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Water Conservation

Kirk Martin: Young Farmer Here to Stay

Fifty-nine years and five generations later, the Martins have maintained their family namesake. They continue to be stewards of the land almost six decades after their patriarch began to farm. Since 1961, the Martin family has farmed in different areas of land in Terry County, Texas. Today, the youngest of the bunch, 25-year-old Kirk Martin, is continuing the family tradition.   

It would be really hard for me to figure out what to do if I wasn’t a farmer, because I can’t see myself doing anything else. 

Kirk Martin

What was once a past time for Martin has now become a way of life. Born into a farming family, Martin recalls some of the earliest memories as a five-year-old spending time with his dad in a tractor or in a field. 

“Sometimes, I would get bored and antsy just sitting in there,” Martin said. “So my dad would get me down, and I would sit in the middle of the field and play in the holes until he finished up.”

As he grew older, Martin said he went from riding in the tractor, to driving it alone, experiencing the long days and hard work he would encounter himself in the years to come.  

“It would be really hard for me to figure out what to do if I wasn’t a farmer,” Martin said, “because I can’t see myself doing anything else.” 

In 2016, he had the opportunity to pick up some land, so he decided to return to the farm and start producing his own crop. Through mentorship and partnership, Martin has helped grow Martin Family Farms. Five years after his first crop, Martin continues to farm alongside his father and older brother, both whom he credits for his success. Martin said he attributes his grandfather as the sole pioneer who kick-started the family farm. 

“Working with family is always hard,” Martin said, “but I greatly appreciate having my dad, my brother and my grandpa, because without them I would be no where near where I am today.” 

As a young farmer, Martin believes he is receptive of new innovations and technological advances within the farming industry. Understanding the importance and need of technology and sustainability on the farm, he stays informed on such systems that allow for farming to be more profitable and efficient. 

Martin said his father had learned about different methods of water conservation and soon after decided to take on a project with the help of both of his sons. They built a water harvest system that would filter rainwater that sat on the top of their barn roof. The system collects fallen rainwater, filters it and stores it. The Martins then use the harvested water to spray their crop. 

“We had drilled a well, and there was no water in there; barely enough water to run toilet and sink,” Martin said, “so we had to figure out a way to harvest some water.”

The Martin’s rainwater harvest system is placed along the top of their 19,000 square foot barn roof along with the filtration system running along the sides of the barn. Martin said they are able to supply up to 30,000 gallons of reusable water with only two and a half inches of rainfall. 

While he stays up to date on different farming technologies and innovations, Martin also has developed interest in agricultural policy. He acknowledges the importance of technology on the farm, and on the media, which in most instances, is politically centered. Several years back, Martin was encouraged to join the West Texas Young Farmers Association, by then-president and fellow Terry County farmer, Mason Becker. In March, Martin was elected as the association’s newest president.

“Kirk is a great young man and he has always had a passion for promoting agriculture,” Becker said. “He has been heavily involved in the West Texas Young Farmers Association for several years and I am confident that he will lead the group in a good direction.”

The West Texas Young Farmers Association works to not only inform young farmers on issues surrounding agriculture, but also to implement positive change within the farming community, whether by sharing information with non-agricultural audiences, giving scholarships to high school students, or collaborating and learning from other producers.

Over the course of several years, the association has strengthened its once loosened ties. Starting as the Terry County Young Farmers Association several decades ago, sons of those who were once members decided to start the association up again. Becker said he hopes that the new leadership understands the difference they can make in the community and across the nation.

“It is my hope that the association continues to educate as many people as possible to what it takes to become a farmer in West Texas,” Becker said. 

Martin said he was interested in joining because Becker explained to him that the only way for his voice to be heard was to get involved.

“I liked being involved from the get-go because I realized that I could be the voice of change in some way or another,” Martin said. 

The association will occasionally meet with congressmen, state representatives and other political figures, to discuss their relevant issues and address questions and concerns. Although the association’s primary goal is not focused on informing the public on policy, they still share information from time to time and stay in touch with members of the community through social media.

“Facebook has been our way to communicate with the public,” Martin said, “and on Instagram we try to share the images of others to not only promote, but also share knowledge that other people might benefit from.” 

Martin said he hopes audiences outside of agriculture will benefit from the association’s efforts on social media. 

The young farmer believes that staying involved and staying informed are ways to share and pass on knowledge and constitute change.

“If we can use our platform to inform and teach others, why wouldn’t we?” he said.

