Horticulturist: Save money & water with irrigation repairs

DALLAS — A Texas A&M AgriLife Research water conservation horticulturist said home and business owners should repair and maintain sprinkler systems to save money and time while reducing wasted water resources.

“A lot of water-saving advice focuses on the indoors, but we know more water, especially in warmer months, can be saved by maintaining irrigation systems outside,” said Patrick Dickinson of Texas A&M AgriLife’s urban water program, known as Water University, in Dallas.

Household leaks account for about 1 trillion gallons of potable water wasted each year, according to the EPA.

“We also know that in the warmer months, as much as 60 percent of all drinkable water used by a household is spent outside on lawns and landscapes,” Dickinson said. “So it’s critical to make sure those systems are free from leaks and running as efficiently as possible.”

He recommended inspecting lawns for unexpected wet spots when the weather is dry.

“Look for water bubbling up from the ground or pooling and running over concrete,” he said. “Repair underground leaks by simply turning off your irrigation system controller, digging around the leaking section of pipe, cutting out the punctured section and joining the remaining ends with a cheap compression coupling from any hardware store.”

A new instructional video featuring Dickinson, Sprinkler Quick Fixes, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9WMPyZetGI, instructs viewers on three sprinkler system repairs for efficient irrigation. Tips include replacing a broken sprinkler head, clearing clogged nozzles that lead to inefficient irrigation and adjusting spray streams to avoid watering sidewalks and other non-plant structures.

Dickinson also recommended ensuring all irrigation pipe and connections remain properly sealed and tightened according to manufacturer recommendations.

“It’s not hard to keep an irrigation system running efficiently,” he said. “But it does require a little time and attention..”

Click the irrigation tab at https://wateruniversity.tamu.edu for more tips on efficient irrigation and “quick fixes” for repairing and maintaining irrigation systems.

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Annual water level measurements reveal average decrease of -0.16 of a foot

An average change of -0.16 of a foot was noted in the groundwater levels of the Ogallala/Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) Aquifer from 2017 to 2018 within the 16-county High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) service area.
 
The 10-year District average change (2008-2018) is -8.76 feet while the five-year district average change (2013-2018) is -2.07 feet.  The average saturated thickness of the Ogallala Aquifer within the District is about 56 feet (2017-2018).
 
HPWD staff shared this information with the District’s five-member Board of Directors during their April 10 regular monthly meeting.
 
In early 2018, HPWD field personnel made annual water level measurements in a network of 1,353 privately-owned water wells completed into the Ogallala/Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) Aquifers.  In addition, water level measurements were also made in 33 Dockum Aquifer wells.
 
Since the 2017 measurements, there are nine counties with an average increase in water levels and seven counties with an average decrease.
 
Field Technician Supervisor Keith Whitworth shared statistics for the 1,250 observation wells with publishable measurements. He noted that about 40 percent of the observation wells measured in 2018 had water level increases.

  • 545 observation wells with increases ranging from 0.1 to 12.73 feet.
  • 462 observation wells with decreases ranging from 0 to -.99 of a foot.
  • 142 observation wells with decreases ranging from -1 to -1.99 feet.
  • 63 observation wells with decreases ranging from -2 to -2.99 feet.
  • 20 observation wells with decreases ranging from -3 to -3.99 feet
  • 13 observation wells with decreases ranging from -4 to -4.99 feet.
  • 5 observation wells with decreases ranging from -5 to -6.96 feet. 

“Each year, there are wells that show water level rises and others that show water level decreases.  The largest water level rise was 12.73 feet in a Lubbock County well while the largest water level decline was -6.96 feet in a Castro County well,” said Whitworth.
 
Updated water level data is now available to the public at map.hpwd.org
 
“Since 2013, the number of persons using the interactive map for depth-to-water and saturated thickness information has increased significantly. Because of this, HPWD is discontinuing its printed water level report starting this year,” said Jason Coleman, General Manager.  He added that moving to an online data platform eliminates the cost of printing and mailing the previous 84-page report, which saves taxpayer money.
 
Those who  would like printed information should contact Jed Leibbrandt at (806) 762-0181 or email him at jed.leibbrandt@hpwd.org. He can provide hard copies of water level measurement data for an individual county or specific counties of interest.

Download the 2018 Water Level Measurement infographic here

                                  This map depicts the 2018 water level measurement changes throughout the high plains water district. 

                                 This map depicts the 2018 water level measurement changes throughout the high plains water district. 

HPWD now accepting RFPs for conservation projects

 High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) is now accepting requests for proposals for water conservation research, demonstration, and education project funding.
 
“HPWD funds a number of research and demonstration projects each year. We invite those with innovative ideas to submit requests for proposals that focus on water conservation demonstration, education, or research,” said General Manager Jason Coleman.

Proposals are due no later than 5:00 p.m., Monday, May 7, 2018. Email delivery is preferred and should be sent to jason.coleman@hpwd.org
 
Since 2014, HPWD has provided supplemental funding for 22 research and/or demonstration projects.  Some of these include completion of test wells into the Dockum and Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) aquifers; installation of a water conservation education garden at Bushland Elementary; rainwater harvesting research; investigation of residential Turfgrass irrigation habits; as well as other water saving measures.
 
