 50,000 gallons receive an increase of $2 per 1,000 gallons; customers using over 80,000 gallons receive an increase of $3 per 1,000 gallons; and customers using over 100,000 gallons per bill cycle receive an increase of $4 per 1,000 gallons. Customers using below 30,000 gallons (approximately 70 percent of our customer base) see no rate increase.

Excess Irrigation Enforcement Remains in Effect

Unless we receive a surplus of rain, extreme drought continues to plague our area. LMUD personnel will continue the required enforcement of watering restrictions as laid out in our Drought Contingency Plan. This includes sending out notices of potential excess irrigation. The WaterSmart system’s algorithm detects a pattern of use that it suspects is due to timed irrigation to generate a report and automatically send out notices to the impacted customers on a weekly basis. We expect our customers to pay attention to these notices and make adjustments to their irrigation controller if needed or contact us with questions. Visit LakewayMUD.org for more information.

City of Lakeway Approves Updates to Landscaping Ordinance

In 2023, Lakeway City Council approved several ordinances related to building and development services, including the use of integrated water management, described as “an integrated approach to managing water which includes landscaping with preferred plants, the green infrastructure approach to rainwater capture and management, and greywater systems.” As was presented at the Council meeting in August 2023 by Senior Planner Charlie Sullivan recommendations included the creation of educational materials that showcase different examples of xeriscaping and making some code changes including greywater storage and a new section on artificial turf, among other possible changes. Updated residential landscaping requirements can be found on the City of Lakeway website: lakeway-tx.gov.

WaterSmart Helps Customers Stay Aware of Their Water Use

Since its launch in November 2022, LMUD’s WaterSmart portal has allowed customers access to detailed information about their household water use. Customers are able to track their hourly and daily water usage, self-identify and resolve leaks, understand where their water is being used, compare their water use to similar households, and set water use alerts. Customers can create an account and log in at lakewaymudtx.watersmart.com.•

Customer Comments

A big thank you to the On Call team early this morning. From the answering service that took the call to servicing & resolving the issue, the folks involved were professional, thorough, understanding & kind. Once again, [we’re] proud to be long time residents of Lakeway & y’all help make it easy to live here.

Christine M.