San Angelo employees installed a new $5,000 scientific-grade weather station by the soccer fields on Glenna Street on Wednesday. Officials said the tool will help water conservation efforts and save money on water bills.
The ET weather station will measure five key weather data:
- Air temperature
- Solar radiation
- Wind speed
- Relative humidity
This data will be collected once a day by Charles Swanson, a landscape irrigation specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in College Station, which manages the Texas ET Network including about 46 weather stations throughout the state. The San Angelo weather station should be online and part of the network by Friday.
“It’s just like driving a car. You know how many gallons you use in your gas tank, you fill that many gallons back up in your car when it’s empty,” Swanson said. “With the weather station we measure how many inches of water your yard uses and we tell you how many inches of water you need to put back on your yard.”
That’s the simple explanation.
ET stands for evapotranspiration data. “It tells us the total amount of water needed to grow our plants, by taking into account the amount of water that’s transpired (exhaled) during the day by plants and also the amount that potentially evaporates from the soil,” he explained. “We can measure that using weather data and using a really complex equation … We can input all of the weather data from our weather station and it’ll tell us how many inches a day a type of grass or a type of plant can use.”
Of course, the amount of water needed will vary from day to day depending on changing weather conditions.
Roger Havlak, senior parks manager for the city, plans to use the collected data to determine “how long we should be watering using our system” throughout the year. He said this new tool not only leads to more efficient watering and saves money, but will also help San Angelo residents.
“Landscape managers, farmers, ranchers can use that data to try to understand how much water loss is actually occurring in the area,” Havlak said, adding that San Angelo homeowners will be able to participate in the Water My Yard program, which is only offered when the Extension Service partners with local utilities or cities.
“The Water My Yard program gives homeowners an opportunity to go online and enter a system where this weather station is sending information,” Havlak said. People can get specific information by inputting details about what kind of irrigation systems they have — sprinkler type, manufacturer, spacing, etc. — and the program will calculate the precipitation rate of the residents’ systems and tell them how many inches they need to water. The data will reflect weather conditions, such as a hot, dry day, a cloudy day, or high humidity.
“We’ve learned through research that a lot of homeowners tend to over-irrigate their yards. They think a little water is good for their grass, so more water is better, but they put out more water than is necessary,” Swanson said.
“The Water My Yard program is very easy for homeowners to follow. They can just go to their controller or water faucet, however they irrigate, and only put out the amount of water they need,” he added. “It saves them money, too, because water’s not free. So they can save on their water bill and they can have a nice yard at the same time.”
The weather station and participation in the ET Network and Water My Yard program are all made possible thanks to a $15,000 National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP) grant the city received this summer. It will also help pay for a rain capture system at the Bosque.
“This is another tool for all of us to use,” Havlak said, one that he plans to build on. More information on the Water My Yard program will be available when the weather station is online.
By Rashda Khan | San Angelo Standard-Times