Travis County commissioners ban development that uses Trinity Aquifer water (Posted By Mike Mecke)

County will study ways to regulate groundwater use.

By Marty Toohey


Updated: 12:31 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010

Published: 10:38 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010

Travis County commissioners unanimously approved a one-year ban Tuesday on nearly all new development in western parts of the county that would rely on water from the Trinity Aquifer.

The county has received complaints of wells that draw from the Trinity running dry. County officials say the ban would give them time to study and enact stricter rules governing what can be built over Travis County’s portion of the Trinity, a massive aquifer that stretches from North Texas to west of San Antonio and is divided into many pockets, including one in western Travis and northern Hays County.

The ban is intended “to take a pause to have a dialogue with those landowners” who draw or might draw from the Trinity, Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt said.

Some affected property owners were unhappy about the county’s decision. Ted Stewart , who owns land near Hamilton Pool Road, said the commissioners chose to infringe on the property rights of rural Travis County residents to appease “mostly downtown metrosexuals or people (already) living on beautiful, 5-acre subdivided properties in the Hill Country.”

The ban does not apply to developments that have already been approved, such as the West Cypress Hills subdivision, where about 100 of 1,500 planned homes have been built. The ban also does not apply to planned subdivisions with pending applications for county permits.

In addition, the ban includes some minor exceptions. For instance, it does not apply to developments with lots larger than 10 acres , as long as the developer does not build any roads.

The ban is necessary, county officials say, because of long-term population growth and water demand forecasts, and wells in the region that periodically run dry. “Most of the dry wells are associated with increased pumpage due to recent development,” independent hydrologist Raymond Slade Jr. wrote in a 2006 report for the Hays Trinity Groundwater District, which oversees pumping from the Trinity in adjacent Hays County.

Todd Reimers, whose family owns large tracts in western Travis County, said enacting such a district in the western part of the county — as opposed to a building ban — is the best way to address the water issues. There are now seven districts operating along the Trinity, and Slade said Travis should have one to ensure that Travis can claim its share of the water.

The state is laying groundwork for such a district, which must be approved by a majority of people who would live within its bounds.

Commissioner Karen Huber, who represents western Travis County, said she supports the idea but is skeptical that the district would effectively regulate water use without additional county rules.

The commissioners approved the ban 3-0; Ron Davis and Margaret Gómez were absent.

“It’s prudent to be proactive,” said John Dupnik , with the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, which helps manage a neighboring portion of the Edwards Aquifer and contends that drought and increased development are probably contributing to dry Trinity wells.

The Trinity is one of the most highly used groundwater resources in Texas, according to the State Water Plan, last updated in 2006. Although its primary use is for municipalities, it is also used for irrigation, livestock and other domestic purposes.

In 2008, during the drought that parched much of Central Texas, Jacob’s Well, a prized spring fed by the Trinity Aquifer in northern Hays County, went dry. It was the first time it had gone dry since 2000 and only the second time since pioneers settled in the area.

Jacob’s Well is the primary source of water for Cypress Creek, which runs through Wimberley.; 445-3673

Water News Briefs (Posted By Mike Mecke)

Published in October 2010 Ranch & Rural Living Magazine

Paved Dallas-Fort Worth Prairie is Fertile Ground for Floodwaters

Sept. 9, 2010  By Randy Lee Loftis  Dallas Morning News

The tropical downpour in North Texas this week showed one effect of decades of urbanization: flash floods worsened by the wholesale paving of the prairie.
The remains of Tropical Storm Hermine left many neighborhoods awash Wednesday. And though few areas might escape flooding when 5 to 10 inches of rain falls in a day, planners say widespread development – the replacing of native grasslands and woods with roofs, roads and parking lots – has worsened the risk.
Water that once might have taken its time rambling along wide waterways and soaking into the soil now hurries toward the nearest overloaded drain or down a concrete-lined ditch.

D-FW Businesses, Governments Trying to Conserve Water

Sept. 12, 2010  By Bill Hanna  Fort Worth Star-Telegram

There’s no way of getting around it — you can’t make beer without water. But the MillerCoors Fort Worth Brewery in south Fort Worth, while consuming 887 million gallons in 2009, is using less water these days.
. . .
And for many years Dallas-Fort Worth has battled the perception that it uses an inordinate amount of water compared with other parts of the state. Some Oklahoma legislators involved in the Tarrant Regional Water District’s legal fight to obtain water from north of the Red River have also portrayed the region’s communities as “water hogs” and given that as a reason for opposing the sale of water to Texas.

Rainwater Catchment System Put to Use at BHS

Sept. 9, 2009   Bandera County Courier

Bandera High School’s Construction Trades classes made history today by using the district’s first rainwater catchment system, built last school year through a grant made possible by the Bandera ISD Education Foundation, to water the new BHS Softball Field.
With just a few adjustments, the students under the supervision of teacher Brad Flink and BISD maintenance worker Jason Smith were spraying a 30-foot stream of water over the softball outfield.

