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 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

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.

-30-

HPWD enrolling for 2019 Irrigation Assessment Program

High Plains Underground Water Conservation District is now enrolling producers for participation in its 2019 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 2018 program participants' well data reveals an average depth-to-water of 225 feet and an average flow rate of 108 gallons per minute. The average amount of irrigation water applied in 2018 by program participants was 15.2 inches for corn, 15 inches for silage, 11.3 inches for cotton, and 5.7 inches for wheat.

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 2019 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," Whitworth said.

Victoria Whitehead promoted to HPWD General Counsel

Victoria Whitehead has been promoted to General Counsel for the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) in Lubbock.  She previously served as HPWD Governmental Affairs Director.
 
In addition to some of her previous duties, she will now oversee all groundwater law and policy issues, grant funding acquisitions, HPWD election administration, state and federal compliance, and district representation for other legal matters. 
 
She will represent the district at various association meetings, groundwater planning meetings, and at committee hearings during the upcoming 86th Texas Legislature.
 
“We are fortunate to have Victoria as part of the HPWD team. Her training and skills are a valuable asset to the district.  It is nice to have someone with a local background that understands the issues of this region,” said General Manager Jason Coleman.
  
Whitehead grew up in the Panhandle, and received her bachelor’s degree in political science and her Juris Doctorate degree from Texas Tech University.
 
She previously worked in the General Counsel’s office at Texas Tech University and for several legislators before joining the HPWD staff in 2016. These include Senator Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Representative Drew Darby of San Angelo, and U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
 
Some of her honors include the Texas Tech School of Law’s “Top Extern” award and the Capitol Crowd’s “House Intern Most Likely to be Running the Legislature in 10 years” recognition.  Gov. Greg Abbott appointed her to serve as a Student Regent for the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents for 2015-2016.

HPWD now accepting water depletion data requests

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.

Please follow the steps below to participate in the program:

▪ 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.

Timely rain helped reduce groundwater demand in 2017

Timely rainfall during the 2017 growing season helped reduce groundwater demand, according to data from the HPWD 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. 

Data collected during the 2017 growing season are shown in the graphic at right. This was gathered from 580 wells at 113 irrigation system sites within the District's 16-county service area.

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.

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 revealed an average depth-to-water of 216 feet and an average flow rate of 110 gallons per minute. 

All data 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. 

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. 

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.

 

Healthy soils conserve water

From the Fall 2017 HPWD Conservation Connect magazine

DSCN7784.jpg

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.