Ranchers, Farmers Cautiously Optimistic about Rains (Posted By Gary Cutrer)

Heavy rains in Central and East Texas and soaking rains in West Texas fell the last two days. Some occasional showers and light but soaking rains have occurred since the first of the year with the latest rains doing a lot of good in West Texas and actually causing some minor flash flooding in the San Antonio and Austin areas.

Farmers are watching the skies closely in preparation for the upcoming planting season. Ranchers are thankful to have any moisture at all across grazing lands in Texas, even though much of the livestock inhabiting those pastures has been sold off.

Winter weeds are emerging and providing feed for goats and sheep still left out there. Winter wheat pastures are surviving now that  the rain has come. This year is already an improvement over the tinder dry conditions of 2011 when spring winds whipped up a record number of wildfires across Texas.

With the prognostication that La Nina will continue to influence the weather of the Southwestern U.S. in the dry direction, ag producers are crossing their fingers that those predictions are wrong and that the occasional rains will continue.

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NWS: La Niña to Dissipate by May 2012 (Posted By Gary Cutrer)

Pressure departures: El Nino vs. La Nina.

Pressure departures: El Nino vs. La Nina.

End-of-2011 predictions called for the La Niña Pacific Ocean phenomenon to prolong extreme drought conditions in areas of North America through 2012.

But now, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is predicting a transition to “ENSO-neutral conditions during March-May 2012.”

ENSO stands for El Niño/Southern Oscillation

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Water News (Posted By Mike Mecke)

Authority Seals Water Deal With Pickens

By Kevin Welch    Amarillo Globe-News    Dec. 29, 2011

The largest water transaction in Texas Panhandle history became final Thursday. The Canadian River Municipal Water Authority paid wealthy oil and gas man T. Boone Pickens’ Mesa Water $103 million for about 211,000 acres of water rights. The deal covers about 4 trillion gallons of water.

Amarillo is one of 11 cities that make up the authority. It uses about 40 percent of the water produced by the group and will repay that much of the bonds used to finance the deal. Lubbock is the other large member of the group that started out using water from Lake Meredith in 1965 to supplement the cities’ own supplies.

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Rethinking water: Growing population, limited supply mean costs destined to rise, experts say (Posted By Mike Mecke)


Published: Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012

Is water too cheap?

Perhaps the most obvious indication that it is, said Michael Webber, a University of Texas professor who heads a research group focused on water and energy, is how freely we use it.

“A hundred years from now, your grandkids would ask you, `You sprayed what on your lawn? That’s crazy,’” Webber said.

Watering lawns will seem as crazy as throwing diamonds on our lawns; we’re throwing the world’s most important resource – clean drinking water – on the ground, Webber said.

The idea that water is too cheap is endorsed by several water planners and policymakers.

“Water right now is underpriced,” said Becky Motal, general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority.

A growing population requires more water, which the state says can’t come from one source. Addressing the state’s water needs requires a range of solutions, most of which are expensive.

“For most of our recent history, we just treated (water) as if we had an unlimited supply of it. We’re finding to our dismay that that’s not true,” said Andrew Sansom, executive director of the River Systems Institute at Texas State University……………………………..



Authority seals water deal with Pickens (Posted By Mike Mecke)

$103M pact region’s largest water transaction

Posted: December 29, 2011

By Kevin Welch amarillo.com

There was talk of a “momentous occasion” and many thanks for making the largest water transaction in Texas Panhandle history final Thursday.

“I don’t think you owe me any thanks,” said wealthy oil and gas man T. Boone Pickens. “You paid for the water.”

The Canadian River Municipal Water Authority paid Pickens’ Mesa Water $103 million for about 211,000 acres of water rights, mostly in Roberts County in the northeast panhandle. The deal covers about 4 trillion gallons of water…………………………………………………………….

The water authority and Pickens have talked about water sales since about 1996, but the deterioration of Lake Meredith’s performance got everyone’s attention. Reaching a deal took nine months of serious negotiations after a phone call from Amarillo City Commissioner Jim Simms.

