Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Watershed Management in Texas

Texas has 191,000 miles of streams and rivers running into 15 major river basins, 8 coastal basins, and 9 estuaries. These riverine systems divide Texas into many watersheds, the land areas that drain to a single body of water such as a stream, wetland, or estuary. Two state agencies, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas State Soil & Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) share the responsibilities of monitoring and managing surface water quality in Texas. As indicated by the TCEQ Clean Rivers Program, management by watershed is both logical and necessary. All surface water within a basin that is not consumed, contained, or evaporated eventually reaches the major rivers of that basin. Consequently, all human and natural activities upstream have the potential to affect water quality and quantity downstream. Industrial, municipal, agricultural, and other activities are interrelated with the quality of surface water within a watershed.

texashucsmall.jpgTCEQ and TSSWCB in collaboration with several federal agencies and Texas A&M University have produced the Texas Unified Watershed Assessment, which explains and reports the results of the watershed assessment process. A Watershed Assessment Factsheet summarizes the assessment.

Conditions in Your Watershed

The TCEQ and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) post information on Texas’ watershed health, impaired water bodies (those that are too polluted to maintain their designated, beneficial uses) and Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) on their websites. Of the 254 counties in Texas, 93 have TMDL projects currently in progress or scheduled to begin soon. You may also link to the EPA database by clicking on your county in the Texas map from the previous page, choosing a watershed from the yellow map or an 8-digit hydrologic unit code number (near the bottom of the page), and finally clicking on 1998 Impaired Water.

Resources and Programs

The Texas A&M University System provides research, education and extension resources to assist state and federal agencies, business and industry, communities and individual citizens in addressing water quality concerns. These programs are designed to provide information for specific audiences, such as farmers, homeowners and youth.

Texas A&M University has established programs designed to provide watershed management assistance. Below are some key links to information and resources available to assist you.

Extension Outreach

The Texas Cooperative Extension develops and delivers programs designed to provide educational outreach into all counties of the state. Outreach education enables the research developed at colleges and universities and from other sources throughout the world to be interpreted and delivered to the end user, which is often a home or business owner or agricultural producer. Some of the major Extension education programs addressing watershed management are:

TEX*A*Syst helps rural residents take decisive actions to preserve the quality of their drinking water, prevent water pollution, and protect health.

Water for Texans is a publication series written by Texas Cooperative Extension that focuses on the importance of healthy rangelands for Texas watersheds.

people.jpgThe Texas Coastal Watershed Program (TCSP) is part of Texas Cooperative Extension and Texas Sea Grant, and is affiliated with the national NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) organization. The TCWP provides education and outreach to local governments and citizens on the impacts of land use on watershed health and water quality.

The Texas Master Gardener program conducted by Texas Cooperative Extension provides information on determining appropriate amounts of pesticides and fertilizers to use on lawns and gardens so that productivity is enhanced while runoff of pesticides and fertilizers is diminished. Texas Cooperative Extension also conducts the Texas Master Naturalist Program with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Program enrollees must frequently study and address water quantity and quality issues to accomplish their goals for habitat improvement.

At 4-H Water Camp, youth learn about water conservation, economic benefits of reduced water use, technologies for improving efficiencies, proper irrigation management, and methods of reducing non-point source pollution. Participants acquire skills in evaluating water quality/conservation problems and the ability to develop solutions to problems.

In response to community requests gathered through the Texas Community Futures Forum, Texas Cooperative Extension also tailors water education programs to local needs through county extension offices and regional extension research centers. For example, a comprehensive educational campaign in District 10, Water 2000 Plus, helps residents better understand and manage water resources.

The Rio Grande Basin Initiative is a joint effort between Texas Cooperative Extension and the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station of the Texas A&M University System Agriculture Program and the New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service and Agricultural Experiment Station of the New Mexico State University College of Agriculture and Home Economics. In fiscal year 2001, Congress appropriated funds for targeted research and Extension activities in the basin, to be administered through the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) and the Texas Water Resources Institute. A report regarding on-going extension activities associated with the Rio Grande Basin Initiative in Texas is available. Outreach efforts include the Pesticide Education Program, Master Naturalist Chapter establishment, Investigating Water K-12 Curriculum, Nutrient Management Certification Programs, soil testing campaigns and AQUAPLANT.

Texas Watch is a network of trained volunteers and supportive partners working together to gather information about the water resources of Texas and to ensure the information is available to all Texans. Volunteers are trained to collect quality-assured information that can be used to make environmentally sound decisions. Established in 1991, Texas Watch is administered through a cooperative partnership between Southwest Texas State University, TCEQ and EPA. Currently, over 400 Texas Watch volunteers collect water quality data on lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, bays, bayous, and estuaries in Texas.

Scientific Research

Scientific research is the basis for development of new technologies to improve watershed management. Researchers at Land Grant Universities work to develop these new technologies and evaluate their economic benefits. The Texas Agricultural Research Database has information about watershed management research in Texas. The database allows you to browse or search, and researchers can submit their information online. The Texas Water Resources Institute also provides links to water-related research funded through the Institute. Some examples of major watershed management research efforts in Texas include:

Hydrologic Unit Area (Watershed) Projects

Research investigating Best Management Practices for watershed management include studies on agricultural filter strips, riparian buffers and on-site wastewater treatment in sub-watersheds.

Research is also underway to determine the role of brush control and environmental restoration in effective watershed management. Laboratories and research centers focusing on this aspect of watershed management include:

The San Angelo Research and Extension Center conducts research programs in restoration ecology and rangeland rehabilitation, with emphases on vegetation and brush management.

Scientists at the Texas Cooperative Extension Fort Stockton Center are examining the effect of eradicating saltcedar from the banks of the Pecos River. The five-year study is part of the Rio Grande Basin Initiative. The study examines whether water flow is increased and salinity decreased in the river following removal of the nonnative saltcedar. Early results of the study indicate that five billion gallons of water could be made available in the Pecos River following saltcedar treatment. A report on other on-going research activities associated with the Rio Grande Basin Initiative in Texas is available.

Researchers in Texas A&M University's departments of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Rangeland Ecology and Management, and Agricultural Economics are examining the effects of brush on the availability of water in the Edwards Aquifer region. This project is being done in collaboration with NASA.

tree.jpgA Watershed and Cedar Management Applied Research Project is being conducted through the Texas A&M University Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Uvalde, Texas to evaluate water runoff, water utilization by cedar, forming filter strips to reduce water and sediment loss, and methods of improving revegetation following cedar removal. Scientists at the Extension Center are also involved in a project that will determine the impact of ash juniper (cedar) on local water budgets of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Area.

The Rangeland Rehabilitation and Restoration Ecology Laboratory at Texas A&M University seeks to develop integrated, environmentally sound, vegetation manipulation systems for meeting agricultural and natural resource objectives. This includes consideration of wildlife, livestock, and water management objectives within an economic framework. Research includes ecological and management oriented studies involving fire, herbicide use, and ecological restoration.

College and University Education

Youth and continuing adult education are critical to develop new talent and human resources to address the water quality issues of the future. Educational curricula in watershed management are available within several departments at Texas A&M University. Graduate and undergraduate programs in key departments include:

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