El Paso Water Utilities Projects Underway

Sept. 8, 2010  By Kandolite Flores  KFOX El Paso

An El Paso Water Utilities project has closed the right lane of Zaragoza Road just south of Gateway East for about 200 feet. A leak was detected in a waterline, and crews must excavate and survey the line to pinpoint the location of the leak. This work is necessary to prevent disruption of water service to customers and further inconveniences for drivers. The lane is anticipated to reopen by Friday, September 17. We ask for the community’s patience during this project.

Securing a Balance for Region’s Future Water

Sept. 12, 2010  By Robert Rivard  My SA News

Imagine a worst-case scenario in the coming years: A federal judge advised by officials charged with enforcing the Endangered Species Act decides when San Antonio residents can water their lawns and when farmers can irrigate their crops.

Water Symposium Presentations Slated for Fredericksburg, San Antonio, Kerrville

The 2010-2011 Texas Water Symposium Series will provide perspectives from policy makers, scientists, water resource experts and regional leaders. Join us as we explore together, the complexity and challenges in providing water for Texans in this century. Each session is free and open to the public. Nov. 11: Texas Tech University, Hill Country University Center Bldg, Fredericksburg; Jan 27: Witte Museum, San Antonio co-hosted and sponsored by the Witte Museum; March 31: Schreiner University, Callioux Campus Activity Center, Kerrville Texas.

Texas Water Development Board

Providing Application for Financial Assistance

Texas Water Development Board is offering a new application for financial assistance for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

Texas Irrigation Expo October 21-22, 2010

The Rio Grande Valley will be the site of a major, statewide exposition on agricultural irrigation to be held in Mercedes.
The two-day event will include presentations by expert speakers, tours of demonstration sites currently using on-farm water conservation tools and techniques, a scholarship contest for high school students, and exhibitors displaying the latest technology and equipment. The Harlingen Irrigation District is coordinating the event as part of the state’s Agricultural Water Conservation Demonstration Initiative, which is funded through a grant from the Texas Water Development Board. This event is free and open to the public.

N.M. Official: Headwaters Deserve Special Protection

Sept. 15, 2010  By Susan Montoya Bryan  AP/Alamogorda Daily News

Nearly half of New Mexico’s surface water comes from federal forest lands, and some of those headwater streams, lakes and wetlands deserve special protections to ensure they continue providing clean water for the state, a top official with the New Mexico Environment Department said Tuesday. Marcy Leavitt, head of the department’s Water and Wastewater Division, was among the experts who testified before the Water Quality Control Commission at the start of a four-day hearing at the state capitol.
The commission is considering a petition by the department that aims to designate about 700 miles of rivers and streams, 29 lakes and more than 4,900 acres of wetlands in a dozen wilderness areas as so-called “outstanding national resource waters.” The designation would protect the waters by prohibiting any activities that would degrade water quality. Several of New Mexico’s rivers flow into Texas.

San Angelo: STATE OF THE CITY: Water’s role in future stressed (Posted By Mike Mecke)

San Angelo water news – Great to see this very nice little west-central Texas city seriously talking water issues again.  I lived near Angelo and shopped there for eight years and I think it is the best small city in Texas – I hope it does not outgrow that designation – bigger is not always better!

 This article below could not carry all the items discussed.   But, no mention that the Hickory aquifer’s water is radioactive and must be specially treated before use?  Isn’t that a pretty major issue?  That item has blocked potential sales of this groundwater to other areas in the past.

 Or, of starting an even more serious water conservation and Xeriscape landscaping program – which includes rainwater harvesting?  A rainbarrel program similar to Austin’s might kick start it, but I am betting that Angelo residents are much more water savvy than Austin’s and many grew up on harvested rainwater on surrounding farms and ranches.  San Angelo and the area are in a good location to use rainwater harvesting with large tanks - my former Extension program got a large rainwater tank installed at Baptist retirement homes center and they had wisely planned many more in order to reduce their outside water demands.   Rainwater can also be used to flush camodes and even treated fairly easily for drinking water.  Check it out in our magazine advertisers and web sites listed on line.  Contact the local AgriLife Extension office for assistance.

Also not discussed in the article was that the three older, shallow flood control lakes furnishing much of the City’s water should be dredged MUCH deeper and silt sold every time the lakes are down – pretty often?  Should’a/could’a been done years ago during very low lake level periods.   But, better now than never!   Deeper lakes have much less surface area to lose water from evaporation, they hold more water and the water often stays cooler and cleaner with less algae.  And, a side benefit is improved recreation and fishing for area residents. 