“He called and said ‘Lake Meredith’s drying up,’” Pickens said. “I got to feeling guilty. I didn’t want my family to say, ‘That’s one of the Pickenses that sold the water to Dallas.’”





Bill Dawson

October 23, 2011

A drought for the centuries: It hasn’t been this dry in Texas since 1789

 There was only one other year in almost five centuries when Texas’ summer drought was as severe as it was in 2011, federal climate experts have concluded.

Instrumental weather records used to measure drought severity don’t go back much before the 20th century. (In Texas, they date to 1895.)

To establish a longer-range record, scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have analyzed tree-ring data and calculated how drought conditions dating back hundreds of years (to 1550 in Texas) ranked on the standard Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI).

Positive numbers on the PDSI represent wet conditions and negative numbers indicate dry conditions. The more severe a drought is, the lower its PDSI number.

Texas’ average PDSI this past summer (June through August) was -5.37 – the lowest, indicating the most severe drought conditions, since the start of the instrumental record in 1895.

And according to the federal government’s National Climatic Data Center, there was apparently only one other year during the last 461 years when Texas had a drought so severe.

Going back to 1550, the tree-ring reconstructions reveal that only in 1789 was Texas’ PDSI number so low, the center reported recently. (For our readers who don’t readily recall key historical dates, 1789 was the year when George Washington was inaugurated as the United States’ first president and also when the French Revolution started.) Here’s part of the National Climatic Data Center’s report:

The tree-ring record can put the droughts of the last century across Texas, including 2011, into a much longer perspective. The frequency of severe one-year statewide droughts appears not to have significantly changed between the “paleo” period (1550-1894) and the instrumental period (after 1895). Both the instrumental and reconstructed PDSI records indicate that “severe” or “extreme” statewide summer drought (PDSI below -3) occurred in about 1 in 15 years. “Extreme” statewide summer droughts (PDSI below -4) such as 2011 and 1956 are seen in about 1 in 40 years in both the instrumental and reconstructed records.

So how does the 2011 summer PDSI (-5.37) compare to the worst one-year paleo-droughts? We first need to consider that the tree rings are imperfect recorders of past drought, and so the reconstructed values have confidence intervals (or “error bands”) associated with them. When this error band is taken into account, there is only one value in the paleo record, 1789 (-5.14), that can be said to be equivalent to the 2011 observed value. Thus, 2011 appears to be unusual even in the context of the multi-century tree-ring record.

The current drought in Texas has been unprecedented relative to the century-long observed record in a number of ways: the record-low precipitation, the extreme summer heat, and the enormous wildfires. The tree-ring record of PDSI confirms that, in a much longer context, the 2010-2011 Texas drought is an extraordinary event.

And it appears no relief is in sight, the federal Climate Prediction Center said last week in its Winter Outlook for December through February:

With La Niña in place Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and parts of surrounding states are unlikely to get enough rain to alleviate the ongoing drought. Texas, the epicenter of the drought, experienced its driest 12-month period on record from October 2010 through September 2011.

– Bill Dawson

Image credit: © pixonaut, iStockphoto.com


November 3, 2011 | A magazine about climate & sustainability

October 23, 2011


Guadalupe Basin Strategy Proposals – Draft (Posted By Mike Mecke)


(These are some ideas I have proposed in our Stakeholder Committee’s report writing – they will be developed, or dropped or whatever over the next six months.  Every major river basin in Texas is going through this process, so get involved locally.  Anyone have any good ideas or changes?  Please post them if so……. thanks, Mike

DRAFT              STRATEGY  PROPOSALS                  DRAFT

                    GUADALUPE RIVER BASIN & BAYS

                         STAKEHOLDERS COMMITTEE

                                            AUG. 2011



As the population of the basin continues to grow, it becomes even more important that ALL people – from headwaters to estuary – become as conservative of their water as possible.  Climate Change, it seems, as evidenced by more frequent, serious droughts and intense heat waves is more rapidly forcing these changes upon our basin and state.

