HPWD Board sets Sept. 10 Public Hearing on amended management plan

The High Plains Underground Water Conservation District Board of Directors have scheduled a Sept. 10 public hearing to receive comments on the District’s amended management plan.

 The hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. in the A. Wayne Wyatt Board Room of the High Plains Water District (HPWD) office, 2930 Avenue Q, in Lubbock. The September Board of Directors meeting follows at 2:00 p.m.

 “Groundwater conservation districts in Texas adopt 10-year management plans. However, they are required by state law to review and re-adopt these plans--with or without revisions--at least once every five years. The 2014 plan amendments are about to expire,” said General Manager Jason Coleman.

 Coleman said the proposed amended 2019 plan contains no major revisions.

 “Basically, we are adding information required by the Texas Water Development Board and the State Legislature; updating the appendices containing Modeled Available Groundwater data resulting from 2016 adopted Desired Future Conditions (DFC); Modeled Water Budgets and Estimated Historical Groundwater Use; adding revised data from the 2017 State Water Plan; and making capitalization and grammar revisions,” he said.

 Persons may request a copy of the draft amended management plan by e-mail at info@hpwd.com.  A copy is also available for public viewing during regular business hours at the district headquarters in Lubbock and the HPWD field office, 301 N 15th Street, Suite 1, in Canyon.

 Written comments concerning the draft amended management plan will be accepted at the District’s Lubbock office until 5 p.m., Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. They may also be submitted by email at jason.coleman@hpwd.org

Cross Section At 65: District Checking On Well Locations

HPWD Geologist William L. (Bill) Broadhurst (at right) is shown at a well site in this HPWD file photo. The other men are unidentified.

HPWD Geologist William L. (Bill) Broadhurst (at right) is shown at a well site in this HPWD file photo. The other men are unidentified.

In accordance with the program that was started during the summer of 1953, progress is being made again this summer in checking the actual locations of wells that have been drilled within the District.

Mr. Raymond Harrell and Mr. Allen Owen have been working throughout a large part of the District for about six weeks. The results of their work are reviewed in the District Office each Monday morning. Although a few apparent violations have been found it is indeed gratifying to know that nearly all persons who have obtained permits and have drilled wells have complied with the spacing regulations.

Again we urge every person who wants a well to select the well site, to measure the distances from his two nearest property lines or quarter section lines, and the distances from the three (3) nearest wells within half a mile of the well site, and then to furnish the measurements to his County Committee at the time of making application for a permit. If the distances meet the requirements of the published rules of the District, he should have no difficulty in obtaining the necessary permit to drill.

Water efficiency of Zoysia grass in Texas Panhandle

Zoysia turfgrass is being studied by Texas A&M AgriLife and USDA-ARS to determine if it is water-efficient and cold hardy in Texas Panhandle landscapes. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

Zoysia turfgrass is being studied by Texas A&M AgriLife and USDA-ARS to determine if it is water-efficient and cold hardy in Texas Panhandle landscapes. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

BUSHLAND – The front lawn of a home built during the Dust Bowl on a location known for soil and water conservation research is the perfect place for a turfgrass project aimed at finding a water-smart alternative to Bermuda and fescue grasses for the High Plains, according to project participants.

The new turf grass demonstration has been installed in front of the 1938-vintage “white house” at Bushland, the original headquarters of the Conservation and Production Research Laboratory which is now jointly operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service and Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

The project, titled Zoysia Turfgrasses for Residential and Commercial Landscapes in the Texas Panhandle, will be conducted by Dr. Brent Auvermann, AgriLife Research center director, Amarillo; Dr. Ambika Chandra, AgriLife Research turfgrass breeder, Dallas; and Dr. Gary Marek, USDA-ARS research agricultural engineer, Bushland.

This demonstration will have a state-of-the-art irrigation system and two varieties, “Chisholm” and “Innovation,” recently released by Chandra and Dr. Jack Fry, Kansas State University turfgrass science professor, Manhattan, Kansas.

Zoysia, compared to other warm-season turfgrasses, generally produces higher quality turf requiring fewer inputs like mowing, nutrients and chemicals due to its natural tolerance to disease, insects, shade and salinity stress, Chandra said.

She has been breeding freeze-tolerant zoysia grass varieties as part of an ongoing project since 2003 with Kansas State.

“While zoysia’s low input requirements, strong shade tolerance and salinity tolerance make it an attractive option for use across the U.S., most species are still found in the southern U.S. due to low tolerance for freezing temperatures,” Chandra said.