Without a firm long-term water supply no town can grow.  “Water is Life!”      Mike

STATE OF THE CITY: Water’s role in future stressed

By Kiah Collier
Updated Tuesday, August 10, 2010

SAN ANGELO, Texas — City leaders on Tuesday received an overwhelmingly positive response from San Angelo’s business community for their handling of the budget shortfall, continued execution of the Capital Improvement Plan and desire to drop the sunset of the half-cent sales tax.

The occasion was the 2010 State of the City presentation, titled “Preparing, Changing, and Improving our Community to Face the Challenges of Tomorrow.”……………………………………………………

Chamber of Commerce President Phil Neighbors, who has seen three state-of-city presentations during his tenure, said he thinks the city has done well addressing the challenges of having to downsize services in the face of a budget shortfall while continuing to move forward with the Capital Improvement Plan, which was implemented in 2007, and securing the city’s future viability with projects like the Hickory Aquifer pipeline — San Angelo’s first underground water supply, expected to be online by 2014…………………………………

“Sunset or not, we can do away with the half-cent sales tax (later),” he said.

In his sixth state-of-city address, Dominguez also emphasized the crucial nature of securing a long-term funding source for a long-term water supply, starting with the Hickory project, which remains largely unfunded.

“This underground water supply, I cannot stress how important it is to the future of this community,” he said…………………………………………………

East Texas Farmers Battered by Dry Spring (Posted By Mike Mecke)

While many Texas ranches and farms enjoy a wet, green spring and other areas are presently flooding, the eastern part of the state suffers from drought.  Drought is always just around the next corner in Texas – something that most urban or city folks fail to recognize.  In some areas, both cities and smaller towns, leaders and developers constantly push for more growth, more thirsty lawns, more water slurping golf courses and never think beyond tomorrow!

Our state was fairly small in population when the terrible “Drought of Record”, running from the late 40′s thru 1957, occurred.  With our huge population and projected doubling by 2060, what would happen if we had another five to seven or eight year severe drought?

It would hit us more quickly and harder.  Just as the recent two year Central Texas drought did.  Keep this in your mind when your town or city starts yelling for more growth – will you have the water for them?  From where – at what environmental, community and economic costs?  Will area irrigators and farmers have to go out of business to provide that water?  Does your community want to trade vital agricultural businesses and families for new subdivisions?  Do you want to depend upon China or Mexico or other countries for our food?

Forecast looks gloomy for fruit, cattle growers because of dry conditions.

By Chad Thomas


Sunday, June 6, 2010

TYLER — Plumes of dust billowed out from under the wheels of Darren Rozell’s tractor as it rumbled across a stretch of thirsty dirt at his orchard.

Like many agricultural sites throughout East Texas, Rozell’s land just northwest of Tyler has gradually dried out during the past two months, and as much as 60 percent of his fruit crop — which includes peaches, blackberries and plums — could be lost this season because of a lack of moisture. Read more »

5/10/2010 High Plains Lake: Mercury mystery (Posted By Mike Mecke)

High level of element in Lake Alan Henry baffles scientists
By Elliott Blackburn | AVALANCHE-JOURNAL
Monday, April 26, 2010
Story last updated at 4/26/2010 – 12:11 am

High West Texas levels of a natural toxin have researchers scratching their heads.

John A. Bowersmith / Avalanche-Journal
Anglers try their luck at Lake Alan Henry in March. In February, health warnings were issued because of high concentrationsof mercury, an innocuous element which can turn toxic in water. Biologists and other researchers who study the chemical said they don’t know why mercury levels are so high.

Concentrations of mercury, an innocuous element that can turn toxic in water and prompted health warnings at a Lubbock fishing spot in February, have stumped biologists and other researchers who study the element. Mercury levels in fish do not affect drinking water quality.
Researchers who spoke with The Avalanche-Journal couldn’t tie the problem to any of the dozens of possible sources of the pollutant tainting fish at Lake Alan Henry.

“The truth is, we don’t know, and it’s a mystery as to why it would be

elevated in that region,” said Matthew Chumchal, an assistant professor of biology at Texas Christian University.

Most mercury floats through the atmosphere in an elemental, low-toxic form, belched into the air by coal-fired power plants, forest fires and even volcanic blasts. It can roam for years, and, in some forms, over thousands of kilometers before becoming mixed up with rain or settling into waterways.

The company the element keeps when it reaches lakes and rivers causes most of the trouble, Chumchal said.

Common, water-borne bacteria methylates mercury. Methylmercury does a better job of sticking to the tissue of fish, among other things, and poses the threats state health officials warned of in February.

Methylmercury levels found as early as 2005 in largemouth bass at Lake Alan Henry exceeded state health department levels. Further testing on fish captured in 2008 revealed mercury levels considered a danger to human health.

