New Waves September 2008

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

New Waves E-letter - September 29, 2008

Michelsen elected president-elect of AWRA

Photo of Dr. Ari Michelsen Dr. Ari Michelsen, director of Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at El Paso, was recently elected to serve as president-elect of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA), beginning Jan. 1, 2009 and then as president of AWRA for one year, beginning Jan. 1, 2010. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of AWRA.

Research director of the El Paso center for nine years, Michelsen is also a professor of Agricultural Economics specializing in water resource economics, markets, institutions and policy analysis. His research includes studies on the effectiveness of water conservation programs, water right markets, valuation and prices, impacts of endangered species water acquisition programs and river basin decision support systems for water management and policy analysis in the western United States, China, the former Soviet States and Chile.

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Texas Tech University student strives to conserve water in the West Texas region

By Laura Maeker

Texas Tech University doctorate student Steve Oswalt and advisors Drs. Dick Auld and Thomas Thompson, professors in Tech's Department of Plant and Soil Science department, have been working to determine the optimum irrigation of oilseed crops in the Texas High Plains.

Oswalt, originally from Abernathy, Texas, and a recipient of a $5,000 2007-2008 Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) research grant, said the focus of his study was to gain maximum oil production per acre with minimum water application and to determine which plants have the highest water efficiency.

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USGS publishes groundwater availability report

A new report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) examines the nation's groundwater availability and outlines a strategy for future national and regional studies to help state and local agencies make informed water availability decisions, according to a USGS news release.

The report, "Ground-Water Availability in the United States" is part of the government's effort to help address the increasing competition for water. Groundwater supplies half of the country's drinking water. The report is available at

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Irrigation training program set for Rio Grande Valley

The Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) is co-sponsoring the 7th Rio Grande Valley Irrigation Conference and Trade Show set for Wednesday, Oct. 29 in Mercedes.

Irrigation experts, including Texas AgriLife Extension Service agricultural engineers Dr. Guy Fipps of College Station, Dr. Dana Porter of Lubbock and Dr. Juan Enciso of Weslaco will speak on improved irrigation technologies and irrigation and crop management. Other speakers include Erasmo Yarrito, the Rio Grande Watermaster team leader; Alan Moore, Cameron Drainage District manager; and Charles Stichler, retired Extension agronomist.

The conference will be at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show, 1000 N. Texas Ave. in Mercedes.

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News from TWRI Water Resources Training Program

SWAT and APEX Training Courses set

The Texas Water Resources Institute will host Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) Training Courses and an Agricultural Policy/Environmental eXtender (APEX) Course on Nov. 3-7 at the Centeq Research Plaza on the Texas A&M University campus.

The two-day introductory SWAT course, Nov. 3-4, will train beginning users on the SWAT model using the ArcGIS-SWAT interface. The two-day advanced SWAT course, Nov. 6-7, will cover sensitivity analysis, model calibration and uncertainty analysis using the 2005 version of SWAT with an ArcGIS interface.

APEX, a one-day course on Nov. 5, was developed for use in whole farm/small watershed management. The model was constructed to evaluate various land management strategies considering sustainability, erosion, economics, water supply and quality, soil quality, plant competition, weather and pests.

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Floodplain Delineation Short Course set

The Texas Water Resources Institute will host the Floodplain Delineation using GIS Course on Dec. 3-5 at the Centeq Research Plaza on the Texas A&M University campus.

The two and a half-day course will focus on the fundamental concepts of open-channel hydraulics and include hands-on applications of the HEC-RAS and HEC-GeoRAS software packages. Instructors will discuss steady and unsteady flow simulations using HEC-RAS and the delineation and mapping of floodplains using the HEC-GeoRAS tool.

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Registration for watershed planning course still open

Registration is open for the Texas Watershed Planning Short Course on Jan. 12-16, 2009, at the Mayan Ranch in Bandera. This week-long course will familiarize participants with the Environmental Protection Agency's nine key elements of a watershed protection plan and the general principles of and tools for building partnerships, assessing watersheds, identifying solutions and designing an implementation program. Participants will receive 2.9 continuing education units from the National Registry of Environmental Professionals.

For more information on the course, visit or contact Kevin Wagner at

Other Upcoming conferences

Oct. 7-9 Texas Instream Flow Conference San Antonio
Oct. 20-22 Surface Water Opportunities in New Mexico Albuquerque
Nov. 5-7 Texas Water Quality Conference San Antonio

Irrigation specialist retires after 40 years with AgriLife Extension

Photo of Leon New By getting his feet muddy and using a Pepsi bottle in an unorthodox way, Leon New has made a difference in crop production on the High Plains.

For more than 40 years, New has been working to help producers get water to their thirsty crops as economically and efficiently as possible as a Texas AgriLife Extension Service irrigation specialist.

On Aug. 31, he said goodbye to his job, knowing that along the way he's done his best to understand and meet the needs of irrigation producers, he said.

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AgriLife Research breeder develops drought-tolerant corn

At the end of the day, drought tolerance in corn has to equate to good yields and good quality, not just good looks, said a Texas AgriLife Research scientist.

Dr. Wenwei Xu, AgriLife Research corn breeder from Lubbock, is working with crosses between temperate and tropically adapted varieties of corn to find a drought-tolerant plant that performs well under reduced irrigation.

