HPWD accepting water depletion data requests

By Jed Leibbrandt, Depletion Coordinator

With tax season upon us, HPWD is now accepting requests for data to claim a cost-in-water income tax depletion allowance.

This yearly program uses annual water level measurements to determine changes in the water table throughout the District. The information is then made available to land owners for use in preparation of their taxes to determine if a loss of water under their property may constitute a tax break.

To participate in the program please follow the steps below.

▪ Visit www.hpwd.org and browse to the “Water Use” heading. Select the “Water Depletion” link to find the Initial Request and Reorder Forms.

▪ To complete the form, you need to provide your contact information, legal description of your property, and the year of the land purchase. This information is used to determine the level of the water table (“saturated thickness”) when the property was purchased.

 ▪ There is no limit to the number of properties that can be requested as long as they are within the boundaries of the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District.

▪ If you normally have a tax professional prepare your return, you may also ask them to contact HPWD for your Water Depletion values.

 ▪ If you would prefer a paper form, please call 806-762-0181 or stop by the HPWD office.

▪ Once completed, the forms may be returned to us by the following methods:

Email: Jed@hpwd.org

Fax: 806-762-1834

In Person or by Mail: HPWD, 2930 Avenue Q, Lubbock, TX 79411-1499.

Please call (806) 762-0181 or email Jed@hpwd.org if you have questions or need more information.

City of Wolfforth to drill new municipal water supply well

Drilling will soon begin on a new municipal water supply well in Wolfforth, which will also be used to investigate the Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) and Dockum Aquifers in western Lubbock County.

Texas based Layne Christensen Company will begin drilling the well early next week. The entire project is expected to be completed in two weeks.

The City of Wolfforth is exploring possible use of groundwater in the Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) Aquifer for municipal use. This aquifer lies directly beneath the Ogallala, which is the primary aquifer on the Southern High Plains.

A small diameter test hole will be drilled through the Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) and Dockum aquifers to a depth of approximately 1,700 feet. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will then log the entire borehole using advanced technological methods.  The information from this survey provides very detailed analysis of the formations, including water quality.  After the logging is complete, the Dockum Aquifer portion of the test hole will be plugged to the base of the Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) Aquifer, which is about 300 feet below land surface.

If adequate water is located and can be produced from the Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) aquifer, the test hole will be reamed, cased and completed for use as a municipal well to increase the City of Wolfforth’s current groundwater supply. If this effort proves successful, it will be less costly than pumping water from the city’s other water rights which are located southwest of Wolfforth.

City of Wolfforth officials are working to ensure citizens have a reliable source of clean drinking water for years to come. The recently completed electro-dialysis reversal (EDR) treatment plant addresses this need.  This state-of-the-art water treatment plant went online in May 2017 and is currently serving approximately 4,600 citizens.  Officials are hopeful this test well project will increase the city’s current water supply.

The High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) Board of Directors unanimously agreed to cost-share this exploratory well with the City of Wolfforth in early 2017. The HPWD Board agreed to allocate $90,000 to assist with the project, plus USGS logging costs.

 “The Edwards-Trinity Aquifer will hopefully provide us with a water source that will not compete with our own wells or the irrigation wells in the area,” said Wolfforth City Manager Darrell Newsom. “Our partnership with HPWD will allow us to share information with other cities in the region, and that will help all of us. HPWD’s cooperation and support will allow us to obtain much more complete data than we would be able to obtain and understand on our own.”

This is the District’s third partnership with a municipality to explore the Dockum Aquifer. In 2016, the cities of Abernathy and Lubbock, with assistance from the HPWD, drilled test wells to determine the quality and quantity of the brackish aquifer. Lubbock’s test well, located near the South Water Treatment Plant, was completed in December 2016.

“We are learning more about the Dockum Aquifer as a result of these efforts,” said HPWD General Manager Jason Coleman. “In recent years, the District has established a monitoring network in this aquifer, and these partnerships allow us to add additional data collection sites.”

Water projects recognized at SP Regional Science Fair

HPWD Information/Outreach Staff judged water-related projects at the 62nd annual South Plains Regional Science and Engineering Fair held Feb. 9 at the United Supermarkets Arena at Texas Tech University.  

Approximately 468 projects were entered in this year’s fair. Each project is an award winner at the local school level.
 
Each year, HPWD provides an award certificate for the best water-related projects at the regional competition.

The 2018 award winners are as follows:

Map the Tap

Cora Clifford, 5th grade, Honey Elementary School, Lubbock. Her project compared the quality of several water samples collected in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Virginia. She toured and collected a water sample from Wolfforth’s EDR plant.

