Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Emergency Website for Hays County

Hays County is coordinating a countywide effort to help the public have access to official information during emergency situations in Hays County. Internet users can now visit when a major emergency occurs to get updates on the situation. Authorized users from the county, cities, school districts, law enforcement, fire and EMS departments will be able to post information about major emergency events so that residents and visitors can get real-time information about what is going on.

The website will be used to post information about major emergencies, including issues that affect schools, but not minor or scheduled street closings or signal light issues and the like. Each authorized jurisdiction and agency, including the on-scene commander for major situations, will be able to post information from the scene, from an office or by the side of the road quickly and efficiently. It will also make it easier for response agencies that do not have public information staff to post information.

Another feature of the new website is that by using an RSS feed, other entities can link to the information, helping to ensure that official information is shared and lessening the occurrence of inaccurate information and rumors being spread via social media. The County will soon begin publicizing the website via bumper stickers, sending information home with school children and at other venues where the public congregates.

Emergency responders see this as an advantage for people traveling within our county from one community to another and for persons who might be traveling through the county when an emergency situation is occurring. Rather than try to visit websites or phone various jurisdictions, the information will be in one place and easy to review. People will be able to tell if roads are blocked, schools are locked down or if an area is being evacuated, and know what action officials are asking them to take.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Landscape Maintenance Practices Save Water

Proper maintenance is a key principle in reducing irrigation requirements in the landscape. Maintenance practices, such as mulching, mowing and fertilizing greatly impact the water efficiency of any landscape, as well as the landscape's ability to survive a drought.

Research at Texas A&M University has shown that unmulched soil may lose twice as much water to evaporation as mulched soil. Mulch is a layer of material covering the soil surface around plants. Mulches can be organic materials, such as shredded bark, compost and wood chips; or inorganic materials, such as lava rock, limestone and woven plastic.

Use a mulch wherever possible. A good mulch preserves soil moisture, prevents soil
compaction, keeps soil temperatures more moderate and reduces weed populations. In case weeds do get a start, they are much easier to pull if a mulch has been used.

Organic mulches will decompose and sometimes wash away, so make checks regularly and replacements when necessary.

In addition to mulching, other maintenance practices help save water in the landscape. Raising the mowing height on turfgrasses helps lawns survive drought conditions. For example, raise the mowing height on St. Augustinegrass to 3 ½ to 4 inches during drought. The typical mowing height is 2-2 ½ inches.

Another maintenance practice that adds to the efficient use of water by plants is proper
fertilization. Applying fertilizer to the lawn at the proper time and in the proper amount can save time, effort and money through reduced mowing and watering. Fertilizers can also be a major source of pollution of streams and groundwater if excessive amounts are applied.

Fertilize the lawn once in spring and again in fall to produce a beautiful turf without
excess growth which demands frequent watering. Use a slow-release form of nitrogen in spring and a quick release form in fall. Apply only 1 pound of actual nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn at one time. By using this fertilizer schedule, no other fertilizer is needed for most shrubs and trees in the lawn area.

Other cultural practices that add to the efficient use of water by plants are periodic
checks of the irrigation system, properly-timed insect and disease control and elimination of water-demanding weeds.