Superior Service Awards recognize AgriLife Extension faculty and staff members who provide outstanding performance in Extension education or other outstanding service to the agency and to Texans. The award was presented Jan. 12 during the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Conference awards dinner in Bryan.
Team members from the Texas A&M University Department of Soil and Crop Sciences are Dr. Diane Boellstorff, AgriLife Extension specialist and assistant professor; Drew Gholson, program specialist; and John W. Smith, program specialist. Other team members are Ryan Gerlich, program specialist with the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering; Danielle Kalisek, program manager, Texas Water Resource Institute; and Paul Pope, program specialist in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications.
According to the award nomination, the Texas Well Owner Network was developed to respond to the state’s water quality needs through the management and protection of private water wells. The network has been supported by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board in grant cycles beginning in 2010 and again in 2013.
The team developed the network to deliver a science-based, community-responsive education curriculum focused on protecting human health, groundwater quality and aquifer integrity, the nomination stated. Another goal was to enhance awareness of water quality issues and increase knowledge of best management practices through statewide trainings.
Well owner training is delivered through “Well Educated” and “Well Informed” programs. The Well Educated program addresses aquifers, household wells, improving and protecting water resources, groundwater resources, septic system maintenance, well maintenance and construction, water quality and water treatment. The Well Informed program focuses on wellhead protection and recommendations for remediating well contamination.
The team developed, updated or revised numerous well water and water quality educational materials, all available at twon.tamu.edu.
Since the inception of the network, private water well screenings and wellhead protection educational trainings have been conducted for 6,087 private water well managers during 101 events for 149 Texas counties and in Mexico. Through the team’s efforts since 2010, thousands of private water well samples have been screened for fecal coliform, nitrate-nitrogen and salinity.
Per participant evaluations, the value of participating in the program is estimated at an average of $752 per person or about $4.6 million for all participants to date. Evaluations also showed 99 percent of participants were satisfied with the training, 85 percent intended to test their wells annually, 83 percent intended to pump their septic system regularly, 95 percent intended to remove hazards from their well house and 85 percent intended to plug unused wells.
For more information, read the full AgriLife Today article.