Reducing the Water Footprint

Photo of Dr. West holding last years alfalfa
Dr. West grabs the previous year’s alfalfa, while the new forage grows in beneath it. Alfalfa is a perennial, high-quality and resilient grass that is full of nutrients.

A West Texas farmer sits on the bed of his Ford truck, watching his cattle graze the land. His feeder steers are in the distance pulling the last of the forage out of the barren ground. The farmer shakes his head at how thin his stock looks because the Ogallala Aquifer is too low to sustain the forage. He is worried about breaking even on the steers, let alone being profitable enough to make his yearly return. 

Luckily researchers at Texas Tech University have been studying and testing different ways to reduce the water footprint to save the Ogallala Aquifer. The water footprint refers to how much water it takes to produce a pound of beef. Charles West, Ph.D., professor and Thornton Distinguished Chair in Plant and Soil Science at Texas Tech, has been researching forage crops and pastures for many years. Also, West is director of the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources Water Center and provides administrative leadership to the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation. 

“This is what we do research for,” West said. “We see something that looks interesting and could be very important.” 

West has been researching forage crops and pastures for 43 years, including 28 years at the University of Arkansas. West said Texas Tech has excellent facilities to do field research on forage grazing systems. The overarching goal of their research is to reduce the water footprint used on cattle grazing grass without negatively affecting the rate of gain of the cattle.

Photo of WW-B Dahl Seeds
WW-B Dahl Bluestem is a high-quality, resilient grass and has a good drought tolerance. It is a high-yielding grass that has low fertility requirements.

Focused on Forage

West is currently focusing his research efforts on cattle grazing on Old-World Bluestem called WW-B Dahl Bluestem and a legume Alfalfa. Both are perennial plants that are resilient and tolerate to weather, which makes them a prime choice for the dry West Texas climate. These forages are high-quality to ensure cattle ingest their proper nutrients. 

West said the research is designed to have a few pastures with only WW-B Dahl and a few pastures with WW-B Dahl and Alfalfa at high and low densities. These pastures are irrigated with a drip irrigation system and center pivot irrigation. 

Kathryn Radicke, a Texas Tech plant and soil science research graduate student, works closely with West on this project. Radicke said these grasses can do extremely well without irrigation for farmers who cannot irrigate their pastures.  

“Rather than moving cattle through pastures with a bunch of different types of forage, it is something more applicable to the farmers in this area,” Radicke said. 

For their research, the cattle breeds used for the research are typically Purebred Angus or a Simmental Angus cross and graze the pastures from June to the beginning of October. West said the cattle are in the stocker stage meaning weaned calves to before they are sent to a feedlot.

West said the reason for using Angus or Angus-cross cattle is because they handle the low humid climate better, and the meat quality is typically the best. He said they want the cattle to be as uniform as possible. The cattle should look, act, and digest the grass the same way. This ensures the cattle are a constant. 

“The differences in their productivity can be related to the differences that we impose on the pasture rather than differences from animal variation,” West said. “In our research, our enemy is biological variation.”  

Keeping the cattle as uniform as possible and letting them graze the two different types of pastures will show any differences in the cattle’s rate of gain as a result of the grass rather than genetics, West said. Beyond the grass and the cattle, water is the next important component of West’s research. 

A Conclusion Worth Ruminating

The water footprint calculated is how much water it takes to keep the WW-B Dahl and Alfalfa healthy and keep cattle gains high. West said that Alfalfa is easy to digest so it helps increase weight gain and reduce the amount of water it takes to produce a pound of meat.

 “Keep doing what we are doing. We are lowering the footprint and things will change.” 

Charles West

West and Radicke found WW-B Dahl and Alfalfa are a good mix and could be beneficial to South Plains cattle producers. Radicke said this is an inexpensive process for producers to increase their gains and help preserve the Ogallala Aquifer.  

Photo of Dr. West checking the alfalfa
Dr. West checks the pasture to see the quality of the new forages growing back in. The alfalfa turns green typically when the potential for a spring frost has passed.

A few producers have recently transitioned into this way of grazing and others have been forced into it. West said producers who adapt to this process are concerned about water consumption on their farms or have trouble with growing grasses to increase cattle gains.

“You can grow this resilient grass called WW-B Dahl and grow Alfalfa with it and it bumps up your gains,” West said. 

West said reducing the water used and increasing gains translates into money. 

