Interactive Playa Map Now Available

Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) has launched a new interactive map and platform for conservation planning.

The interactive map allows you to explore the playa region and investigate playas, wind farms, and other features of the landscape.

Current map data include playas, playa clusters, and a suite of layers relevant to wind energy development, including current wind turbine locations based on FAA data.

Users can click on individual playas to get more information on playa size, playa condition, and the playa’s wetness frequency over time.

The PLJV probable playas dataset is a regional compilation of several original data sources including the National Wetlands Inventory, Soil Survey Geographic database, and satellite imagery.

These wetland data were analyzed for each state in the PLJV region—Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas—to create the most comprehensive playa location map possible using remote sources.

The playas layer contains locations of more than 70,000 playas across the PLJV region.

Check out the interactive map and video tutorial: at https://tinyurl.com/y65b8snk

Board Adopts 2019 Tax Rate; Management Plan

During their Sept. 10 meeting, the HPWD Board of Directors approved a resolution setting the 2019 ad valorem tax rate at $0.0063 per $100 valuation for operation and maintenance of the district.

The adopted 2019 tax rate is about 1.5 percent less than the effective tax rate. This slight reduction provides a similar amount of tax revenue as last year.

Persons with $100,000 in property value will pay $6.30 in annual taxes to HPWD under the approved rate, as compared to $6.70 in 2018. The HPWD 2019 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

"The HPWD Board of Directors have lowered the tax rate each year since 2014. It is our priority to have balanced annual budgets. This allows us to reduce the tax rate for operation of the district, while at the same time, improve services for constituents in our 16-county service area," said Board President Lynn Tate of Amarillo.

In other business, the Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution adopting a revised 10-year management plan. A public hearing to receive comments on the plan was held prior to the Board meeting.

The revised plan has been submitted to the Texas Water Development Board in Austin for final certification.

“Groundwater conservation districts (GCDs) 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 newly-adopted management plan covers the period from 2019 to 2024,” said HPWD General Manager Jason Coleman.

He added that management plans contain specific performance standards pertaining to services provided by the respective GCDs across the state.

“As an example, groundwater conservation districts make annual water level measurements in observation wells each year. Performance standards in a district’s management plan will include the number of wells measured each year; the number of wells unable to be measured each year; the number of new wells added to the observation well network each year; and how these data are shared with the public. This helps GCDs gauge the effectiveness of programs and activities they provide to their constituents,” Coleman said.

 The amended management plan is available for viewing at www.hpwd.org/rules

Sept. 25 Deadline Nears For AIM Program Applications

September 25 is the deadline to submit cost-share funding applications for the third round of the High Plains Water District's Assistance in Irrigation Management Program (AIM).

HPWD recently received $230,000 for AIM funding through the Texas Water Development Board’s Agricultural Water Conservation Grants program. This is the third year that HPWD has made these cost-share funds available to interested producers.

“AIM is a voluntary program to assist producers with the purchase price of telemetry-based irrigation monitoring systems used with either a center pivot system or subsurface drip irrigation system,” said HPWD General Manager Jason Coleman.

An online application form and procedures are available at aimapp.hpwd.org. This website also includes a link to program terms & conditions – plus essential information to be included in the application.

“This year, the allocated cost-share funding is tied to the number of irrigated acres by county within the Water District. We will evaluate the number of applications received by county at the end of the three-week application period. Any remaining funds will be available on a first-come, first-served basis after that time,” Coleman said.

More than 40 producers enrolled 18,400 acres of land during the first round of the AIM Program (2017). There were 154 telemetry-based systems deployed which resulted in 13,500 acre-inches of water saved.

Of this, Coleman said 6,372 acre-inches of water was saved when producers received notification of irrigation system malfunctions; 6,029 acre-inches was saved with use of irrigation scheduling software; and 1,093 acre-inches was saved by remotely turning off equipment in response to a rainfall alert.

“During the past two years, producers have shown a great amount of interest in using telemetry-based technology to improve their irrigation scheduling,” Coleman said. “HPWD commends them for their efforts to conserve groundwater resources within the District.”

Additional information about the AIM Program is available by contacting Victoria Whitehead at (806) 762-0181 or emailing aim@hpwd.org

HPWD Accepting AIM Program Funding Applications

For the next three weeks, High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) is accepting applications for cost-share funding for the third round of its Assistance in Irrigation Management (AIM) program. The enrollment period ends Sept. 25.

HPWD recently received $230,000 for AIM funding through the Texas Water Development Board’s Agricultural Water Conservation Grants program. This is the third year that HPWD has made these cost-share funds available to interested producers.

“AIM is a voluntary program to assist producers with the purchase price of telemetry-based irrigation monitoring systems used with either a center pivot system or subsurface drip irrigation system,” said HPWD General Manager Jason Coleman.

An online application form and procedures are available at aimapp.hpwd.org. This website also includes a link to program terms & conditions – plus essential information to be included in the application.

“This year, the allocated cost-share funding is tied to the number of irrigated acres by county within the Water District. We will evaluate the number of applications received by county at the end of the three-week application period. Any remaining funds will be available on a first-come, first-served basis after that time,” Coleman said.

More than 40 producers enrolled 18,400 acres of land during the first round of the AIM Program (2017). There were 154 telemetry-based systems deployed which resulted in 13,500 acre-inches of water saved.

Of this, Coleman said 6,372 acre-inches of water was saved when producers received notification of irrigation system malfunctions; 6,029 acre-inches was saved with use of irrigation scheduling software; and 1,093 acre-inches was saved by remotely turning off equipment in response to a rainfall alert.

“During the past two years, producers have shown a great amount of interest in using telemetry-based technology to improve their irrigation scheduling,” Coleman said. “HPWD commends them for their efforts to conserve groundwater resources within the District.”

Additional information about the AIM Program is available by contacting Victoria Whitehead at (806) 762-0181 or emailing aim@hpwd.org

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.org.  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.