“As long as it’s straight mercury, it’s not a problem,” said Charlie Munger, a Canyon-based Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist. “When it’s methylated by bacteria and things, then it’s taken up into the food chain.”

State health officials warned in early February against eating more than two eight-ounce meals of fish from the lake in a month.

High levels of the pollutant can damage the brain, kidneys and developing fetuses, making pregnant women especially vulnerable to the pollutant, Chumchal said.

State testing did not find dangerous levels of any other carcinogens, pesticides or other hazardous materials.

The problems repeat mercury levels found at Lake Meredith. Researchers couldn’t put a finger on why West Texas would have such consistent problems, but had a few clues.

Coal-fired electric plants supply most of the mercury in the atmosphere. Southwestern Public Service Company stacks at Harrington and Tolk stations spew the element as a byproduct of the cheap energy source that accounts for more than half the electricity powering Panhandle homes.

But mercury can spend years in the atmosphere and travel the globe, so sitting so close to power plants doesn’t imply high mercury levels, researchers said. Asian plants launched more than half the man-made mercury floating around the globe, compared to the 3 percent of man-made emissions traced to the United States, based on studies published over the past 15 years.

Panhandle geology may encourage the bacteria turning the mercury into its more dangerous form, Munger said. More acidic lake water also tends to have more mercury problems. Or it could be a case of growing pains for Lake Alan Henry, Chumchal said; new lakes tend to have mercury problems.

“The younger the reservoir, the more methylmercury you see in fish,” Chumchal said. “The age of Alan Henry could, potentially, be a factor.”

Even if researchers had a smoking methyl gun, tracing it in the Panhandle could pose problems. There just wasn’t enough data in West Texas, Chumchal said.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requires permits for mercury releases into the air and water, but air-testing was difficult, spokesman Terry Clawson said in an e-mailed response to questions. New facilities must have monitoring equipment – older facilities, like Tolk and Harrington, estimate mercury based on the fuel they use. Most state testing was done just as it was at Alan Henry – on fish, far removed from its source.

Researchers have more than a decade of tracking in eastern and western United States provided by a series of voluntarily installed equipment monitored by the Mercury Deposition Network.

Their maps show a blank white sandbar between two brown ponds of data traveling up from West Texas into the Dakotas. The $11,000 monitoring stations don’t exist in West Texas; a Fort Worth site recently shut down, program coordinator David Gay said.

“Texas is a tough place to break into,” Gay said. “It’s a huge hole in our network.”

Anglers remained more interested in what they could snare from the water on the end of a line than what might line the muscles of their catch.

Fishing tournaments at the future water supply and current bass fishing gem Lake Alan Henry continued undeterred by warnings against eating fish caught from the reservoir out

Munger, the Canyon-based biologist, said mercury wouldn’t stunt the growth of record-breaking lunkers, a main concern for fisherman trying to set lake records.

Sport fisherman tend to catch and release their bass, anyway, to encourage larger fish and the lure of bigger lake records, said Stacy Miller, tournament director of the Hub City West Texas Anglers.

He worried a little for families who may eat fish from the lake, but didn’t eat much himself, he said.

“It does concern us, but like I said, we don’t eat a whole lot of them,” Miller said.

To comment on this story: l 766-8722 l 766-8706

San Angelo – “Securing long-term water supply critical to city (Posted By Mike Mecke)

By Kiah Collier
Posted April 10, 2010
San Angelo Standard-Times

SAN ANGELO, Texas — The San Angelo City Council didn’t take action on much last week but provided direction on a variety of important issues.

One item on the agenda caught my eye when it was posted Friday afternoon: Discussion of future steps for a long-term water supply.

I immediately thought, “future, future.” With a population that is expected to double between now and 2060 and available groundwater becoming more and more scarce, the state’s water needs are set to increase exponentially and the search for it will become more and more competitive — and more expensive.

Every city official I’ve talked to has said water supply is one of the top issues — if not the top one — facing San Angelo in the immediate and long-term future. Everyone can agree that a city’s stability is shot without a stable supply of H20, but what does that stability cost?

It turns out the discussion on Tuesday was about ways to fund the $120 million Hickory Aquifer project, which is scheduled to bring water into the city by 2014. Long story short, the city has owned rights to Hickory since the 1970s and is finally getting around to tapping into it. Good plan. But, the project is still largely unfunded. Before it’s all said and done with, City Manager Harold Dominguez said, there would most certainly be an increase in base water rates, but the city is trying to figure out ways to “minimize” that impact.

There has been $14 million dedicated to the project from the half-cent sales tax, but that leaves $106 million unaccounted for. There were various options presented Tuesday on how to chip away at what’s left, and your half-cent sales tax dollars appeared to be the best solution that came out of the council meeting.

But Hickory is not the end of the story.