After many successful years researching forage, West will retire in August of 2020. His advice to other researchers and farmers is to continue advancing and finding advancements for agriculture. 

 “Keep doing what we are doing,” West said. “We are lowering the footprint and things will change.” 

Growing Gold

Wenwei Xu standing in his corn breeding lab.
Wenwei Xu is a leading plant scientist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension where he has worked for over 20 years.

Wenwei Xu’s face lit up with joy as he held a sample of one of his many ground-breaking projects, Hi-A corn. This year, he and his colleagues will handle over 10,000 different corn materials in order to give superior genetics to corn farmers across the South Plains.

Xu, who has a doctorate in genetics, has a joint appointment as a professor in plant genetics at Texas Tech University and as a leading corn scientist at Texas A&M AgriLife Research. He is currently working on multiple projects that will transform the corn industry. His current projects are directed toward improving drought-tolerance, reducing infestation, and creating high-quality crops.

“We are always developing new corn lines and hybrids that did not exist before,” Xu said.

Xu grew up on a farm in China where his family raised corn, wheat and sugar beets. He said he came to the United States in 1987 as a visiting scientist at the University of Missouri-Columbia where he eventually pursued his Ph.D. After graduation, Xu moved to Lubbock, Texas, in 1993 to work as a postdoctoral researcher at Texas Tech before joining Texas A&M AgriLife Research in 1998.

“This land is a challenge, but it also offers opportunities.”

Wenwei Xu, Ph.D.

Xu said developing a new variety of corn is like developing two different crops because geneticists must develop an inbred line then create hybrids. He said it takes a minimum of 10 seasons to develop a new variety, but he has found a way to expedite the process. Each year, he and his coworkers will hand-pollinate over 10,000 ears then go to Puerto Rico for two weeks with samples, so they can evaluate two seasons in one year.

One of Xu's corn fields with coverings on corn plants for hand pollination.
Xu and his colleagues will hand pollinate over 10,000 ears of corn in one year. Photo Credit: Wenwei Xu

“Corn breeding is different from other crops like cotton and wheat,” Xu said. “It takes an additional three to five years to develop a corn variety.”

Xu said the difficulty with plant breeding is different genetics do better in separate places. A corn species that thrives in Minnesota will not do well in Lubbock because the land has different limiting factors.

“That’s the difference between agriculture genetics and the cell phone,” Xu said. “The best cell phone in Lubbock is also the best cell phone in California, but with agriculture, the best variety in Lubbock may not even be the best variety for Bushland, so we have to find the best variety suitable for a certain environment.”

He said in Lubbock, the biggest limiting factor for corn production is water. There are three ways to address water limitations: improving drought-tolerance of crops, producing the same amount of crop with limited water, and producing a higher quality crop which brings more money per bushel. Two of his current projects are focused on developing a higher quality crop, so farmers can plant less and still meet their bottom-line.

“This land is a challenge,” Xu said, “but it also offers opportunities.”

Xu said one of his current projects does not have a name yet, but he refers to it as specialty corn. It comes in a variety of unique colors including red, maroon and black. Xu said the compounds in this corn are different from yellow or white corn. They have more antioxidants and contain anthocyanins, making the corn’s contents like a blackberry. The darker they are, the more antioxidants and anthocyanins they have.

“A strawberry or blackberry will rot,” Xu said, “but these will not. They are easy to store and transport.”

Red and black specialty corn laying on a table with other corn varieties.
“Specialty corn” contains important antioxidants and anthocyanins. Its colors include red, maroon, and black.

According to data from a peer reviewed article published by Food and Nutrition Research, anthocyanins are a type of antioxidant used commonly as a natural red and blue food dye. They offer many health benefits including enhanced antimicrobial activity, improved visual and cognitive health, and resistance to non-communicable diseases.

The project Xu said he is most excited about is his development of Hi-A corn. He said this corn is like specialty corn; however, the antioxidants and anthocyanins are present in the cob instead of the kernel.

Xu said a common practice in the corn industry is to harvest the kernels then discard the cob as waste, left to rot in the field. The purpose of Hi-A corn is to add extra antioxidants and anthocyanins to the cob so it can be used as a high-quality livestock feed. He said he is working on a research study to determine how the Hi-A corn cob does as a feed supplement.

“We have a cob that can produce lots of anthocyanin,” Xu said, “and potentially we can use the corn cob as a valuable animal feed so that trash becomes treasure.”