The research and demonstration funding committee was appointed by Board President Lynn Tate of Amarillo at the March 20 HPWD Board of Directors meeting.
 
Committee members include:

  • Mike Beauchamp, Chairman (HPWD Precinct Three Director).
  • Ronnie Hopper (HPWD Precinct Five Director).
  • Jason Coleman (HPWD General Manager).
  • Michael Carlson (HPWD County Advisory Committee member).
  • Linda Taylor (HPWD County Advisory Committee member).
  • Todd Pope, Wellington State Bank (At-Large Member).
  • Aubrey Spear, P.E, Director of Utilities, City of Lubbock (At-Large Member).

 In accordance with current policy, the committee will evaluate each project for possible funding.  A final recommendation will be presented to the HPWD Board of Directors at their June meeting.
 
Proposal requirements and links to past projects are available at www.hpwd.org/research. Additional information is available by calling the district office at (806) 762-0181.

HPWD now enrolling producers for 2018 Irrigation Assessment Program

 Producers enrolled in the Irrigation Assessment Program will receive water level measurements at the beginning and end of the growing season, as well as ultrasonic flow rates on wells and irrigation systems in the program. 

Producers enrolled in the Irrigation Assessment Program will receive water level measurements at the beginning and end of the growing season, as well as ultrasonic flow rates on wells and irrigation systems in the program. 

The High Plains Underground Water Conservation District is now enrolling producers for participation in its 2018 Irrigation Assessment Program.

Since the program's reinstatement in 2013, cooperating producers have volunteered to have their center pivot or subsurface drip irrigation system evaluated by HPWD staff. Water levels in wells are measured at the beginning and end of the growing season. In addition, flow rates of the wells/irrigation systems are checked with an ultrasonic flow meter. This service is provided by HPWD at no cost to willing participants.

The pumping hours, total gallons of water per minute, and the number of irrigated acres are calculated to determine the total acre-inches of groundwater applied during the growing season.  Rainfall totals are determined through the use of  radar estimates from April to September. This gives an estimate of the total inches of water available for plant use.

Water samples are also collected as an extra service to those participating in the program. HPWD is able to check Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), chloride, and pH levels of groundwater. It is important to understand water chemistry since it impacts the efficient use of supplemental nutrients applied to crops.

All this information is used to better understand the groundwater conditions in aquifers within the HPWD service area. 

For example, the 2017 program participants' well data reveals an average depth-to-water of 216 feet and an average flow rate of 110 gallons per minute. The average amount of irrigation water applied in 2017 by program participants was 6.6 inches for cotton, 9.9 inches for wheat, 10.5 inches for peanuts, 11.8 inches for silage, and 12.2 inches for corn.

All information gathered from each site is shared with program participants. Several producers have said the data has helped them better understand their irrigation system's performance.  

High Plains Water District encourages all interested producers to participate in the 2018 Irrigation Assessment Program. There are two major benefits. First, it helps farmers understand how much water is used per year for crop production. Second, it provides beneficial data for future water planning efforts where accurate irrigation pumping information must be considered.

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RCPP Cost-Share Funding Still Available To Producers

 Producers in the Panhandle-South Plains region are reminded that cost-share funding is still available for installation of irrigation system monitoring equipment, soil moisture probes, and other irrigation management equipment through the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service's Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
 
Approximately $600,000 is available for the remainder of the program, which ends in 2018.
 
Participation in RCPP is entirely voluntary. Interested producers can sign up for the program at their local USDA-NRCS service center. Additional information about RCPP is available at https://tinyurl.com/nv7vkms. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.
 
In addition, be sure to visit www.hpwd.org/rcpp for information about eligible equipment, estimated payment rates, a contact list of USDA-NRCS Service Centers, and a map illustrating the 29 counties participating in RCPP.
 
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.

"Find" more water through landscaping techniques

By Kay Ledbetter. AgriLife Today

AMARILLO – Drought is a given, and water from traditional sources will be limited in the future, but homeowners and businesses can “find” more water through conservation, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research environmental horticulturist.

The 90.3 square miles within the city limits of Amarillo annually gets an average of twice as much water in rainfall as is demanded by residents for both indoor and outdoor use, said Daniel Cunningham, with Texas A&M AgriLife’s urban water program, Water University, in Dallas.

“Can we capture all that water? Certainly not,” he said. “But it’s something to think about. If we are getting twice as much as we need, it does make you wonder how much more you can capture on your property to use as an alternative water source.”

“Water You Doing? West Texas” was the title of Cunningham’s presentation during the fourth biennial Texas Panhandle Water Conservation Symposium recently in Amarillo.

Facilitiating behavior change and reducing water use is the goal of all the water education programs conducted through the Water University program at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas. This is particularly important in times when there is limited rainfall, Cunningham said.

“There are certain parts of Texas where we are blessed with good rainfall, but then there are other parts like West Texas and the Panhandle that don’t see as much rainfall,” he said. “It’s not if, but when, we will see a drought. If we can make conservation efforts now and convince our family and friends to do so, maybe we can avoid some of the potential problems.”

