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,rd-burns@tamu.edu

Contact(s):Brent Clayton, 979- 845-4116, jbclayton@ag.tamu.edu

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.”

Water News Briefs–March 2010 RRL (Posted By Mike Mecke)

Following are news briefs as published in the March 2010 issue of Ranch & Rural Living. There are a few extra news items that didn’t make it into the magazine.

Language of Water Politics Often Murky

Feb. 17, 2010—Scott Stroud—San Antonio Express-News
If you’re out of the habit of talking to folks who study water policy for a living, meetings on its future in Texas can feel like they’re unfolding in a language you do not speak. You study people’s faces for signs: the knowing nods at phrases like “rule of capture” and “prior appropriation.” You hope  no one asks you a question.  But you can learn things if you’re patient, though you might have to do your own translating. And some of what you learn is alarming.  Such was the case at a two-day symposium on water at Trinity University, sponsored by Trinity, the San Antonio Peace Center and the Texas Drought Project.

Battle Over Water in Pecos County

Feb. 16, 2010— Eddie Garcia—CBS 7 News
Over the past 50 years, Pecos County and businessman Clayton Williams have been fighting a war over water.
“We have 32 wells, that averages about 2,000 gallons per minute.” Williams explained. That’s millions of gallons used to water his hay and alfalfa crops, steady work but no longer a cash cow.
“If you can’t make money then you have to do something else.” Williams tells us.
And Williams has a plan of grand proportions. He says, “I visualize a 30 inch pipeline that would take most of the water, not all of the water, to more less a spot between Midland and Odessa and we’ll divert it to whoever wants to buy it.”
According to Williams, it boils down to one thing, property rights.

Read more »

California Reluctant to Declare Drouth Over (Posted By Gary Cutrer)

Lake Oroville.

Lake Oroville at near capacity in better days.

Despite plenty of rain and snow coming in from the Pacific this winter, the California Department of Water Resources is reluctant to declare an end to the state’s three-year drouth. Although a lot of wet stuff has fallen, the state’s biggest source of drinking and irrigation water is still only at 40 percent capacity. Lake Oroville provides drinking water to 25 million Californians and irrigates 700,000 acres of farmland. If the melting snowpack in the northern Sierras fills the reservoir, the state’s drouth may well be over–for now. See article here.

Texas’ Groundwater Rights in Supreme Court (Posted By Mike Mecke)

Courtesy: Public Strategies, Inc., Texas River Systems Institute.  2/24/10

“Texas Supreme Court to Decide on Groundwater Pumping Rights Case

The ownership and control of groundwater pumping rights in Texas are now in the hands of the state Supreme Court. Last week, the nine justices heard arguments in a case that pits the right of a landowner near Von Ormy to pump from the Edwards Aquifer against the government’s authority to regulate the use of ground and surface water. For more than a decade, the Edwards Aquifer Authority has argued that in order for it to regulate pumping, landowners cannot own the water in the Edwards Aquifer. It was first time the state’s highest court considered that argument. Scores of landowners, private organizations, cities and state agencies that disagree with the EAA packed the courtroom and formed a line outside. “Any ruling by the Court that in any manner destabilizes groundwater ownership rights could have dire consequences for Texans and the Texas economy,” wrote Texas Comptroller Susan Combs. The EAA was created by state law in 1993 to ensure a future water supply for the region and protect endangered species by limiting pumping from the aquifer. Instead of allowing landowners to continue to pump as much water as they wanted as long as they put it to some beneficial use, the authority issued pumping permits and put a cap on the total amount that could be pumped. The EAA argues that if the groundwater is owned by the landowners, then it and the roughly 95 groundwater conservation districts in the state would be open to a lawsuit every time they tried to limit pumping or be forced to compensate landowners.”


Right or Wrong?

What is your feeling on this case?  I spent about ten years working on the Edwards Aquifer region with pumpers, towns and irrigators……….. before and after the EAA was created and users were obligated to observe new pumping rights and permits.  I feel it was necessary to control over-use by any very large or uncaring users and to maintain adequate water use and irrigation pumping for all users.  And also,of course, under the earlier Federal Endangered Species lawsuit, maintaining springflow at Comal and San Marcos to preserve the habitat for those ES…….. while helping to maintain adequate river flow in the rivers below the springs on the way to healthy bays and estuaries.

Going back to my earlier post – Whose water is it?  Urban or Rural?  Should a city or a wealthy individual be able to buy or take water from a smaller, agricultural community just because it has the money or can?  Do urban lawns and golfcourses count for more than food or fiber crops, livestock or small town’s viability?  Do you want to have to buy more and more of your family’s food  from foreign markets?  Not me!   Or if you live in a city, would you rather have the financial help to your city’s economy and taxbase from a healthy surrounding agricultural region?  Yes!

Water is Life! – it is not a commodity like oil or gas

Mike Mecke