With the city likely to face stricter usage restrictions on Lake Ivie Reservoir, its primary water supply, all Hickory is going to be doing for the first 11 years is making up for that loss — at least until 2025 when the city will see a 40-something percent bump in the amount of water coming in from the aquifer (Much like the usage restrictions on Ivie, the staggered increase from the Hickory supply was set up as part of the permit approval process through the Hickory Underground Water District to help preserve the life of the aquifer). The main reason the city hasn’t yet faced usage restrictions on Ivie is that it has started using much less water, thanks to public education and conservation efforts, says the city’s Water Utilities Director Will Wilde.

Because of those potential usage restrictions as well as the city’s estimated population growth, Wilde says the city “most definitely” needs to be looking beyond Hickory for another supply — a “plan B,” as city council member Charlotte Farmer has called it. But Wilde told me that Hickory is the only available supply within a 50 miles radius of the city. It’s not until at least 100 miles to 150 miles out that there is something else to work with. What does this mean?

“Those costs could be double and triple for what we’re seeing for the cost of the development for the Hickory,” Wilde said of the cost of bringing in water to the city from that far away.

In the Hickory funding discussion at Tuesday’s meeting, Dominguez noted that O.C. Fisher Lake and Twin Buttes, San Angelo’s main water supply before Ivie, were never meant to be water supplies — they were built primarily for flood control. Dominguez also said these two sources were nearly dried up when he first began working for the city in 2003. And we’re still technically in a drought, Wilde reminded me. Moral of the story: San Angelo really, really needs access to groundwater and needs to get moving on Hickory as soon as possible.

The economy is apparently a reason for the rush, too.

Dominguez said Tuesday the city needs to take advantage of the low bids contractors are making because they are short on work while the economy is still recovering (also, interest rates are low). Dominguez said this could save the city anywhere from $30 million to $40 million dollars on the project.

The other options Dominguez and city Finance Director Michael Dane presented involved taking advantage of certain tax rate reductions and/or the possibility of asking voters if the city can extend the “sunset” on the half-cent sales tax from 20 years to 30 years, which could provide an additional $20 million for the project.

The sunset was put in place when the half-cent sales tax was established so that any debt acquired for a sales tax-funded project must be paid off in 20 years or less. I wonder if we will find another supply before Hickory is paid off?

I’m also interested to know what the city is thinking about for its plan B. Options I’ve heard about include a regional partnership (we already share Ivie with Abilene and other surrounding communities). How much is securing that plan B going to cost, both purchasing rights and getting it to the city?

The good news is that the water in San Angelo may soon be tasting better. The water coming in from Hickory by 2014 will be mixed in with Ivie water at the water treatment plant, but it’s a softer, better quality water. Treatment will cost about the same, Wilde said, but you are likely to notice a difference in the taste.

Kiah Collier is a multimedia journalist who covers city hall and local and state politics. Contact her at

(Midland, Arsenic issue) Revamped water plant part of future scenario (Posted By Mike Mecke)

by Bob Campbell  ( my bolding emphasis added….mm)
Midland Reporter-Telegram
Published: Saturday, April 3, 2010 5:08 PM CDT
Advancing Midland’s water supply system into the modern era has been an expensive, grueling task, but $21.5 million and 2 1/2 years later, the city’s purification plant at Midland Drive and Bluebird Lane is near completion and ready to boost pressures on the north and west sides of town.

A key element in answering water questions for at least the next 20 years, the plant features a new pump station, chlorine facility, electrical switchgear, computer system and such esoteric equipment as scrubbers and a sludge dewatering facility…………….
However, an $8 million filtering system may be added next year to lower arsenic and fluoride levels from the Paul Davis Wellfield 30 miles north of Midland, he indicated………………..

“This should serve us for the next 20 years or longer,” said Purvis. “People ought to see their water pressure increase in June or July as pumps come up to meet the summer demand.”

Having raised arsenic and fluoride limits, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires the city to take no more than 25 percent of its supply from the Davis Wellfield with the rest coming from Colorado River Municipal Water District lakes at Ballinger, Robert Lee and Snyder, Purvis said.

Read more:

A border runs through it (the Rio Grande) (Posted By Mike Mecke)

(maybe in the end, more volatile and important to border region Texans than the current drug war – the legal division of the Rio’s waters is sometimes like Solomon’s decision! Read on……

Mexico unable to provide promised water to Texas
It’s caused international incidents with border flair. A Mexican governor has villified Texas leaders for playing politics with it and U.S. lawyers have threatened to sue for violation of international treaties related to it. Steeped in the annals of America’s symbiotic relationship with Mexico is the two countries’ long-standing and sometimes tense agreement over an issue more far-reaching than border security and immigration: water.