 Every gallon or acre foot that is conserved is one less that will be needed from the rivers in the basin, or from the aquifers and springs which feed them.  Texans are just scratching the surface of maximum water conservation – we have long prided upon our being conservative people – now we must prove it again in how we manage our most precious natural resource.   Agua es Vida!

 Fortunately, we have numerous options or strategies available in order to improve our basin’s catchment, its rivers and the ways we affect these resources.   

  Such as:

 CONSERVATION – both agricultural, rural and urban dwellers.

 RAINWATER HARVESTING – on homes, public buildings and businesses.  Additionally, applications on streets, parking areas and farm and ranch lands can catch and hold rain and stormwater for recharge, human use and agricultural benefits.

 RIPARIAN ZONE & WETLAND RESTORATION AND STEWARDSHIP – Proper stewardship of riparian zones on the basin’s creeks and rivers can build up the in-bank water holding capacities which serve to maintain base flows during dry periods and provide a healthy riparian habitat for both aquatic species and other wildlife.  Floods are reduced and water quality improved as well as other benefits.

 Restored and healthy wetlands on the rivers or on the Gulf provide not only the cleansing actions desirable for inflows and a very productive wildlife habitat, but also protection for inland communities from hurricanes.


WATERSHED or “CATCHMENT” STEWARDSHIP  - It is a proven fact among hydrologists, rangeland specialists and other field water personnel, that a well-managed, healthy watershed not only provides a desirable livestock and wildlife environment, but increases groundwater penetration and recharge, reduces floods and other benefits. 

 On many karst limestone watersheds, as are common across the Hill Country and Edwards Plateau, selective brush management and subsequent improved rangeland management, has proven to sometimes increase ground recharge and springflows.  Normally, ashe juniper (cedar, mountain cedar) has been the target brush species, but in other cases water thirsty mesquite or redberry juniper control has also produced desirable hydrological benefits.  There are numerous cases and studies that have given rise to these efforts from San Angelo south to San Antonio.

 ALTERNATIVE  OPTIONS – Permit buy-outs, dry year irrigation options, WW effluent dedications, riparian well buy-outs, cooperation and coordination with key riparian Groundwater Districts and Headwaters Groundwater Districts to improve and maintain spring flows, etc.


“Every Drop Counts!” (Posted By Mike Mecke)

Wanting a little more info on Texas Water?  Check out the Texas Parks and Wildlife‘s 10th annual water issue. The issue’s articles deal with a variety of Texas water challenges. Here are some highlights:

The issue opens with a look at the last ten years of Texas water. Concern about the state’s water supply unifies “all sectors of the Texas populace, irrespective of social, political, economic or geographic considerations,” states Carter Smith in “A Decade of Water”. From large cities, such as Houston and Arlington, to smaller towns, such as Luling and Lufkin, Texans have embraced their local bayous, lakes and rivers over the last decade by tackling tough conservation issues and highlighting their beauty.

Larry McKinney reflects on the America’s Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and argues that its future and our futures are inextricably linked. He delves into the inherent contradictions in the Gulf—it is at the same time one of America’s most diverse environmental resources and one of the most economically productive areas in the US. He says that “We face significant challenges to the Gulf’s future, but it is not lost, not even close to being lost. What we have is worth all our best efforts to save.” Read more »


Key Words for Rivers & Creeks (Posted By Mike Mecke)

Today I thought I would share with you an excellent note on managing our creeks and rivers written by  Steve Nelle, a Wildlife Biology Specialist with the NRCS-USDA State Office in San Angelo.  Steve is active in our Texas Riparian Association and is a highly sought educator on these topics.  This Note  defines a number of important terms needed to fully understand riparian and watershed principles.  

This was written several years ago, but is valid now and will be in 2500 too.  I worked with Steve for a number of years when I was a Range Conservationist for the same agency, in Coke County.  He is tops not only in the wildlife field, but range plants and riparian.   Mike

                                                          Riparian Notes

Note Number 23, June  2007                                             Steve Nelle, NRCS, San Angelo, Texas

What is a Creek?