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USGS Texas Water Science Center publishes reports

The following Texas Water Science Center reports were published in July & August:

Quality of water and sediment in streams affected by historical mining, and quality of mine tailings, in the Rio Grande Basin, Big Bend area of the United States and Mexico, Lambert, R.B., Kolbe, C.M., and Belzer, Wayne, 2008, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5032.

Alternative regression equations for estimation of annual peak-streamflow frequency for undeveloped watersheds in Texas using PRESS minimization, Asquith, W.H., and Thompson, D.B., 2008, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5084.

Evaluation of acoustic Doppler velocity meters to quantify flow from Comal Springs and San Marcos Springs, Texas, Gary, M.O., Gary, R.H., and Asquith, W.H., 2008, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5083.

Water-level altitudes 2008 and water-level changes in the Chicot, Evangeline, and Jasper aquifers and compaction 1973-2007 in the Chicot and Evangeline aquifers, Houston-Galveston region, Texas, Kasmarek, M.C., and Houston, N.A., 2008, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3031.

Hydrologic conditions and quality of rainfall and storm runoff for two agricultural areas of the Oso Creek watershed, Nueces County, Texas, 2005-07, Ockerman, D.J., 2008, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5103.

New Project

Modeling Support for Little Brazos River Tributaries

Eleven segments of the central Brazos River Watershed are on the state's 303(d) list of impaired waters for bacterial contamination. This project will build on and work with other projects dealing with bacterial contamination of watersheds in Texas. Texas A&M University's Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department, with assistance from the Brazos River Authority will conduct a load duration curve analysis of water quality monitoring data to determine needed reductions in bacterial pollution and will conduct watershed modeling to estimate amounts of bacteria pollution coming from different sources.

Principal Collaborators: Texas Water Resources Institute, Texas AgriLife Research, Texas A&M University's Spatial Sciences Laboratory, Robertson County Soil and Water Conservation District, Brazos River Authority

Funding Agency: Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board

Renewed Projects

Water Quality Education for Hood County, Texas

This project is a continuation of previously funded educational efforts that have focused on engaging and providing critical information to stakeholders and landowners on and near Lake Granbury. This project will provide an assessment of existing and potential water quality threats related to nonpoint source water pollution within the watershed. The Texas Water Resources Institute and Texas AgriLife Extension Service will also assist the Brazos River Authority and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in developing a watershed protection plan to improve and protect water quality within the Brazos River Basin. Key objectives of this project include holding public meetings to educate stakeholders and clients within the watershed about water quality and its protection, providing public educational programs to help achieve improved water quality, and conducting training events on proper operation and maintenance of on-site wastewater treatment systems and collection facilities.

Collaborators: Texas Water Resources Institute, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Brazos River Authority, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Funding Agency: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

New Publications

Drinking Water Problems: MTBE, Monty Dozier, Bruce J. Lesikar, Texas AgriLife Extension Service Publication L-5502

Methyl tertiary-butyl ether, a gasoline additive commonly known as MTBE, can contaminate groundwater and cause health problems for those exposed to it for a long time. However, filtering devices can remove this and other additives from well water.

The Watershed Management Approach, Russell A. Persyn, Molly Griffin, Amy T. Williams, Clint Wolfe, Texas AgriLife Extension Service publication B-6154 (reprint)

Watershed management is a coordinated environmental management framework that focuses on highest priority problems. This publication explains the data collection and data assessment that is part of such a system, and describes the implementation process. The publication will help stakeholders understand watershed management policies.

Rainwater Harvesting: Soil Storage and Infiltration System, Justin Mechell, Bruce J. Lesikar, Texas AgriLife Extension Service publication B-6195 (reprint)

A soil storage and infiltration system collects rainfall runoff from the roofs of buildings and directs it underground where it infiltrates the soil. Such a system conserves water and protects it from surface pollution. This publication describes how to plan, design and install various types of soil storage and infiltration systems.

Harvesting Rainwater for Wildlife, James Cathey, Russell A. Persyn, Dana Porter, Monty Dozier, Michael Mecke, Billy Kniffen, Texas AgriLife Extension Service publication B-6182 (reprint)

Landowners can attract wildlife to their properties by installing rainwater catchment devices. This publication explains wildlife water sources, management considerations, rainfall catchment areas and wildlife tax valuation. It also illustrates various types of devices used to provide supplemental water for wildlife.

Rainwater Harvesting: Raingardens, Justin Mechell, Bruce J. Lesikar, Texas AgriLife Extension Service publication L-5482 (revision)

A raingarden is in artifical depression in the landscape that collects and stores rainfall runoff until it can infiltrate the soil. Raingardens help conserve water and protect it from surface pollution. In this publication, you will learn how to design and install a raingarden and how to select the right location for it.

On-site Wastewater Treatment Systems: Graywater Use and Water Quality, Bruce J. Lesikar, Justin Mechell, Rachel Alexander, Texas AgriLife Extension Service publication L-5504

Like paper and plastic, some water can be recycled. This 'graywater,' which can be water from bathtubs and showers, clothes washing machines and some sinks, can then be used in landscapes.

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