 What’s In the Water – Playa Edition: Is the Water Really Safe?

Amelia Burch, 7th grade, Laura Bush Middle School, Lubbock. Her project tested the water quality in several playa basins in Lubbock.

Chemical Analysis of Rainwater

Amanda Kell, 8th grade, Christ the King Cathedral School, Lubbock. Her project compared radish seed germination using rainwater samples collected from different parts of the United States.

Evaluation of Surfactants on Color and Moisture in Turfgrass (Year 2)

Michael (Mac) Chaloupka, 8th grade, Christ the King Cathedral School, Lubbock. His project continued evaluation of surfactants to reduce evaporation losses in Turfgrass. Dr. Joey Young of Texas Tech was a resource for this project.

Filtered Runoff on Aquatic Life Using Daphnia (Year 3)

Alexandra Gonzales, 12th grade, Christ the King Cathedral School, Lubbock. Her project examined water runoff from agricultural fields, parking lots, and other surfaces to see how Daphnia (water fleas) are impacted. They are sensitive to changes in water quality.

Rainwater Harvesting

Deborah de Farias, 12th grade, Lubbock High School. This project continues her earlier research in rainwater harvesting as an alternative water supply.  She is a previous HPWD award winner.

 

Parts of Texas enter wildfire season earlier than usual

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A quail hunter walks through tall, dead grass near Bronte. Grasslands that have not been grazed or managed pose a serious wildfire threat in parts of the state. Texans should take precautions to avoid sparking fires. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Adam Russell)

COLLEGE STATION – Wildfire season has arrived earlier than usual due to high fuel availability, drought and other environmental conditions, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Dr. Andy Vestal, AgriLife Extension director for emergency management at Texas A&M University, College Station, said the Energy Release Component, which measures how hot and long available fuel can burn if sparked, is at critical levels in some areas of the state. Conditions for wildfires are high when coupled with high winds, low relative humidity and other environmental factors. 

Vestal said most of the state west of the Interstate 35 corridor is at a critical point as existing fuel, arid conditions and wind contribute to fire potential and threats.

“Grasslands that have not been regularly grazed or managed have enough fuel to create high ERCs, and that is the threat,” he said. “You add high winds like we’ve been seeing into the equation and you have the threat of a serious fire that could be extremely difficult to control.”

Wildfire season typically starts around March and lasts through spring green-up in April and May, Vestal said, as dead grasses, warm, dry conditions and spring winds increase fire potential. This year, wetter conditions early in 2017 provided conditions for grasses to grow but were followed by drought.

“Be cognizant and aware of the potential threat from welding and cutting metal at work sites,” he said. “Environmental conditions at this point of the winter could make for a long fire season. These conditions arrived about a month ahead of schedule and could mean the wildfire season could extend to 90, possibly 100, days before the typical green-up.”

All it takes is a single spark to cause a wildfire, Vestal said. A fire in 2016 in Hamilton County was traced to a vehicle that was accidentally dragging a chain. The chain sparked fires along the roadside for 2 to 3 miles.

Vestal said it was lucky conditions were not windy when the ignition of that fire occurred.

The National Weather Service issued Red Flag Warnings, which indicate threatening wildfire conditions to more than 60 Texas counties Jan. 30. Vestal said conditions, especially precipitation, are not expected to improve over the next week.

Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, AgriLife Extension state climatologist, College Station, said the U.S. Drought Monitor continues to show worsening drought around Texas as La Nina conditions – which typically bring warmer, drier weather patterns to much of the state – continue.

The drought monitor shows 85.5 percent of the state is “abnormally dry” compared to less than 20 percent three months ago. Almost 20 percent of the state is experiencing severe or extreme drought, especially in the Panhandle and a pocket in Central Texas. 

“The long-term outlook continues to call for below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures,” he said.

Vestal said a recent fire in Motley County burned almost 6,000 acres.

“It’s amazing to think we have a season named after such potentially devastating events, but we have historical data that tells us it happens,” he said. “This year, it’s happening earlier than usual, and our producers and the public need to be mindful about the dangers and take precautions to prevent catastrophe.”

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Hereford ISD students win 2018 H2You Contest

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Aubrey Schueler and Victoria Betzen give their winning presentation to a panel of judges at the HPWD office.


Hereford High School students Victoria Betzen and Aubrey Schueler are winners of the 2018 H2YOU water conservation awareness contest, sponsored by the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD).

Betzen and Schueler presented their municipal water conservation campaign to a panel of judges at the HPWD office on January 25. Nathan Betzen and Amy Schueler are the team sponsors.