The Treaty of Feb. 3, 1944 — also called the “Treaty of the Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande” — directs Mexico to deliver water to the U.S. from six tributaries that feed into the Rio Grande, in exchange for water from the Colorado River. But the Mexican government’s inability to meet its current water obligation has some Texas businesses, agricultural leaders and state lawmakers keeping a close eye on their southern neighbor.

The treaty, which runs in five-year cycles, mandates that Mexico deliver an average of 350,000 acre-feet of water to the U.S. annually from the waters that flow into Mexico’s Rio Grande, known there as the Rio Bravo. In exchange, Mexico is entitled to 1.5 million acre-feet of water annually from the Colorado River, which drains into Mexico at the Arizona-California border. (An acre-foot of water is 325,821 gallons.) But in the first year of the treaty’s current cycle, which ended Feb. 28, Mexico delivered just 189,371 acre-feet of water to the U.S. — well short of the expected annual average.

Sally Spener, public affairs officer with the El Paso-based International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), said this doesn’t present a crisis yet; the treaty was authored in a fashion that allows Mexico to make up the difference. Mexico could make up last year’s deficit by releasing about 510,600 acre-feet by the end of February 2011. “The reason the treaty did this is, that particular region is affected by highly variable conditions, so that you can have low flow one year and you can have a hurricane the next,” Spener said. “That’s why it is a five-year average that is required rather than an annual delivery amount.”

Some critics have less confidence. They point to Mexico’s past delivery troubles, including a feud the country settled with U.S. farmers in 2005, after Mexico fell behind in its delivery by more than 700,000 acre-feet. At the time, Mexican authorities said their own water needs were preventing the release. After Mexico agreed to expedite delivery the dispute ended — but the aftereffects still linger.

The treaty directs water use in Texas from Fort Quitman to the Gulf of Mexico, and has a huge impact on Texas agricultural producers and municipal water suppliers who rely on the river or their water. The majority of water delivered to the U.S. comes from two main tributaries that feed into the Rio Grande: the Conchos, which enters the river in Presidio and in Ojinaga, Mexico; and the Salado, which enters the Rio Grande at the Falcon Dam reservoir, which sits on the Starr/Zapata county line south of Laredo.

At a recent interim committee hearing of the Texas Senate’s International Relations and Trade Committee at the Capitol, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality officials explained that Mexico is not in violation of the treaty — yet. “It is something that we have brought to the attention of the IBWC and have scheduled a meeting with the State Department,” testified Carlos Rubinstein, a TCEQ commissioner. “Anything that impacts the delivery of water to the Rio Grande ultimately impacts the delivery of water to all of the residents and could also impact the colonias.”

Ken Jones, the director of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, explained that Mexico holds the cards in the situation, at least geographically. “Seventy-eight percent of the watershed that feeds into Falcon and Amistad that supplies the water for the U.S. side is actually physically in Mexico,” he said. “That’s why the compliance thing is so important to us because it’s limited access to the U.S. side in terms of inflow to the reservoir system.”

What do the Mexicans say when asked about their shortfall? “They say they need if for their side, too,” said Jones.

Most of the Mexican water is used for irrigation in Texas. Rio Grande Valley Water Master Erasmo Yarrito, who calculated water use percentages for this story, said since at least 2007, the majority of the area’s water was used for irrigation — about 72 percent that year, rising to about 80 percent in 2008 and 2009.

Jones said reservoir levels are monitored on a regular basis to check the inflow of water from Mexico. The situation with Mexico was dire last time, not only because of the backlog, but because of the simultaneous drought experienced by the region. But the reservoirs are currently at greater than 80 percent capacity this time around — a good sign. Jones said it isn’t until reservoir levels reach the 50 to 55 percent capacity range that municipalities initiate local water restrictions.

Rubenstein said the impact of the Mexican water shortfall is “primarily to agricultural users, but that then translates into an economic impact to the Valley as well.” Because 100 percent of water-supply corporations and municipalities in the Rio Grande Valley get their water from the Rio Grande, Rubinstein added, “if the river is short-changed, it will affect just about every sector of the Valley.”

“We are continuing to work with them,” Rubenstein said. Mexico “fully caught up [in the past] and were actually able to close two cycles.”

Texas crops, weather – March 23, 2010 (Posted By Mike Mecke)

‘Wheat looks 100 percent better than last year’
March 23, 2010
COLLEGE STATION – - More moisture came to the state in the form of rain or snow or both. The added moisture was bad for those wanting to plant spring crops but good for wheat, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
“It’s hurt us a little bit from a topdressing standpoint, for some producers not being able to get their fertilizer out as they would have liked,” said Dr. Todd Baughman, AgriLife Extension agronomist based in Vernon. “But as a whole we’re still in pretty good shape – from a wheat standpoint – and definitely look 100 percent better than we did last year.”

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. There’s some late wheat whose growth was hurt by the colder-than-usual weather, and some acreage didn’t get planted because of a wet fall, he said.