Cunningham said as a state, the water supply of 15.2 million acre feet is expected to decline to 13.6 million acre feet at a time when population is expected to increase from 29.5 million to 51 million.

“So it is critical we look at our water availability as a whole; how that relates to the growing urban areas we have; and how that affects water use,” he said. “Where is more water going to come from?”

“It is imperative we look at conservation as a source of more water,” Cunningham said. “One of the best ways to achieve conservation is through education and outreach.”

When thinking conservation, understand that 41 percent of water use in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex is outdoors, he said, adding that percentage is typical for many cities, including Amarillo.

Techniques such as simple rainwater harvesting barrels or cisterns for homeowners; or maybe in a commercial setting, capturing as much water as possible and utilizing technology to filter it to drinking water quality or just to flush the toilets will help, Cunningham said.

“But a cistern only holds so much, so at some point the water is going to overflow,” he said. “We can actually hold more water in a landscape itself than we could ever capture in tanks. Landscapes designed to shunt the water off as quickly as possible don’t make sense. Landscapes that have rain gardens or depressions to slow down the water and allow them to fill up first before they overflow down the storm drains are much better.”

His suggestion is to trap some of the water to allow it to infiltrate, perhaps using curb cuts to catch water coming off a neighbor’s property and encouraging the water to slowly spread into depressions.

Rain gardens engineered with gravel and pipes in the bottom and incorporating compost that acts as a sponge to hold the water is another option, Cunningham said.

“Build landscapes as resilient as possible to drought, and we will be better off when those droughts do come,” he said.

Some landscaping aspects homeowners should include are resources that decrease the need for water from a holistic standpoint: rainwater harvesting or greywater harvesting; native or adapted plants; pervious paving; edible landscaping; rain gardens; drip/efficient irrigation; and reduced lawn area.

He said reducing the amount of turf, which can require a lot of water if managed the wrong way, to about a third of the area still allows for outdoor play. Incorporating water-efficient native or adapted plants and permeable hardscapes on the other two-thirds can increase the amount of water captured and provide it to the plants.

“Our clients are asking for outdoor living spaces that are environmentally sustainable, reduce water costs and are lower in maintenance,” Cunningham said. “This option does that.”

Some other tips he offered include:

  • Create healthy vibrant water-efficient landscapes without sacrificing aesthetics.
  • Water only when needed.
  • Water deeply to promote deep and healthy roots. Frequent watering does not encourage deep root growth.
  • Water slowly for better absorption. Use drip wherever possible and the “cycle and soak” method.
  • Maintain 2-4 inches of mulch in flower, groundcover, garden and shrub areas to hold the water for a longer period of time.
  • Design for efficiency.
  • Install irrigation systems for efficient use per state and local specifications.
  • Water without creating runoff – “the concrete is growing fast enough already, it doesn’t need to be watered.”
  • Check irrigation systems monthly and make repairs and adjustments when needed.

Cunningham said for more landscaping conservation information and ideas, go to https://Wateruniversity.tamu.edu.

 Dividing landscape into one part turf, one part natural plants and one part permeable hardscape can save water. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Gabe Saldana)

Dividing landscape into one part turf, one part natural plants and one part permeable hardscape can save water. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Gabe Saldana)

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Apply now for Texas 4-H Water Ambassadors program

Students within the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) service area are encouraged to submit applications for the 2018-2019 Texas 4-H Water Ambassadors program.  Deadline for submissions is May 20.
 
Each year, high school age youth are selected to join the program which provides knowledge about management of water resources in Texas.
 
“HPWD is proud to be among the supporters of the Texas 4-H Water Ambassadors program.  This is a great opportunity to mentor future water leaders for our state,” said Carmon McCain, HPWD Information/Education Supervisor.  HPWD provided grant funding for the program, which began in 2017.
 
Those chosen will participate in a summer 4-H2O Youth Leadership Academy.  This tour, set for July, allows students to meet with statewide water professionals and observe conservation practices.  The group will visit the HPWD office in Lubbock during their tour of the Panhandle-South Plains region.  In addition, the students will view rainwater harvesting installations at Samuel Jackson, Inc. in Lubbock and Bob Durham's ranch at Abernathy.
 
A leadership, mentorship, and community service component is included as part of the program. Texas 4-H Water Ambassadors commit to a minimum of 40 hours of service during a 12-month period. This is earned by presenting water education programs to local 4-H clubs, schools, fairs, and other community events.  In addition, the students may also assist their local water utilities, groundwater conservation districts, and County Extension Agents in their water outreach programs.
 
Applicants must be 14 years old as of Aug. 31, 2018 and must be entering the 9th, 10th, or 11th grade in the upcoming 2018-2019 academic year. A short essay and letters of reference are required.
 
There is a $250 participation fee due by June 20. Applicants do not have to be a current member of Texas 4-H, but must agree to become a 4-H member and pay a $25 annual membership fee, if selected.
 
Visit https://texas4-h.tamu.edu/projects/water/ for applications and other program information.  Questions should be directed to David W. Smith at (979) 862-1989. He may also be reached by email at davidsmith@tamu.edu

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.