Amarillo bank, Lubbock manufacturer receive state recognition for water conservation efforts

FirstBank Southwest of Amarillo and Samuel Jackson, Inc. of Lubbock recently received state recognition for their water conservation efforts.

FirstBank Southwest - Texas Rain Catcher Award

FirstBank Southwest Chairman of the Board Smith Ellis and Chief Lending Officer Will Miller accept the 2018 Texas Rain Catcher Award during the March 28 Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) meeting in Austin. Shown with them (L-R) are TWDB Chairman Peter Lake, Member Brooke Paup, and Member Kathleen Jackson.  (Photo courtesy TWDB)

FirstBank Southwest Chairman of the Board Smith Ellis and Chief Lending Officer Will Miller accept the 2018 Texas Rain Catcher Award during the March 28 Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) meeting in Austin. Shown with them (L-R) are TWDB Chairman Peter Lake, Member Brooke Paup, and Member Kathleen Jackson.  (Photo courtesy TWDB)

FirstBank Southwest received the 2018 Texas Rain Catcher Award at the March 28 Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) meeting in Austin.
Built in 2012, the FirstBank Southwest (FBSW) Western Banking Center is home to one of Amarillo’s larger commercial rainwater harvesting installations.
During a rainfall event, several downspouts channel water from the building’s metal roof to a permeable paver parking lot. Once below the pavers, the water makes its way into an underground tank.
The permeable pavers and underground tank provide a storage capacity of 26,600 gallons of harvested rainwater. That is the equivalent of 99.6 percent of the rainfall collected during a two-year storm event.
The FBSW banking center also uses a xeric landscape and drip irrigation system to help reduce landscape water use.
Created in 2007, the TWDB’s Rain Catcher award program “promotes technology, educates the public, and recognizes excellence in the application of rainwater harvesting systems in Texas.”

Samuel Jackson, Inc. - Blue Legacy Award in Manufacturing

Dr. Bogdan Jackson-Duda with Samuel Jackson, Inc. accepts the Blue Legacy in Manufacturing Award from Water Conservation Advisory Council Chair Karen Guz (L) and Texas Water Development Board Member Kathleen Jackson (R). (Photo courtesy TWDB)

Dr. Bogdan Jackson-Duda with Samuel Jackson, Inc. accepts the Blue Legacy in Manufacturing Award from Water Conservation Advisory Council Chair Karen Guz (L) and Texas Water Development Board Member Kathleen Jackson (R). (Photo courtesy TWDB)

Samuel Jackson, Inc. received the 2019 Blue Legacy Award for Manufacturing during ceremonies at the March 13 Texas Water Day at the Capitol in Austin.
Samuel Jackson, Inc. uses harvested rainwater as an alternative water supply source. The company manufactures moisture control and drying equipment for cotton gins.
As much as 90,000 gallons of rainwater can be stored in tanks at their facility. Plant operations can be sustained on as little as six inches of rainfall per year.

The rainwater harvesting tanks are carefully monitored to determine water use trends. As a result, water use has been reduced by 30 percent.
The filtered rainwater is excellent quality and offers many benefits during the manufacturing process.
Rainwater harvesting reduces dependence upon groundwater. It also allows for greater water use efficiency and sustainability.
The Water Conservation Advisory Council gives this annual award to “recognize manufacturing water users that have demonstrated outstanding and innovating commitment to the state’s mission of promoting responsible management and conservation of Texas’ water resources.”

Banking on a Rainy Day

Article by Carmon McCain

 Persons traveling through the busy intersection of Southwest 45th Avenue and Teckla Boulevard in Amarillo may take a moment to notice the banking center built there about seven years ago.  However, few realize that it is home to one of the city’s larger commercial rainwater harvesting installations.

 Construction of the FirstBank Southwest (FBSW) Western Banking Center begin in 2012.  Bank officials and Landscape Architects agreed that they could do more to conserve water — even though xeric landscaping was a major component in the original landscape plan.

 Before construction, the 36,252 square foot site allowed 100 percent of rainwater runoff to enter the City of Amarillo’s storm water system.  Addition of an on-site rainwater harvesting system helps reduce the amount of water used for landscape purposes and lessens storm water runoff in this flood-prone area.

 “Residents of our area are Texas tough and Panhandle proud. When you think about it, we are doing the same thing that our early predecessors did.  They had to capture water (in cisterns) in order to maintain a viable lifestyle,” said Smith Ellis, Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer, and President of FBSW.