The Dallas Center’s turf breeding program produced 640 zoysia hybrids in 2004 and sent them to Kansas to be evaluated for cold tolerance. The breeding lines that survived the cold were evaluated for aesthetic quality and a range of other characteristics, Chandra said.

Chisholm, licensed to Carolina Fresh Farm, is a medium-texture zoysia that is cold hardy into the northern region of the U.S. transition zone. It features rapid establishment and recovery rates as well as superior turf quality compared to Meyer zoysia. Chisholm underwent testing in the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program’s 2002 Zoysiagrass Test as DALZ 0102.

Innovation, originally KSUZ 0802 and licensed to Sod Solutions, features finer leaf texture and superior density to Meyer, she said. It is a good option for landscapers and end users in the transition zone and beyond who are looking for a cold hardy hybrid for golf courses, yards, parks and commercial establishments.

“I expect both of these varieties to not only survive the Texas Panhandle climate, but to produce good turfgrass quality with limited resource input,” Chandra said.

Auvermann said half the sod in the Bushland side-by-side variety comparisons was laid on existing soil; the other side on existing soil amended with composted cattle manure to test what role fertility and organic matter have in its survivability.

“We think the zoysia grass will provide an alternative for landscape contractors for both residential and commercial markets,” he said. “Zoysia grasses act a little bit like Bermuda grass in that they creep and repair themselves. They also use less water than the fescues typically used for the landscaping projects in the Texas Panhandle.”

Marek said developing irrigation scheduling strategies for seasonal crops is one of the primary research goals of the USDA-ARS program at Bushland. Prudent irrigation scheduling provides enough water to achieve desired yield goals but prevents overwatering that results in water percolating below the root zone.

“Those same concepts can be applied to turf irrigation,” he said.

Traditionally, Marek said, there are three grass varieties available to homeowners for turfgrass – fescue, Bermuda and buffalo grass, with fescue using the most water. Fescue greens up earlier and stays green longer than other varieties, so aesthetically, it is generally more pleasing.

“However, fescue can use up to a half-inch of water per day on hot, windy days typical of the Panhandle summers,” he said.

“One of the benefits we hope to evaluate in this trial is to see if these zoysia varieties can compare to fescue grass in aesthetics while using less water,” Marek said.

In addition to the water use, the other aspect of the project is to determine how well the zoysia grass overwinters in the colder climate of the Panhandle, Marek said.

“If these two varieties prove adapted to our climate, as we expect, they ought to use significantly less water than our typical tall fescues, heal themselves, withstand the winters and maintain a luxurious, fine-bladed turf,” Auvermann said.

This project is funded in part by the federal Ogallala Aquifer Project.

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Inspect Domestic Wells To Avoid Groundwater Contamination

August is National Water Quality month!  High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) reminds area residents that regular inspection of domestic water wells can help preserve groundwater quality.

 “We encourage domestic well owners to check their site for any openings that would allow contaminants to adversely impact groundwater quality in that individual well,” said HPWD Manager Jason Coleman, P.E.

 He said well surface seals should be in good condition. If your well has a concrete slab, be sure to check for any large cracks or openings that can allow potential contaminants to enter the well.

 Some wells have steel or PVC sleeves around the casing. Like a slab, this provides a proper seal between the bore hole and casing. Be sure that the sleeve fits properly and is not damaged.

 Well plates should fit securely on top of the casing. There should also be a proper fit where any electrical wiring enters the well plate. This helps ensure that no debris or other contaminants fall into the well. During winter, some wells may be wrapped with insulation. Mice and other vermin may nest in it and contaminate wells that are not properly sealed.

 Coleman added that soil surfaces near the well should be graded so that water drains away from the well casing, slab, or casing sleeve. This helps prevent any possible contamination that can occur following rainfall events.

 Keep the well site and surrounding areas clean. Trash and overgrown vegetation may hide problems and encourage rodent and snake activity. Do not store chemicals near wells or in well houses.

 Contact your local pump installer or water well driller if you note any problems during your inspection. These licensed professionals are skilled at water well repair and maintenance.

 In addition, Coleman says it is a good practice to have a professional laboratory test the quality of the water in your well each year. This is especially important if there is a change in the appearance, smell, or taste of water produced from the well.

 “We encourage folks to visit the domestic well page on the HPWD website (www.hpwd.org/domestic-wells). It features several fact sheets and additional online resources relating to domestic wells and groundwater quality,” he said.

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A Silent Menace . . .