Judges were Vikram Baliga, Lubbock County Extension Agent-Horticulture; Darrell Newsom, City Manager of Wolfforth; and Victoria Whitehead, HPWD Governmental Affairs Director.

Using the theme, “Splash to the Future,” Betzen and Schueler examined use of irrigation scheduling, soil moisture sensors, artificial turf and xeriscaping, leak detection, rainwater harvesting, greywater use, and enforcing water waste ordinances as ways to save water for the future.

The Hereford High School students earned an all-expense paid trip to Austin, where they will present their water conservation campaign to their state representative and/or members of the Texas Water Development Board.  They will also give their presentation at an upcoming meeting of the HPWD Board of Directors.

Second place honors went to Aubrie Fields, Rori Phillips, and Emma Rich of Sudan High School. The FFA members’ campaign, “Our Water – Our Future” shared information about water conservation techniques used by local agricultural producers, Red Rock Dairy at Amherst, and the “Plant X” / Tolk Station electric generating stations in Lamb County.

Third place went to Koby Houston, Haley Lawson, Brandon Madison, and Kayla Rodriquez of Crosbyton High School. Their campaign, “Be Green, Let’s Go…Save H2O” included a public awareness component in which the students provided water conservation tips that they distributed to the public at their local bank, pharmacy and store.

“The HPWD Board of Directors and staff commend the student teams for their hard work, insight, and dedication in addressing water conservation issues. The judges were very impressed with the students and their presentations,” said Katherine Drury, HPWD Education and Outreach Coordinator.

Ag irrigation strategies discussed at Jan. 24 TAWC Water College

Variable rate irrigation technology, soil management, upcoming weather patterns, and an evaluation of various irrigation systems were among the topics discussed at the Jan. 24 Texas Alliance for Water Conservation (TAWC) Water College.

Approximately 244 persons attended the day-long event and trade show at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center.

TAWC producer Lloyd Arthur told the group that he is "a big believer" in variable rate irrigation technology which enables him to speed up or slow down his center pivot system as needed to reduce water losses.

"I can speed up the pivot to get across terraces, turnrows, and pivot access roads to reduce runoff and then slow it down to apply water to the more profitable part of the field. This helps optimize every acre," he said.

Use of soil moisture sensors aided Arthur in adjusting the run times of his center pivot and drip irrigation systems.

"Information from the sensors sent to my phone showed me that some of the water being applied was not making its way to the plant roots. Because of this, I adjusted my pivot and drip system run times accordingly."

TAWC producer  R.N. Hopper discussed various paradigms that he and his father, Ronnie, have  encountered in their farming operation. They included furrow irrigation, center pivots, Roundup Ready seed, no-till operations, and biological soil health.

"We thought each was the best solution but outlooks change over time as a result of weather, new crop varieties, new technologies, economics, and other variables. We don't go back and judge these past paradigms because they were the best management practices that we could accomplish at the time," said Hopper.

Roian Atwood, Director of Sustainability for Wrangler, discussed the denim company's recent partnership with the TAWC program.

TAWC will serve as an advisor to Wrangler's U.S. sustainable cotton program. Wranger, in turn, will help promote awareness of best farm management practices  resulting from TAWC's on-farm research.

Wyman Meinzer, official photographer of the State of Texas, was the keynote lunch speaker. 
He shared his three-year experience photographing the San Antonio Viejo Ranch in Jim Hogg County for the upcoming book, Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut. It details the 100-year history of the ranch and the ranching heritage of the Tom T. East family.

TAWC producer Glenn Schur provided results of a center pivot technology demonstration that compared crop yields under Low Drift Nozzles, LEPA, LESA, and Precision Mobile Drip Irrigation.

Other presentations included an update from Texas Water Development Board member Kathleen Jackson, an overview of Texas water law, discussion of profit potential using split pivot irrigation technologies in cotton production, a look at upcoming weather patterns, a review of producer tools available through the West Texas Mesonet, and ways to improve corn water use through hybrid selection. 

A handbook with each PowerPoint presentation is available at www.tawcwatercollege.com

Healthy soils conserve water

From the Fall 2017 HPWD Conservation Connect magazine

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During a recent crop residue field day in Hale County, USDA-NRCS Zone Agronomist Brandt Underwood placed two soil samples onto pieces of mesh and then submerged them in individual cylinders filled with water.

 As the Slake Test progressed, people watched as most of the conventionally tilled soil fragments quickly dissipated within a five-minute period.  The minimum tillage soil fragments, containing higher organic matter, remained in the mesh for an extended time.

 “As this demonstrates, the minimum tillage soil has greater structure (tilth) which provides greater stability. This improves soil aeration and water retention while reducing erosion and nutrient leaching,” said Underwood.