 It was hot and dry when I visited the bank in late August. David Pace stood in a doorway and pointed toward the tan-colored pavers around the building.  He has served as FBSW properties manager since 2009.

 “Every so often, people will ask to see the system during a rainfall event.  I like to watch the expression on their faces as rain flows across the parking area and eventually disappears into the permeable paving system,” he said.

 Rain falls upon the parking lot and the building’s metal roof. Downspouts channel water from the roof to the pavers. Once below the pavers, it flows through gravel backfill into 530 linear feet of perforated pipe. The pipe conveys water into an underground tank.

 “The tank is basically a rigid ‘milk crate’ with a non-permeable envelope around it,” says Jason Habeger with Turner LandArchitecture in Amarillo. The company designed the rainwater harvesting system.

 “This type of tank doubles the storage capacity at a lesser cost.  The system, as a whole, is not from one company. It is a combination of multiple rainwater collection methods available from different sources. Each can be used independently – it just depends upon what the customer wants to accomplish with their design.”

 The paver system base can hold up to 12,000 gallons of harvested rainwater. An additional 14,600 gallons of rainwater can be stored in the underground tank.  This gives a potential storage capacity of 26,600 gallons. That is the equivalent of 99.6 percent of the rainfall collected from a two-year storm event.

 “This is not a self-sustaining system — even though we have the potential to collect a large amount of water. For example, our last major rainfall was in September and we were out of water by February.  There are backup connections to use city water for the landscape, if needed. This still saves water because of the xeric landscape. We are equipped to handle the ebbs and flows of rainfall events,” said Pace.

 The banking center contains 7,720 square feet of designed landscape area. The perimeter includes a rain garden/swale with boulders from Marble Falls, decomposed granite mulch, and river cobble. This allows rainwater to percolate into the soil.

 Planting the area in tall fescue would require an application of approximately 171,661 gallons of water with an automatic landscape sprinkler system during the growing season.

 Designers incorporated a point source drip irrigation system for efficiency and flexibility.  Each bedded plant receives about one gallon of water per hour through one to five strategically placed emitters.  Trees receive one gallon of water per hour through two bubblers.

 The xeric landscape, combined with the drip irrigation system, will reduce landscape water use by 60 percent as compared to a traditional tall fescue lawn.

 Both Habeger and Pace agree that this project has increased awareness of the use of xeric landscaping. It also prompted a change in the City of Amarillo’s landscape ordinance with the addition of a recommended plant list.

 “People in Amarillo are starting to understand that they can have an attractive landscape with native drought-tolerant plants, rather than relying on traditional turf and trees. This project has inspired them to ask how they can accomplish similar results and be a good steward of our natural resources,” said Habeger.

 Ellis agrees that it is important to lead by example.

 “This rainwater harvesting project has exceeded our expectations.  It was a costly project – but it is worth it for several reasons.  It enhances the community in which we are a corporate partner. Even more importantly, it highlights some of our water issues and provides a way to combat those problems. It is the right thing to do – even though it is the pinnacle of a small effort toward water conservation. Believe me, this isn’t the last drought that we will ever experience,” he said.



Water conservation education series scheduled

The first day of spring is just a couple of months away.

With that in mind, it is time to start thinking about adding water saving practices to your 2019 landscape.

Join Randall County AgriLife Extension Horticulture Agent Erin Jones-Gray and a group of local experts in February as they share water conservation techniques for the Texas Panhandle.

Each session is from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Happy State Bank Academic and Research Building, West Texas A&M University, 600 WTAMU Drive, in Canyon.

The cost is $10 per person. This allows persons to attend one or all six workshops, if desired.

The sessions are as follows:

▪ February 4: “Selecting Plants for the Texas High Plains” with Neal Hinders of Canyon’s Edge Nursery.

▪ February 11: “Rainwater Harvesting” with Katherine Drury of High Plains Underground Water Conservation District.

▪ February 25: “Tree Care in Years of Drought” with Ben Wethington of Wethington Landscape Management.

▪ March 4: “Managing Irrigation Systems” with Roger Gloe, President of the Randall County Master Gardeners. He is a Texas licensed irrigator.

▪ March 18: “Watering Landscapes in the Texas Panhandle” with Larry Bedwell, Grounds/Transportation Manager for West Texas A&M University.

 March 25: “Soil Fertility” with Fred Vocasek of ServiTech.

Additional information is available by calling (806) 468-5543 or emailing

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

"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

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)