Thomas Marek is an engineer for Texas A&M AgriLife Research who works in irrigation water conservation and management. He is stationed out of Amarillo and has worked with Xu for over 20 years in the field. He said Xu creates the genetics, and he properly cares for the crop.

“You can develop the best genetics in the world and put them in a bag,” Marek said, “but you can’t see the full potential of a crop without proper management.”

Marek said he enjoys the partnership he has developed with Xu over the years and has respect for his research.

“Wenwei came over here looking for an opportunity,” Marek said. “He is well-respected across the state and country. He has saved producers not only in this area, but across the country.”

A New Alliance

F

ourteen years ago, seventy men and women gathered in the small town of Muncy, Texas, surely between the cotton fields. On that day, the Texas Alliance of Water Conservation program was implemented.

During this first meeting, nine producers were elected into office by their peers for a program led by producers, for producers. The TAWC had just received the first round of funding a few weeks before, but only after getting producers in the South Plains area interested in the idea for the program.

Rick Kellison, the project director for the TAWC, originally ran a cow/calf operation where he only grazed on drought tolerant forages.

“He had always been concerned with water conservation. When Senator Robert Duncan started writing the grant, it only made sense to bring in Kellison.”

Today,  the idea has grown into something much bigger than just gathering information from a few producers. The program has turned into an outreach and education endeavor that is reaching people all over the world. When the program originally started, it included two counties. In 2014 when TAWC received a second round of funding, allowing it to expand to nine counties all within a 150-mile radius of Lubbock, Texas.

The TAWC team that meets on a monthly basis, has broken up the project into eight sections and has a task leader for each. One of those section includes an outreach and education program led by the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication at Texas Tech University, but is connected to multiple programs in the College of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources.

Rudy Ritz is a professor for the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications at Texas Tech and the Moderator and Outreach Director for the TAWC.

“One of the purposeful tasks from the origination of the project was to have outreach and education,” Ritz said.  “In this department by default, we know how outreach and education plays that role with the rest of the team.”

The entire TAWC program is based around outreach and education. The program was originally created to inform producers how to adopt innovation and use that innovation for water management.  As the program has grown, it has started reaching the consumers as well.

Six years ago, the TAWC held a four week conference for 25 producers who showed interest in new technologies for water conservation. At the end of the third week the producers asked if they could go a fifth week, because they were not going to cover all the information they had originally planned.

Once the conference was over, the TAWC realized producers wanted to continue to grow their knowledge more about new technologies for water conservation.  The problem, at the time, was the producers did not have anywhere to go to for the information.

“We have people in academia that don’t really have the opportunity to interact with growers,” Kellison said, “and we have growers that have specific needs that they don’t really know where to go to in academia to get those questions answered.”

Mr. Rick Kellison is the project director
for the TAWC.

The TAWC’s outreach efforts originally started out by having two field days and a field walk. After the five week conference with those 25 producers concluded, the TAWC decided to add an additional outreach program called the TAWC Water College. An annual conference held in Lubbock, Texas every January to help reach more producers and consumers.

“I can stack up a great set of presenters that are all academic, but with that, the growers like to have other growers that have got skin in the game like they do,” Kellison said.  “So if we have growers present and team that up with a scientist to explain the science that is behind a particular technology, it may end in a more positive result.”

Ritz said that the water college has outgrown its original roots. The first year, the water college was held at the Bayer Museum of Science with about 80 attendees. Now the conference is held at the City Bank Coliseum to ensure there is enough room for the over 250 attendees.

With the help of the Water College, the TAWCs idea of outreach and education for producers has grown, and hopefully will continue to grow.

“Hopefully, in the next 10 years we can continue to move forward with the project, Ritz said, “Personally, I want to continue to see the project grow. “There are always going to be those that need to learn more about the importance of agriculture and the need of water for production.”

Where the Grass Grows Greener

The researchers will utilize a drone, equip with various sensors, in hopes of identifying the optimum sensor to detect drought stress on turfgrass. Golf courses in the Lubbock area provide economic benefit to the region according to the projects lead researcher, Joey Young Ph. D.

A situation is playing out in the Texas Panhandle and local golf courses are feeling the heat. During the end of 2017 and into early 2018, the region has gone through an extreme drought, and the main source of groundwater has been in rapid decline for over a decade. Two Texas Tech University faculty members are gearing up to tackle the water issue.