If you were asked to throw a rock into the creek, the result would be a splash and ripples.  We often think of “the creek” as the water.  But a creek is much more than the visible water.  These are the major parts / components that combine together to make the creek:                        

  • Channel
  • Floodplain
  • Water Table
  • Base Flow
  • Flood Flow
  • Vegetation
  • Sediment
  • Debris


The Channel contains and directs the water at base flow up to bankfull flow.  The channel should be relatively stable, yet dynamic, with bank erosion being balanced with new bank formation.

The Floodplain is where out-of-bank flows are able to spread out and dissipate the energy of the floodwaters and trap sediments and build the Riparian Sponge.

The Water Table is part of the creek.  In fact, it may be a much greater volume of water than what is visible in the channel.  The water table is fed by the creek during flood events; and in turn the water table feeds the creek during base flow.  They are in intimate contact with each other.

Base Flow is what we normally think of as “the creek”.  It is the water level for the majority of the year.  On seasonal creeks, there is no base flow during parts of the year.

Flood Flow is a critical and essential part of creek health.  Floods can do much damage, but they also build and rejuvenate creek systems.  The more frequent floods, such as the 2 – 5 year events are actually more important than the infrequent 50 year events.

Vegetation is the most critical component of creek stability.  The root masses of riparian grasses, sedges, forbs, shrubs and trees all work together to knit and reinforce the banks and floodplains.  Vegetation also helps dissipate the energy of floodwaters so that sediment can settle out and be stabilized.  Creeks have an amazing capacity to restore their own desirable vegetation as long as land management practices are adequate.

Sediment is what helps form new point bars, which add sinuosity and reduce stream energy.  Trapped sediment is also what builds new and bigger floodplains, which in turn add water storage capacity to the Riparian Sponge.  Erosion is often viewed as an undesirable process; however some riparian erosion is normal and desirable as it provides material for re-building channels, banks and floodplains.

Debris includes leaves, twigs, branches and large logs, which are lodged and deposited in the channel and floodplain.  Such debris is important for organic enrichment of the riparian area and provides aquatic habitat.  Large logs, which become partially or totally buried in sediment are extremely important for channel stability in many creeks.

Next time you go down to the creek, think bigger than the pools and riffles.  Think about the entire system working together.  When the system is in good working order, the many values and benefits we all appreciate about a creek will be present.


Aussies Have Innovative Approach to Water Storage (Posted By Gary Cutrer)

An Australian company that specializes in water systems has an innovative approach to water storage. Instead of setting above ground tanks and directing runoff to them, the company digs a wide, shallow hole, lines it with a membrane and then fills the void with interlocking plastic cubes with plenty of  ‘empty space’ for water to occupy. Another membrane is used to cover the water ‘sponge’ and then some of the dirt that was excavated  is used to level the storage area out, back to the original grade.

Here’s a video of that construction process from start to finish.

From the company’s website:

Modular systems are manufactured from 100% recycled plastics which have been designed with a unique interlocking capability, this allows Sub terra to design a tank to any size, shape and specifications your site calls for. Around trees, under sports fields, beneath major roads or as a complete watering system for parks and gardens.

Modular underground water storage tanks are fast and simple to install. The modular, inter-connecting style allows most of the tailoring and assembly to be done off-site. Once delivered, the erection is simple and the free-form structure can be as shallow as 0.1m and as deep as 2.5m, with any length and width in 1m increments.

Plastic modules with plenty of empty space for water are used to form the sponge.

Plastic modules with plenty of empty space for water are used to form the sponge.

The company suggests that parks, sports fields and similar open areas that really don’t bear any load from above, i.e. buildings, are ideal candidates for this type of storage system. I would imagine that, considering some type of plastic is used for the underlying and covering membranes, this system would have a definite lifespan and tend to deteriorate after that. Still, it’s an interesting concept and one that stimulates the thinking organ. (That would be the brain in most people.)

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