“There may have been a few more acres that didn’t get planted in Central and maybe South Texas, but as a whole most of the Panhandle and Rolling Plains got most of the acres they wanted in,” he said.

All of Texas has had an unusually wet winter, which has created problems for producers with all crops. North Texas has been particularly hurt by the wet winter, which not only affected the acres planted last fall but hurt those fields that did get planted, according to AgriLife Extension agents. Winter wheat there was in poor to fair condition going into spring.

Throughout the state, producers are now pulling cattle off winter wheat grazing in hopes of making a grain crop. Wheat prices are only one factor affecting their decision, Baughman said.

“Actually, wheat prices have been up and down; not necessarily where we would like them. The main thing is that in some cases people had those contracted for delivery, and typically part of their management strategy,” he said.

Regardless of the moisture situation, growers have to take cattle off winter wheat because it’s at the jointing stage. If cattle were left to graze, they would be hurting yields, he said.

“The biggest thing from the wheat cattle situation is that cattle are coming off wheat a bit light because of all the mud they’ve been dragging around,” he said.

About 75 percent of Texas wheat acreage is in the Rolling Plains and Panhandle regions, Baughman noted. The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:

CENTRAL: Fair weather greatly improved condition of rangeland. Spring green-up helped improve the condition of cattle. Some producers began planting, but rain late in the reporting period slowed field operations. Some fruit trees may have been injured by a freeze, but the extent of damage, if any, had yet to be determined.

COASTAL BEND: Cool temperatures and rain slowed planting. Winter pastures improved with the rain and warmer weather.

EAST: Warmer daytime temperatures improved winter forages and greened up pastures. Most producers were completely out of hay, and the new forage growth was welcomed. There were a few rain showers followed by snow. Creeks and river bottoms remained flooded, driving feral hogs to the higher ground of pastures and other property where they did damage. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Calving continued with some cases of pneumonia and scours.

FAR WEST: The region received only trace amounts of precipitation. High winds dried out soils. Growers were preparing land for planting chiles and cotton. Some cotton acreage was already furrowed and pre-irrigated. Fall-planted onions were at fourth-leaf stage and growing. Alfalfa came out of dormancy. Fall planted wheat was at the fourth- to six-leaf stage. On Pawnee pecans, the hard outer-bud shell developed. Forbs were emerging on rangeland, most of which were not useful for livestock grazing, and in some cases, they were poisonous species, such as locoweed.

NORTH: Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to surplus. Sunny and windy days helped dry things out and greened up pastures, but the favorable weather was followed by more rain and snow. As much as 10 inches of snow were reported in some areas. Cool nights slowed the growth of winter annuals. Though fields dried out some, most remained too wet for access. Farmers were trying to get land ready to plant corn, but were successful only on well-drained fields. The window of opportunity for planting corn was about to close. Those farmers who were not able to plant corn will try to plant grain sorghum in April. Soil temperatures remained fairly cool which may affect germination and early growth. Winter wheat was in poor to fair condition. Hay supplies were running very short and of low quality. Many producers ran out of hay and were looking for some to buy, but there was little available. Many had to go out of state to purchase hay at very high prices just to sustain cattle until grass greens up. Peach trees were blooming.

PANHANDLE: Rain early in the reporting period was followed by snow and high winds. The rain helped pastures and wheat, but conditions remained too wet in most areas for fieldwork. Some producers pulled cattle off wheat pastures in hopes of having a good grain crop. Producers continued to provide supplemental feed to cattle but were cutting back. Overall, cattle were in good condition.

ROLLING PLAINS: Warmer days caused wheat to rapidly grow. were in fair condition with rye grass holding its own. Producers began to slow down supplemental feeding. Weeds were becoming a major problem in most pastures. Soil levels were is in great shape throughout the region. Cotton producers were preparing for spring planting. Spring calving and foaling was in full swing. Cattle on wheat and rangeland were doing well.

SOUTH: High winds and temperatures in the 40s moved into the region late in the reporting period. Soil moisture levels were mostly adequate to surplus. Precipitation, sunshine and warmer temperatures kept rangeland and pastures in good condition. With cattle grazing on better pastures, there was little supplemental feeding. Corn and sorghum planting continued, and potato crops emerged in the northern parts of the region. Low soil temperatures and the lack of heat units prevented cotton planting in the eastern part of the region. Dryland wheat and oats made good progress; cabbage and spinach harvesting continued. Additional fields of cabbage were planted earlier but had yet developed. Farmers were actively planting corn, cotton and sorghum planting in the western part of the region. Corn and sorghum crops in the southern part of the region progressed very well. In the southern part of the region, spring planting continued and fall onion crops were being prepared for harvesting.

