New Waves March 2009

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

New Waves E-letter - March 31, 2009

Rio Grande Basin Initiative project featured on HGTV

A demonstration garden cared for by Sandoval County Master Gardeners in New Mexico was recently featured on the Home and Garden Television (HGTV) cable network series Gardening by the Yard, hosted by Paul James. On March 15, the Rio Ranchos Water-Wise Demonstration Garden was aired on an episode titled Xeriscaping, Drought-Tolerant Plants, and Wise-Water Practices.

The Rio Ranchos garden demonstrates drip, sprinkle, spray, and bubble irrigation systems; bark, pecan, wood chip, crusher fine, and gravel mulches; and water harvesting techniques such as dry creek beds, swales, berms, and drain ways leading to catchment areas.

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AgriLife Research drip irrigation project yields promising results

The Texas AgriLife Research Station near Chillicothe is conducting a study to develop conservation tillage and water management strategies that enhance crop-stand establishment, water-use efficiency, and yield in subsurface drip-irrigated cotton production in the Rolling Plains.

In the first year of the three-year study, Dr. John Sij, AgriLife Research agronomist, was able to use subsurface drip irrigation to produce up to four bales of cotton per acre with less water than conventional irrigation methods, even though cotton trials suffered through hail and drought.

"We started out with good stands and then a hail storm in June knocked out 25 percent of the plants," Sij said. "Under drip, the plants came roaring back, and we still made two-and-a-half to three-bale cotton.

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Lake Granbury Water Quality program advances educational efforts

A team of Texas AgriLife Extension Service educators led by Dr. Bruce Lesikar, professor and associate department head in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, is continuing to educate residents in Hood County about water quality threats related to ongoing, nonpoint source water pollution within the Lake Granbury Watershed. Six training events in Hood County are planned between April 6 and April 17, and additional training is scheduled for June 1-3, 2009.

Upcoming training events for the program include:

  • April 6: Storm Water Management in the Home Landscape
  • April 7: Water Quality and Rainwater Harvesting Training
  • April 14: A county Extension agent will discuss watershed management, bacterial sources, and best management practices on a local television station
  • April 15: Health and Maintenance of your Aerobic Treatment System
  • April 16: Wastewater Practitioners Training
  • April 17: Small Acreage Landowners Symposium
  • June 1-3: Rainwater Harvesting Master Gardener Specialist Training by Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Granbury
More information about the Water Quality Education for Hood County Program...

EPA Water Quality Video Contest

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sponsoring a contest for educational videos that inspire people to help protect their streams, lakes, wetlands, and coasts. Two winning videos will be chosen: a 30 or 60 second video that is usable as a TV public service announcement and a 1 to 3 minute instructional video.

The goal of the video contest is to educate the public on different water pollution issues and illustrate ways that target audiences such as homeowners, gardeners, farmers, pet owners, communities, and others can improve water quality by changing simple behaviors.

Winners will each receive a $2,500 award and their videos will be featured on the EPA Web site. Submission deadline is Earth Day, April 22, 2009. For more information visit

TWRI grant recipient integrates composted biosolids in low quality soil

By Caitlin Churchill

Ronnie Schnell, now earning his doctorate in agronomy from Texas A&M University, recently worked with his advising professors Dr. Donald Vietor and Dr. Clyde Munster to incorporate composted biosolids in low quality soils to enhance water conservation and provide organic carbon and nutrients that improve vegetation growth and limit sediment loss.

Schnell is a recipient of a 2007-08 Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) research grant. With the $5,000 grant, Schnell evaluated the interactions of soil, compost, and chemical amendments for contrasting soil types and deduced impacts on the fate and transport of nutrients during turfgrass establishment. Schnell's final results indicate that treatment of the chemical compound alum on composted biosolids before land application enables recycling of large, volume-based rates of composted biosolids for improved water capture and storage in soils during turfgrass establishment and maintenance on urban landscapes.

Find out more about Schnell's research...

Water quality of private wells: A potential concern

More than 20 percent of private domestic wells sampled nationwide contain at least one contaminant at levels of potential health concern, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).  

USGS scientists sampled about 2,100 private wells in 48 states and found that the contaminants most frequently measured at concentrations of potential health concern were inorganic contaminants, including radon and arsenic. These contaminants are mostly derived from the natural geologic materials that make up the aquifers from which well water is drawn. In about four percent of the sampled wells, nitrate was the most common inorganic contaminant at concentrations greater than the federal drinking-water standard for public-water supplies (10 parts per million).

"The results of this study are important because it shows that a large number of people may be unknowingly affected," said Matt Larsen, USGS associate director for water. "Greater attention to the quality of drinking water from private wells and continued public education are important steps toward the goal of protecting public health."

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Save the date

As part of its Initiative for Watershed Excellence, the River Systems Institute, in collaboration with the Oklahoma Water Resources Research Institute, Texas Riparian Association, and Texas Water Resources Institute, will host Land, Water, People 2009 on November 16-18, 2009 at the San Marcos Convention Center.

This conference will explore the potential to more effectively manage and protect water resources, on both a local and regional scale, through information, technology, and approaches applied to important interfaces within watershed and community dynamics.

Registration opens May 15, 2009. Further information will be available soon at or contact Annette Paulin, conference coordinator, at 512-754-9179.

Water Resources Training Courses

Floodplain Delineation using GIS Apr. 28-30, 2009
APEX May 12-13, 2009
SWAT for Beginners June 8-9, 2009
Advanced Data Process for ArcSWAT June 10, 2009

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