CRUMBLING PARTICLE BOARD COVERS THIS OPEN ABANDONED WELL. THE DEPTH-TO-WATER WAS MEASURED AT 100 FEET AT THE TIME THE WELL WAS DISCOVERED. (hpwd FILE PHOTO)

CRUMBLING PARTICLE BOARD COVERS THIS OPEN ABANDONED WELL. THE DEPTH-TO-WATER WAS MEASURED AT 100 FEET AT THE TIME THE WELL WAS DISCOVERED. (hpwd FILE PHOTO)

Have you ever thought of the terror that would grip the heart of a little child who is trapped at the bottom of an old well?

 Have you ever thought how small a spot of daylight would be if you were looking up one hundred feet through sixteen-inch casing? How small the possibilities of recovery?

 We are finding many holes with as much as forty inches of open space at the top.

 We have been told many times .... ''Yes, I closed my old well. I have two 1 x 4's over it with a brick laid on top” or this is a common excuse, "Aw! No one will ever fall into THAT well, they all know it is there.”

 The little child who lost her life a few years ago in California (Kathy Fiscus - 1949) did not know an old well was hidden in the weeds and grass where she was playing. As surely as day follows night, that will be the price that someday will have to be paid here in the High Plains of Texas before the average citizen will take the time to fill an old well. Maybe that life will be your child or someone in your community who is dear to you. What a terrible price to pay to press the necessity of doing a job that common decency has made us all feel should have been done long ago--the job of filling an old well.

 It is the opinion of this District that every man who is responsible for an open well should be fined the maximum amount of the law which is $500.00 and be made to fill that old well before the day ends.

 For we believe that:  A LITTLE LIFE IS WORTH MORE THAN A LITTLE TIME!

Board approves Arboretum Foundation funding request

During their July 9 meeting, the HPWD Board of Directors approved Lubbock Memorial Arboretum's request for $12,674.71 in funding to create a garden.to educate the public about the "beauty and utility of using water wise, well-adapted and native plants in landscapes of the South Plains region."

This 0.24 acre demonstration garden will be located at the Lubbock Memorial Arboretum, 4111 University Avenue.

This funding request was emailed to HPWD by the May 6, 2019 deadline. However, it was lost and not included in the group of proposals considered by the District's Research and Demonstration Funding Committee.

Chairman Mike Beauchamp asked that the request be placed on the Board Meeting agenda for discussion and consideration by the Board of Directors.

In other business, the Board:

  • Approved the Consent Agenda (Minutes, Financial Statement, and Bills)

  • Approved applications for water well permits received in June 2019.

  • Held preliminary discussion on the proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget for operation and maintenance of HPWD.

  • Selected an auditor for Fiscal Year 2019.

  • Approved a new employee health benefit option.

The next HPWD Board of Directors meeting is Tuesday, August 13, at 1:30 p.m. at the District office in Lubbock. All agendas and past meeting minutes are available at hpwd.org/agendas.

July Is Smart Irrigation Month

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July is typically the month when the most water is used for landscape irrigation. This can account for 50 to 80 percent of the water used in a home during summer months. Much of this is often wasted through selection of improper plant materials and/or inefficient landscape watering practices -- including runoff.

As a result, the Irrigation Association (IA) has named July Smart Irrigation Month to draw attention to use of efficient irrigation technologies and practices.

The High Plains Water District (HPWD) is celebrating this month by sharing tips to help homeowners reduce the amount of water used outdoors.

You can save water in your landscape by implementing some of these practices:

  • Conduct an annual irrigation audit to make sure your system is working efficiently.

  • Replace water-intensive plants with drought-tolerant or native varieties.

  • Use smart technologies to help manage water use. Rain sensors, soil moisture probes, and smart controllers can help you with water management decisions.

  • Water deeply and less frequently to make your turf more resistant to drought and/or foot traffic.

  • Install a rainwater harvesting system to offset your use of groundwater or municipal water supplies.

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Smart Irrigation Month is not just for homeowners. The Irrigation Association also has some helpful tips for agricultural producers.

  • Take advantage of cost-share programs, such as the USDA-NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

  • Minimize irrigation water runoff (“tailwater”) from fields.

  • Use telemetry equipment to improve irrigation scheduling.

  • Improve soil management to improve water infiltration and reduce runoff.

“It is important to make sure irrigation systems are properly operated and maintained,” says High Plains Water District Manager Jason Coleman.  “This not only saves money—but it can help reduce waste of the region’s surface water and groundwater resources.  The High Plains Water District encourages persons to use water wisely without waste each day,” he says.