Although an afternoon on the golf course sounds like a fun way to spend the day, for Joey Young, Ph.D. and Wenxuan Guo, Ph.D., two assistant professors in the Department of Plant and Soil Science, it is an opportunity to solve overwatering of recreational turfgrass.

With the region in an extreme drought and the Ogallala Aquifer at risk of total depletion, golf courses like the Rawls Course at Texas Tech are under pressure, said course superintendent, Rodnie Bermea.

“Golf courses use a lot of water,” Bermea said. “In times of drought, it’s especially hard to water all areas of the properly and efficiently. We can end up using more water than we need to, which costs us money and hurts our water supply.”

According to the Alliance for Water Efficiency, turf requires an average of 25 to 60 inches of water annually, depending on climate, to maintain a healthy appearance. This is one reason some argue golf courses are wasteful. However, Young, an assistant professor of turfgrass science, sees it differently.

It’s more than a tee time

“There’s definitely a perception that golf courses and turfgrass are something that’s basically a waste of a lot of water, and therefore unnecessary,” Young said. “But that’s just not the case. Courses provide a big economic benefit for cities like Lubbock.”

turfgrass.story_SN-4
[Left to Right] Joey Young Ph. D., and Wenxuan Guo Ph. D., discuss plans for their turfgrass research at the Rawls Golf Course as the drone waits, ready for takeoff.
Young argues tournaments and other events hosted at courses like the Rawls impact the local economy by bringing people into the city who utilize local businesses. A sentiment echoed by Bermea.

“Tournaments aren’t only beneficial to the Rawls course, ” Bermea said. “They help everyone. There are the obvious businesses that benefit directly from visitors to the golf course, like hotels, restaurants and all that. But there’s a trickle-down effect on the economy that just can’t be understated.”

While it is apparent golf courses use a lot of water, Young and Guo have devised a plan that could help not only the drought-stricken Lubbock area, but could impact courses around the country and the world.

“Water is our No. 1 limiting resource,” said Guo, an assistant professor of crop ecophysiology and precision agriculture. “Everyone knows the Ogallala Aquifer is depleting at a rapid rate. So, we need to figure out how to save the water or use the water more wisely, more efficiently. This is important from both an economic and social perspective.”

Driving with the drone

Guo said it is not only important to save water for the next generation, but also to conserve water for conventional agriculture production. With a grant provided by the United States Golf Association, the two researchers have developed an experiment with the potential to allow more accurate water allocation on golf courses.

Courses provide a big economic benefit for cities like Lubbock.

“Our goal is to utilize drones and different sensors that will be attached to the drones to collect imagery that could basically determine areas of drought stress on a golf course,” Young said. “The overall purpose would be to utilize various sensors that may give us different information.”

Once these optimal sensors are identified, they could be utilized by golf courses to identify drought stress, potentially before it is even visible to the human eye, Young said. This technology would be used by course managers to adjust irrigation from areas that stay wetter to areas that tend to dry out more. This will ultimately help lower water usage on the golf course and achieve more balanced playing conditions.

“If this technology could allow us to see an area that’s dryer or an area that’s wetter we would be able to water those areas more efficiently,” Bermea said. “We could create a more sustainable irrigation program that would be environmentally beneficial and save us money.”

Simply lowering the golf courses irrigation by 10 to 15 percent would be a huge financial saving for the Rawls, Bermea said.

The research is being conducted at the Rawls Golf Course as well as the Amarillo Country Club, which use different kinds of turfgrass. The varying sensors will give a broader picture of how cool season and warm season turfgrasses handle drought stress.

Young says ultimately he hopes to identify sensors to address specific issues on golf courses and would then like to share that information with course managers around the country. But, it is not just golf courses that may be reaping the benefit of his research.

A put for all mankind

In tandem with the research being conducted on Lubbock and Amarillo golf courses, Guo will also be utilizing the drone and sensor technology to look at lowering water usage in conventional agriculture.

“My area of research is in crop ecophysiology and precision agriculture,” Guo said. “I will be using drones to identify the crop growth variability in fields, within the same season. So, before the final yield at the end of the season, we can look at how the plants are growing and adjust irrigation and other imputes to minimize resource use.”

He said even though different plants sometimes require different methods to study, all plants show drought stress in the same way.

Just like the work being done on the courses, Guo hopes to utilize drone imagery to identify areas of drought stress in crops like corn, cotton and sorghum.

