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

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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July Is Smart Irrigation Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Use telemetry equipment to improve irrigation scheduling.

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

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

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

 

Wise with Water

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By Jayme Lozano / A-J Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HPWD accepting RFPs for research projects

LUBBOCK TX (March 18, 2019) – High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) is now accepting 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 6, 2019. Email delivery is preferred and should be sent to jason.coleman@hpwd.org

Since 2014, HPWD has provided supplemental funding for several research and/or demonstration projects. 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; brackish groundwater treatment technology using plant polymers; and other water saving measures.

The research and demonstration funding committee was appointed by Board President Lynn Tate of Amarillo at the March 12 HPWD Board of Directors meeting.

Committee members include:

  • Mike Beauchamp, Chairman (HPWD Precinct Three Director).

  • Ronnie Hopper (HPWD Precinct Five Director).

  • Dan Seale (HPWD Precinct One Director)

  • Jason Coleman (HPWD General Manager).

  • Brett Bamert (HPWD Bailey County Advisory Committee member).

  • Dillon Pool (HPWD Randall County Advisory Committee member).

  • Darrell Newsom, City Manager, Wolfforth, TX (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.

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.

Extremely brackish water found in Wolfforth ETHP well

EDITOR'S NOTE -- This is the last article in a series designed to update readers on the status of the Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) Aquifer drilled in Wolfforth--CEM.

By Jason Coleman, P.E.
HPWD General Manager

In the first two articles of this series, we described the geophysical logging and construction of the test well at Wolfforth.  The results of the pump test and water quality test are presented in this concluding article of the series.

After the temporary well was constructed in the Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) (ETHP) aquifer, the contractor used an airlift procedure to help remove the drilling mud and develop the well.  It is necessary to remove the cake of mud in the borehole wall so that the formation water is transmitted to the well casing.  The contractor then installed a submersible pump for test pumping the well.  Over a twelve hour period of test pumping, the well did not produce much more than ten gallons per minute.  As a result, the test pump was removed in favor of additional well development techniques.  These processes involved more air lifting, as well as a chemical treatment to help remove any remaining drilling mud.  Despite these efforts, little improvement in the well productivity was realized.  Our conclusion is that the limestone rocks do not contain significant cracks or void spaces at this location.

The formation water produced during test pumping was also tested at this time.  The results of this analysis show very high dissolved mineral content.  The water was tested by hand sampler in the field, at a certified laboratory, and with a continuous monitoring probe.  All three methods produced very similar results.  You may recall that public drinking water systems must have total dissolved solids (TDS) of less than five hundred milligrams per liter.  A TDS of 500 mg/L is roughly the same as conductivity of 810 microsiemens per centimeter (uS/cm). 

The chart shown on the front page of this electronic newsletter indicates the test well conductivity ranges from 8,000-16,000 uS/cm, much higher than the allowable for public drinking water.

Scientific publications indicate that water quality in the ETHP Aquifer is generally a bit higher in TDS than Ogallala.  However at this location, the ETHP results are more than ten times higher in TDS than the Ogallala.  This leads us to question whether the sampled water is truly indicative of the ETHP, or if there is a Dockum Aquifer influence in the sampled water.  HPWD studies show that water quality of this same TDS level is present in the Dockum Aquifer.  We also know that “upconing” may occur in the Dockum, which could result in the high TDS results from these samples.  More work should be performed in the ETHP water quality sampling before we may conclusively resolve this question.

Research & demonstration project funding approved

More than $143,000 in grant fund requests for water-related research and demonstration projects were approved by the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) Board of Directors at their June 12 meeting in Lubbock.
 
“The five-member HPWD Board and its seven-member research and demonstration funding reviewed 16 proposals this year. These addressed a wide range of water-related subjects,” said Manager Jason Coleman.
 
The 11 projects approved for full or partial funding include: 

  • Edwards-Trinity Aquifer Investigation.
  • Plant Polymers for Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Removal.
  • Xeric Landscape Installation at an Area Middle School.
  • Drought-Tolerant Corn Hybrids.
  • Water Quality Parameters for Recharge Wells.
  • Water Productivity of Aquaponics.
  • Lawn Irrigation Management Workshop.
  • Soil Health in Residential Landscapes.
  • Playa Field Days and Festivals.
  • Texas 4-H Water Ambassadors.
  • Rainwater Harvesting Tanks for a Local Community Garden.

  “The HPWD Board of Directors are pleased to support these educators and researchers as they work to improve crop production methods, educational efforts, and water use efficiency.  All of the approved projects are designed to help conserve and preserve groundwater resources for the future,” said Board President Lynn Tate of Amarillo.
 
Final reports and other information relating to previously-funded projects are available at www.hpwd.org/research.