File 2012/Staff Photo
Last year, Highland Park had the highest rate in Dallas County of West Nile virus. It also has one of the highest residential water use rates in North Texas.
By MELISSA REPKO
ublished: 15 January 2013 10:24 PM
HIGHLAND PARK — It may be the middle of winter, but Highland Park is already preparing for next mosquito season and debating how to fight West Nile virus.
Town officials say they’re counting on residents to enlist in the effort by surveying their properties for stagnant water and monitoring water use.
“There’s a correlation between the two,” said Ronnie Brown, director of town services. “You can’t breed mosquitoes without water. If we can work on source reduction before we have a public health issue, that’s what we want to do.”
Last year, Highland Park had the highest rate in Dallas County of West Nile virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, according to Dallas County Health and Human Services. Six cases were reported among the town’s 8,740 residents.
It also has one of the highest residential water use rates in North Texas, according to regional data collected by The Dallas Morning News. A Highland Park resident used an average of 364 gallons per day in 2011, roughly three times more water per person than in Dallas. Much of that is used for outdoor irrigation of large, landscaped properties.
Outdoor watering, if done in excess, can contribute to pools of stagnant water and create breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Last year, West Nile virus sickened hundreds over a four-county area, and health officials said it was the worst outbreak in North Texas history. There were 398 cases in Dallas County, according to health officials, and just this week, Dallas County announced that a 19th victim, who was over 90 and lived in a North Dallas and Preston Hollow ZIP code, had died.
A committee of Highland Park residents has drafted a mosquito control plan to reduce breeding hot spots, monitor the mosquito population and educate the public — with an emphasis on prevention.
“The elimination of mosquito breeding sites is critically, and typically, the most effective and economical solution for long-term mosquito control,” the draft reads. “Small pools of water that are created by irrigation or heavy rains during the summer produce the most of our nuisance species of mosquitoes.”
Draining or filling areas where water can accumulate.
Offering voluntary backyard inspections for residents to look for stagnant water.
Trimming vegetation on town property that can become mosquito hot spots.
Treating fountains, manhole covers, storm water inlets and drains with larvicide.
Promoting and enforcing water conservation.
The town also will monitor mosquitoes through trapping and testing and will use organic and chemical methods, like pesticides, when needed, the draft says.
Highland Park Town Manager Bill Lindley said he’d like mosquito control information to be featured prominently on the town’s website and would like police to spread the word even when handing out speeding tickets.
In March, Highland Park and University Park officials plan to distribute informational door hangers to every household, and Highland Park will send a letter to residents, Lindley said.
Highland Park also plans to hire a consultant to study water rates and consider how a different rate structure could promote conservation. University Park is doing a similar study.
The town has taken steps to conserve water in its parks, with smart controllers for automatic sprinklers and soil additives, said Brad Boganwright, manager of town services. Last fall, park employees began installing controllers that detect rain and freezing temperatures and use historical weather data to predict appropriate watering.
Last spring, the parks department began using a soil additive, similar to an organic fertilizer, to help the soil retain moisture.
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