Additional information about Smart Irrigation Month is available at the Irrigation Association’s website (irrigation.org)

 

Wise with Water

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By Jayme Lozano / A-J Media

 The Ogallala Aquifer has been relied on by communities in eight states for agriculture, drinking water and industry uses since at least 1889. As the water levels have steadily declined, however, there is now a race against the clock to make it sustainable again.

 The High Plains Underground Water Conservation District estimates that there are around 60,000 wells throughout the 16 counties covered by the district. The number has increased over time to meet the needs and demands of the communities, but has also served as a safety net for farmers who have struggled with the common drought issues in West Texas.

 "Agriculture here with the aquifer has been so good for so long, we've been totally dependent on it," said Barry Evans, a Kress producer in the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation. "Now as it's being depleted, we just can't anymore, so we have to figure out how to go without it."

 Evans grows cotton and grain sorghum, and for 25 years has been completely no-till. The technique helps the soil structure remain in-tact, and improves the soil cover to increase the ability to absorb water.

 "The reason I do that is to try to capture every bit of moisture we have, every bit of rain that falls and not losing it, every little bit makes a difference in this part of the world," Evans said. "We really have to save [the water] and use it as necessary."

 While Evans is very conscientious about his water use, there are other producers who still aren't keeping future use of the aquifer in mind despite the studies done by groups including the TAWC.

 "There's certainly some people that are more aware and more conserving than others, and some who want to keep doing what they've always done and don't follow the research," said Evans. "I wish every farmer would. It's important to know what is the most efficient. Everyone wants to make the best use of the aquifer, and I really wish more people would look at what they do."

 The story could change year-by-year though as the climate has grown increasingly unpredictable with each planting season. While there was a drought to start 2018, that was quickly followed by a short burst of heavy rain and hail that destroyed some crops. And this year has seen above-average rainfall that both hurt and helped producers.

 "There hasn't been that much irrigation within the water district so far because of the rain," said Jason Coleman, general manager of the HPWD. "When we see those daily values stay constant, that tells us the pump is not on and the water level is staying there at a higher level."

 Rather than depend on the whims of Mother Nature, the HPWD has several long-term studies still underway to better understand the aquifer and effects of pumping water over time. Current projects consist of interactive maps and guides of the area covered in the water district, and on June 12, two proposals were approved for $157,000 in funding to research recharging methods.

 "We have an improving groundwater recharge project and mapping of playa wetness and estimating recharge project," Coleman said. "I would say before the summer is out, all of that will be in place and the work will be underway."

 While recharge research is beginning, there are other methods in place that are guiding producers towards conserving the water they do have in the meantime. Lloyd Arthur, a cotton producer from Ralls who is also part of the TAWC, contributes his techniques to a useful app called FieldNET that helps him monitor irrigation pivots from a phone or computer.

 "I'm able to speed up the pivot to 100% so I'm not watering the land I don't want to water, and then slow it down and apply more water to my crop, and all in the degrees of a circle," Arthur said. "I have since gotten them on all of my pivots, I think they're that good and valuable of a tool. They do come with a cost, but the value of it for what I'm getting and savings for being a good steward of the water to my land is well worth it."

Telemetry systems, like FieldNet, are typically equipped with a control box, a tipping bucket rain gauge and a series of pressure transducers. The control box is the communication hub. It receives information from the other system components and transmits this information to the user’s phone or computer. In turn, the user can control the pivot from these devices, which helps conserve water, time and resources.

Telemetry systems, like FieldNet, are typically equipped with a control box, a tipping bucket rain gauge and a series of pressure transducers. The control box is the communication hub. It receives information from the other system components and transmits this information to the user’s phone or computer. In turn, the user can control the pivot from these devices, which helps conserve water, time and resources.

 Arthur said the technology has been very helpful for him because, while a quick glance can show when crops are in distress, the app goes into detail about what kind of water the crop is using and therefore, could be causing problems. Data can also be shared between fields to see where farmers want to water rather than getting the management tool on every acre.

 "I think it's helped me do a better job of being more efficient with the water that we're pumping out of the Ogallala," said Arthur, whose farm was chosen for the TAWC's first round of studies. "All farmers are conscious of the water and the water we're pumping, we all know the Ogallala is being depleted and we're trying to do our best to make it sustainable and profitable at the same time."

 The first crop planted by the TAWC was in 2005, after then-State Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock sponsored the legislation that led to grant money being available for the research. In 2010, the group started using moisture sensors that informs growers of the depth the crops are rooted and where the water is being pulled from. After seeing the results, part of the mission for the TAWC became helping farmers get the technology in their hands.

