Conservation Matters July 2012

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

Note: As of Aug. 1, Dr. Roel Lopez will assume director duties of the Texas Water Resources Institute and the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources. Dr. Neal Wilkins has been appointed president and chief executive officer of the East Wildlife Foundation.

  • TWRI grant recipient studies perception of water reuse in Texas

    Last year's exceptional drought placed Texas' water supply under great strain, and the state's growing population—which might reach 46 million by 2060—is predicted to further deplete existing supplies. To meet this ever-growing demand, water suppliers across the state are considering and implementing different water management strategies, including water reuse.

    Texas State University-San Marcos graduate student Shae Luther is studying how communities and people view water reuse strategies, with her advisor, Dr. Richard W. Dixon, associate professor of geography. Water reuse strategies include using treated wastewater to irrigate crop fields, lawns or parks; flush toilets and contribute to drinking water supplies.

    Luther, a resident of Austin, Texas, and recipient of a 2011–2012 Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) $5,000 research grant, investigated reuse projects currently in place in Midland, Potter, Lubbock and Collin counties in Texas. "These counties were chosen because they reported using more than 10 million gallons per day of recycled wastewater," Luther said.

  • Study updates population of endangered golden-cheeked warblers

    GCWThe projected number of golden-cheeked warbler males across their breeding range in Central Texas is more than previous estimates had indicated, according to results from a Texas AgriLife Research study recently published online in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

    The study—the first to survey for the presence of the warblers and their habitat across their entire breeding range—estimated that approximately 262,000 male warblers occur within 4 million acres of potential habitat in parts of nearly 40 counties in Central Texas, said Dr. Heather Mathewson, assistant research scientist at the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR) and lead author of the paper.

    Mathewson said the golden-cheeked warbler was designated as federally endangered in 1990 because of concerns about a small population size and loss and fragmentation of its woodland habitat. Since then, abundance estimates for the species have mainly relied on localized population studies on public lands and qualitative-based methods.

  • Giant salvinia coming back with a vengeance on Caddo Lake

    Giant SalviniaResearchers have found that giant salvinia weevils reared and released by the Caddo Lake Giant Salvinia Eradication Project survived the winter on the lake. However, the weevils and the researchers both have an uphill battle to fight: giant salvinia is quickly blanketing the lake again this summer.

    "As expected, giant salvinia present on the lake this winter was simply waiting for warmer weather to really get going," Lucas Gregory, Texas Water Resources Institute project manager for the project, said on the project's blog. The project is a part of the Center for Invasive Species Eradication (CISE).

  • TWDB offering webinar on agricultural water grants

    The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is hosting an Agricultural Water Conservation Grant Funding Webinar on Aug. 21, from 9:30–10:30 a.m. The Agricultural Water Conservation Program funds are normally made available on a competitive basis each year, according to TWDB, and this webinar will explain the application process and provide examples of typical funding categories as well as previously funded projects.

    TWDB encourages staff from groundwater conservation districts, irrigation districts, river authorities, state agencies and state university systems to attend.

  • Only a few "smart" irrigation controllers able to deal with 2011 drought

    “Smart” Irrigation ControllersOnly a few "smart" irrigation controllers performed well during the 2011 drought, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service experts.

    "The controllers are still inconsistent," said Dr. Guy Fipps, AgriLife Extension irrigation engineer, College Station.

    Fipps and Charles Swanson, an AgriLife Extension landscape irrigation specialist, tested nine commercial smart controllers during a 152-day period at College Station sites, from April through November during the 2011 drought.

    The tests were the fifth year of evaluations of the controllers, which either download landscape water requirements from off-site service providers or use on-site sensors to calculate it themselves, Swanson explained. The data is then used to determine site-specific watering requirements and to operate the irrigation system automatically.

  • Upper Llano River Watershed residents invited to two August events

    Upper Llano RiverParticipants interested in improving and protecting the Llano River Watershed are invited to two no-cost events in August.

    On Aug. 14 in Junction, the Upper Llano River Watershed Protection Plan meeting will discuss strategies to conserve and protect the water quality in the North and South Llano rivers, according to Dr. Kevin Wagner, associate director of the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI).

    The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Texas Tech University at Junction Llano River Field Station, 254 Red Raider Lane. Sign-in and refreshments start at 6 p.m.

    To help residents better understand watershed systems, water pollution and ways to improve water quality, a Texas Watershed Steward (TWS) is set for 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Aug. 30 at the field station.

  • Save the date: Water and Energy in Texas conference Oct. 3–4

    The Texas A&M Energy Institute, part of the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University, is hosting the Water and Energy in Texas conference Oct. 3–4 in College Station. The program's theme will be "Solutions from Texas A&M," and speakers include professors and researchers from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas AgriLife Research, and the College of Engineering.

    For more information and for the conference agenda, visit

  • Call for abstracts for National Conference on Livestock and Poultry Environmental Quality

    The Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center is hosting the National Conference on Livestock and Poultry Environmental April 1–5, 2013 in Denver. Following the conference theme of "From Waste to Worth: 'Spreading' Science and Solutions," the program will include research, education and extension efforts related to managing environmental impacts of livestock and poultry production, according to organizers. The conference will include workshops, tours, posters, commercial exhibits and oral presentations.

    The call for oral, poster, panel and workshop proposals is open through Sept. 14, 2012, and submissions should address the general themes of air, water and soil quality; water resource impacts; watershed management; research and outreach methods; or climate change.

  • What's really killing Texas trees?

    What’s really killing Texas treesAlthough drought is often the cause, trees can die for other reasons besides lack of soil moisture, said Dr. Eric Taylor, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service forestry specialist in Overton.

    "Drought is the primary contributor to tree kill, but it may not be exactly the way you might be thinking," Taylor said. "You may find this hard to believe, but relatively few trees likely died directly from dehydration in 2011. Instead, the 2011 drought severely weakened mature trees, making them susceptible to opportunistic pathogens like hypoxylon canker and insects like pine bark engraver beetles."

    He said that in most instances, the trees that died in 2011 were already stressed from a number of pre-existing environmental factors such as overcrowding, growing on the wrong site, age, soil compaction, trenching or inappropriate use of herbicides. If not for these factors, a large proportion of the trees that died might have recovered from the drought.

  • Playa Symposium to be held Nov. 13–16 at Texas Tech

    Interested researchers are invited to the 2012 Playa Symposium Nov. 13–1­­6 at the Texas Tech University Merket Alumni Center. The event will provide an opportunity for people across a range of disciplines to exchange current thinking and share results of playa research and related issues.

    According to organizers, the symposium will cover playa geomorphology, hydrology, animal and plant ecology and land management. Presentations will be published in symposium proceedings, and selected presentations will appear in a special issue of the Texas Water Journal. For more information and registration, e-mail with "Interested" in the subject line.

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