 Many High Plains agricultural producers are working to improve their soil health to increase crop yields and better utilize their groundwater resources.

 Conservation tillage and/or no-till operations are one way to accomplish this.

 “This is a way to put the soil back in balance and return it to a natural state. Most of the soil activity is currently bacterial, which burns up organic material and nutrients. Bringing the fungal level back to a natural state will be beneficial in the long run.” said Jeff Miller with ForeFront Agronomy.

 He said soil contains 45 percent minerals, 25 percent water, 25 percent air, and five percent organic matter. Of the organic matter, 80 percent is humus, 10 percent are roots, and 10 percent are organisms, such as bacteria and fungi.

 “Water must displace air to enter the soil. The higher the bulk density, the greater the soil compaction.  Soils with high compaction are likely to have poor water infiltration rates and slower root growth. No-till can increase water infiltration rates in the soil by as much as 10 percent. There is also a 10 percent increase in rooting depth,” said Miller.

 He noted that test plots with lower crop residue required an additional 1.5 to 2.5 inches of irrigation water to achieve the same crop yield as compared to plots with residue on the surface. At the end of the growing season, plots with more residue contained an additional 1.5 inches of water in the top four feet of the soil profile as compared to those plots with no residue cover.  Plots with residue on the soil surface would save three to four inches of irrigation water as compared to bare soil.

 No-till operations have been fairly common in Kansas for many years. However, Miller said the practice is in its infancy here on the Panhandle-South Plains.

 “It got a bad rap because some folks were doing it incorrectly.  You can’t have a monoculture crop, such as cotton only. There must be multiple crops grown during multiple years for it to work properly.  With that in mind, some producers are taking a second look at no-till.  They are adding cover crops to their farming operations. Some are considering nutrient recapture to increase soil organic matter and reduce compaction,” he said.

 Miller believes no-till farming can be beneficial to the region.

 “We’ve seen advances in irrigation technology that allows water to be applied more efficiently.  Now, we’re seeing new ways to improve irrigation management and scheduling. This allows producers to make better decisions, which we hope will help slow groundwater decline in our area,” he said.

 Kelly Kettner, who operates a 4,000 acre farm in Lamb and Parmer Counties, has used no-till farming practices since 2004. His main crops include cotton, corn, sorghum, wheat, and barley.

 Initially, he stopped plowing in an attempt to halt soil erosion.  “I was frustrated by having to go out and run a sand fighter.”

 However, attendance at the 2009 No Till On The Plains conference in Kansas gave Kettner an understanding that no-till farming is much more than simply choosing not to plow fields.

 “It showed me the importance of noticing your native ecosystem and trying to mimic it through farming practices using summer and winter cover crops,” he said.  It was then that he starting using a true no-till system with cover crops and strategic crop rotations.

 The Muleshoe producer has seen many benefits from converting to no-till farming.

 “My soils are definitely healthier. I have many earthworms now—and after rain events, I see mushrooms and white fungi growing on the old crop residue. Fungus is the ‘glue’ that holds organic matter in place. This allows water and nutrients to be readily available for growing crops,” Kettner said.  He added that his soil has a soft, sponge-like texture when he plants his summer cash crop following the winter killed cover crop.

 He has also observed an increase in crop water use efficiency.

 “Water use efficiency has greatly increased since adopting no-till practices. Very seldom do I irrigate cotton before bloom and I can usually delay watering corn until the v6 stage.  The only exception is if we have a dry spring and the cover crop has depleted moisture stored in the soil profile,” he said.

 Input costs, such as fuel for plowing, have also reduced.  “I’m no longer making multiple trips across the field to plow.  The cover crops provide plant competition to control weeds. Residual weed control is important because you don’t have any mechanical options other than a hoe.”

 Kettner said patience is a virtue when converting from conventional tillage to no-till. During his 13 year experience, there were many times when he was ready to just give up and go back to conventional farming methods. Yet, through it all, he has remained focused on improving the health of his soil.

 “There is no textbook about how to farm with a no-till system. Be patient and figure out how to make no-till fit your farm management style and mix of crops. It requires more management and planning than conventional farming.  The first few years of no-till can be challenging because your soils are making the transition from a bacterial dominated system to a fungal dominated system. You may not see the full benefits at first,” he said.

 The primary disadvantage to high residue no-till farming is having cool soils at planting time.  This is not an issue with corn, but it could result in a delayed cotton crop. Miller said test plot observations showed soil temperatures at planting were 8 percent cooler with no-till as compared to conventional tillage.  However, they were about the same once crop canopy closure was achieved.