 "We try to help them use the technologies and let them make the decision on how well it worked," said Rick Kellison, TAWC project director. "We're not telling a grower that this technology is better than that one, we're just saying there are differences and what they are."

 The Ogallala Aquifer is still a critical asset to the agriculture community, so it can be hard for some to cut back when the need is there. Kellison explained that instead, sometimes the best answer is making the most out of water that is pumped.

 "If a grower is taking an amount of water and maximizing the production that the amount of water is giving, we think that's using water wisely because it's contributing to the total economy," said Kellison. "Water is only part of the puzzle, our producers are doing a phenomenal job in incorporating all of the best management practices."

 The issue of the depleting aquifer is a serious concern but the efforts to conserve and use it wisely are becoming more effective. Researchers at Texas Tech University are testing grazing methods that have shown to be successful in using alfalfa-grass mixtures to get increased weight gain in cattle while also using less water.

 According to Kellison, a company in Israel spoke with the TAWC about delivering technology that incorporates plant nutrition and water delivery. There has also been interest in multi-species cover crops that will better soil health so it's more receptive to capturing rainfall.

 Techniques and research to save the Ogallala Aquifer are sure to continue, as the agriculture community is taking the problem seriously and are not wanting to see it be wasted anymore.

 "There is a concerted effort from growers to do the very best job they can and we have got excellent support from different industries to help," said Kellison. "We're doing more with less today by far than we were 20 years ago, and I don't know a grower that's not aware and trying to do the best they can."

Check out water levels near your property by visiting  map.hpwd.org

Check out water levels near your property by visiting map.hpwd.org

You Never Miss The Water Until The Well Goes Dry

Reprinted from The Cross Section, Volume 1, No. 2 — July 1954

One of the objectives of the HPUWCD is to continuously call to the attention of the people of this area the fact that the water in the High Plains is a depletable resource. Water has, on occasion, been referred to as a mineral, and like any other mineral, if it is continuously mined, can be exhausted.

The annual reports of the State Board of Water Engineers and the U.S. Geological Survey show that in the southern High Plains we have been taking out water at an unusually high rate in the past few years. We are going to present this factual information as it becomes available to impress upon the minds of the agricultural industrial and municipal water users the necessity of conservative, wise use of water before the well goes completely dry,

Since the principal economy of the Southern High Plains is agricultural, we have coined a phrase that should become foremost on the tongue of every farmer, banker, pump dealer, and well driller in the High Plains — “Conservation Irrigation.”

Conservation Irrigation to us means the use of our irrigation water as an insurance, not as a means of getting rich quickly at the expense of our water and our posterity.

Conservation Irrigation should mean the prolongment of our present economy as long as possible, eliminating to a bare minimum the mining of our valuable resource for the benefit of the few who are using it today.

Certainly, water in storage is like fruit in a jar. It is no good unless put to beneficial use. But few people have consumed a jar of fruit at one sitting, for in so doing, they not only suffer the physical consequences, but tomorrow, they have no fruit for their next meal.

We cannot say that harvesting the fruits of a bountiful harvest produced by indiscriminate pumping would hurt us, but what of the harvest of tomorrow?

As Benjamin Franklin so aptly said, “You never miss the water until the well goes dry.”

HPWD Board approves research and demonstration project funding

More than $157,000 in funding for water research and education was approved by the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) Board of Directors at their June 11 meeting.

 There were 16 projects submitted for funding. Each was evaluated by an eight-member committee, consisting of three Board members, two County Advisory Committee members, two members of the public, and the General Manager.

 Of these, 11 projects were approved. They are:

  • Plant Based Polymers to Remove Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and Arsenic in Groundwater.

  • Rainwater Harvesting Demonstration Project.

  • Evaluation of TDR Soil Moisture Sensor.

  • Drought Tolerant Corn Hybrids.

  • Improving Groundwater Recharge.

  • Mapping Playa Wetness & Estimating Playa Recharge.

  • 3D Aquifer Visualization Model.

  • Water Conservation Demonstration Garden.

  • Effects of Shade on Water Use in Turfgrass.

  • Playa Basin Field Days & Festivals.

  • Texas 4-H Water Ambassadors.

“HPWD is pleased to support these educators and researchers as they work to encourage water conservation education, promote more efficient water use, and improve crop production. Each approved project is designed to help conserve and preserve groundwater resources for the future,” said Board President Lynn Tate of Amarillo.

For more information about HPWD supported research, please visit www.hpwd.org/research or call the district office at (806) 762-0181. You can also find HPWD on Facebook and Twitter.