SOUTH PLAINS: The region received from 1.5 to 2.5 inches of rain, followed by nearly 1 inch of snow on the first day of spring. Most producers were behind on fieldwork due to wet conditions. However, subsoil moisture levels were good. Wheat was in fair to good condition. Some wheat reached the jointing stage, and stems were beginning to elongate, but more consecutive days of warm weather were needed. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition. Cattle were mostly in good condition with occasional supplemental feeding.

SOUTHEAST: Range conditions improved with warmer weather, but damage from last summer’s drought was still visible. Bermuda grass began to green up despite cool nights. Winter forages responded to sunshine and warmer temperatures too. Legumes showed better growth than ryegrass. Overall, pastures remained poor, and cattle were in poor condition. In some areas, there were reports of some cattle bloating because of rapid growths of winter annuals. A small fraction of corn and grain sorghum acreage was planted. Some fields were too wet to plant or still needed to be worked before planting could be done.

SOUTHWEST: Spring arrived, accompanied with as much as 0.75 inch of rain. Year-to-date rainfall remained at about twice the long-term average. The region was rapidly greening-up, but a late-winter cold spell with frost slowed growth progress. Large numbers of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes were blooming along roadsides for the first time in about four years. Forage availability improved significantly, and ranchers increased stocking rates. Corn and sorghum planting was complete. Fields showed good stands, but there was some leaf damage from frosts. Spinach, cabbage, potatoes, onions, wheat and oats made excellent progress. Cotton, cantaloupe, watermelon and cucumber planting was expected to start soon. The harvesting of spinach, cabbage, broccoli and carrots continued.

WEST CENTRAL: Most of the region received precipitation accompanied by cool temperatures and a few days of sunshine. Wheat and oats were doing very well with all the moisture. Producers were applying herbicides to control spring weeds and preparing fields for spring planting. Livestock producers continued supplemental feeding of livestock. Rangeland greened up.

Deer, geese may add to Lake Granbury’s E. coli pollution woes (Posted By Mike Mecke)

Comment: this also refers to many town park areas on creeks or rivers with way too many domestic ducks and geese eating up the riparian grasses and pooping in turf and water, don’t do it – catch and eat or take home. Nasty and bad for walking, swimming, fish or drinking water supplies. Mike
News Release
March 17, 2010
Robert Burns, 903-834-6191,

Contact(s):Brent Clayton, 979- 845-4116,

GRANBURY – - Whether bears poop in the woods remains a rhetorical question, but it’s a fact that wildlife poop adds to E. coli woes in Lake Granbury, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.

“Humans desire to have nature in their lives,” said to Brent Clayton, an AgriLife Extension assistant working closely with Lake Granbury water quality issues. “We go on trips to parks, plant flowers and put out birdseed to attract the wildlife. Unfortunately attracting wildlife, though it may seem beneficial, can be detrimental to our resources when done in an urban setting near water supply sources like reservoirs.”

Lake Granbury is an 8,300-acre impoundment of the Brazos River. It is named for the town of Granbury, which is 33 miles southwest of Forth Worth. Runoff from thousands of acres drain into this lake, including all or parts of Erath, Hood, Palo Pinto and Parker counties.

As the area has become more urbanized, levels of E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria, as well as incidences of algae blooms, have risen dramatically in the lake, according to Clayton.

Watershed protection plans have focused on sources of pollution from livestock and the estimated 9,000 private septic systems bordering the lake and the streams that feed it. But waters tests show that wildlife also contributes to the problem, he said.

Specific strains and concentrations of E. coli and other bacteria differ depending upon where the lake is tested, Clayton said. But according to a draft of a watershed protection plan, tests at one location showed that septic tank sewage contributed about 21 percent of E. coli, livestock sources about 15 percent, and avian and other wildlife sources about 25 percent. More than 40 percent came from “unidentified” sources.

“One adult Canada goose can excrete one pound of feces every day,” Clayton said. “You can only image the poundage involved with a large gaggle of geese.”

Humans are accomplices to pollution resulting from wildlife waste in several ways, he said. One is by feeding of wildlife, including deer and geese.

Given a free lunch and lacking predators to keep their population in check, wildlife can become more numerous than is typical of the area.

Feeding draws wildlife to a specific location and makes them more reliant on food supplied by people. Wildlife will naturally forage for food over a broad landscape, but supplemental feeding can concentrate them in a smaller part of the landscape and thus concentrate the amount of waste, Clayton said.

There are many side effects of wildlife overpopulation, and pollution of lakes and streams with feces is one.

“Though reducing wildlife waste in itself may not make the lake’s water perfect, it is one of the essential small things that everyone can do,” Clayton said. “We do not want to eliminate wildlife from our lives. They provide a bit of nature that most of us crave. However, with the health of Lake Granbury in jeopardy, it is important that we maintain numbers of wildlife at a sustainable level to provide a good environment for both animals and people.”