 Kettner is among a group of farmers that attend the No-Till On The Plains conference in Kansas each year.  “Call us a support group, if you will, but we have developed a relationship that allows us to bounce ideas off each other and offer suggestions to one another. Although our operations are very different, we each have a common goal in mind regarding soil health and structure,” he said.

 “It takes a while to get over the idea that the cover crop is going to use some of our precious water. You have to be able to see that the cover crop is actually going to help you capture more water for your cash crop,” he said.

Web tool helps with voluntary water use reporting

Persons interested in participating in the High Plains Water District (HPWD) groundwater conservation reserve program are reminded that they should report their 2017 water use before March 1, 2018.

The reporting is voluntary and can be accomplished using the web tool located at www.hpwd.org/reporting. 

The web tool provides options for persons to select either a simple or detailed reporting method, depending upon their choice for participating in the groundwater conservation reserve program.

Those who do not report their groundwater use are presumed to take the “One Irrigated Crop” option, which indicates that they planted and harvested one irrigated crop during the 2017 growing season. 

The Rule 5 infographic explaining the eight reporting options available to producers is located at www.hpwd.org/rules/

Please contact Jed Leibbrandt at (806) 762-0181 or reporting@hpwd.org with any questions about reporting 2017 groundwater use.
 

RCPP funds available for irrigation monitoring equipment

Are you interested in adding telemetry-based monitoring equipment to the irrigation system on your farm?  If so, stop by your local USDA-NRCS service center to ask about cost-share funding available through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

This equipment, typically used with a center pivot or subsurface drip irrigation system, allows monitoring data to be transmitted by telemetry to smart phones, tablets, or other handheld devices. These data help determine if irrigation systems are operating at peak efficiency - which results in water and energy savings for producers.

The RCPP program is an option for producers that were unable to receive funding from HPWD's Assistance in Irrigation Management (AIM) program. The $225,000 in grant funding provided by the Texas Water Development Board was claimed by producers in less than two weeks after the program was announced in August.

This equipment is being cost-shared through RCPP, which is administered by the USDA-NRCS, and requires "a flow meter to be installed on the irrigation system where the irrigation system monitoring system is installed as a companion device."  If a contract is awarded, payment for these practices cannot be made until the first year's monitoring data are provided to the NRCS.

About $900,000 in funding was allocated for the five year program (2016-2020). As of Dec. 8, USDA-NRCS officials said the agency has obligated 39 contracts totaling $227,208 on 24,772 acres. This leaves $672,792 in available funds for the remainder of the program.

Participation in RCPP is entirely voluntary. Interested producers can sign up for the program at their local USDA-NRCS service center.

High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) in Lubbock serves as the lead RCPP partner. Supporting partners include Hemphill County UWCD in Canadian, Llano Estacado UWCD at Seminole, Mesa UWCD at Lamesa, North Plains GCD at Dumas, Sandy Land UWCD at Plains, and South Plains UWCD at Brownfield.

These groundwater conservation districts do not receive any funding for the program, but provide in-kind services to assist with water conservation efforts.

Additional information about RCPP is available at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.

Drought conditions prevalent at end of 2017


By Katherine Drury, Education and Outreach Coordinator

Despite above-average precipitation, all of the High Plains Water District (HPWD) service area was experiencing drought conditions at the end of 2017.
 
Most of the District is currently under severe drought status, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Deaf Smith and Parmer Counties, along with portions of Bailey, Castro, and Cochran Counties, are classified under moderate drought conditions.
 
Though most of the HPWD service area received above-average rainfall in 2017, the majority of the precipitation was received throughout the first nine months of the year.
 
Castro County had the greatest deviation from the annual precipitation average.  It received 26.47 inches of rain last year, which is 13 inches above normal. Lynn County was the only county that experienced a precipitation deficit, nearly four inches below average.
 
So, what is in store for 2018?
 
The dry La Niña pattern is expected to stick around until April, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
 
KCBD-TV Meteorologist Steve Devine said precipitation will likely be below average through the summer. Fall and winter 2018 precipitation may trend toward average. Temperatures for 2018 are expected to be above average as a whole.
 
With this in mind, HPWD encourages everyone to be aware of their water use during these dry times!

  • Be aware of your local landscape irrigation ordinances, and abide by them.
  • Make sure your lawn irrigation system is off during the winter.
  • Check for leaks around your home and repair them. A dripping faucet or leaking toilet can waste hundreds of gallons of water each month
  • Take shorter showers. Keep your shower to five minutes or less.
  • When brushing your teeth, washing your face or shaving, turn the water off until it is time to rinse. 
  • Install high-efficiency shower heads, faucet aerators and toilets. Newer models require less water.