“It has become increasingly important to conserve our water,” Guo said. “The water in our area has been diminishing much faster than originally expected, and we don’t know what our water supply will look like in 20 years. Our whole economy is driven by an adequate water supply, so that makes it urgent.”

This joint research endeavor to ultimately lower water usage in West Texas could have a lasting impact on the region, through improving sustainability and protecting the economic stability of golf courses and conventional agriculture practices. But Young hopes their research will have an even greater impact.

“It’s important to us that we are doing what’s right for our region,” Young said. “But bigger than that I want to communicate our findings to the scientific community in hopes that the information can be shared with course superintendents around the world. For my research to have that kind of reach and impact communities around the world would be the ultimate reward.”

Who Controls the Groundwater Under Our Feet?

This past summer, I was given the cool opportunity to intern for the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District. I did activities like write blogs, manage HPWD’s social media, and attend board meetings.

Obviously, throughout my time at HPWD I learned a lot about groundwater conservation districts and how they operate, but what I found most interesting was the number of people who had absolutely no idea what a groundwater conservation district was when I told them where I worked.

“Oh, you work for the city, right?” and “Can you do something about my water bill this month?” were questions I got often.

HPWD and other districts throughout Texas are instrumental in the conservation of our most precious resource and I think they deserve a little more recognition. Let’s start off by defining what exactly a groundwater conservation district is.

What is an Underground Water Conservation District?

Officially, a GDC is a boundary of land created under Texas Constitution, Article III, Section 52 or Article XVI, Section 59 that has the authority to regulate the spacing of water wells, the production from water wells, or both. They are also responsible for the protection, preservation and conservation of aquifers within the district’s service area.

In Texas, there are 98 groundwater conservation districts and all are required to create and implement a management plan for the use of their ground water resources. The Texas Water Development Board approves these plans.

GCDs come in many shapes and sizes. The Red Sands GCD is the smallest district, which covers about 114 square miles. The HPWD is the largest district and covers about 11,940 square miles, according to the HPWD website.

About HPWD

It’s easier to explain what exactly GCDs do when we can focus on one district and describe its functions. Lubbock is home to the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District. The HPWD was created in March 1951, making it the first district created.

The HPWD is governed by a five-member board of directors who are elected by residents in each of the district director’s precincts. The directors oversee district operations, programs and activities, as well as attending monthly board meetings and approving final water well permit applications. Each director serves a four-year term.

HPWD Map
Map of 98 the current groundwater conservation districts in Texas. Image credit: HPWD website.

The district operates over three aquifers. The Ogallala, Edwards-Trinity, and Dockum aquifers. The Ogallala Aquifer is the major aquifer which underlies all the district’s service area. It is one of the largest aquifers in the world, covering around 174,000 square miles. The Edwards-Trinity and Dockum aquifers are minor aquifers in the district.

Programs

HPWD provides the public with many programs and services such as annual water level reports, interactive maps, well permitting, newsletters and magazines, and educational contests. The public can use these programs to learn about new practices and technology in the water conservation industry. These programs especially help farmers who are irrigating crops and keeping a close eye on water levels.

Annual water level reports

Each year, HPWD puts together an annual report detailing the change in water levels throughout the 16-county district. Information is taken from 1,422 water level observation wells to determine if water levels have dropped, risen or stayed the same. Farmers and ranchers can use this information to see patterns in water levels around them and plan accordingly for the upcoming year.

Well Permitting

According to the HPWD website, landowners are required to apply for a permit prior to drilling and production of water of any well expected to produce 17.5 gallons of water per minute or more.

To acquire a permit, a citizen must provide:

  • The landowner’s name, address, and telephone number.
  • The applicant’s name, address and phone number.
  • The legal description of the property including the aquifer into which the well will be drilled.

Then, a field technician will meet the applicant at the proposed well site to identify the proposed well site, property line, and pay a fee of $250.

Lastly, the applicant must sign the permit application. Once the permit application is signed, district personnel will finalize the permit to be approved/not approved by the district’s general manager and board of directors.

Magazines and Newsletters

HPWD’s annual publication, the Conservation Connect, is done to showcase the water conservation efforts of individuals throughout the district. Articles in the magazine cover a variety of topics such as adoption of new technologies, education of practices, and new trends in the industry.

On that same note, The Cross Section is HPWD’s bi-weekly newsletter to present the plans and functions of the district.

H2You Contest  

Every year HPWD gives high school students within the district an opportunity to share their ideas on how to save water. Students form a team, create a campaign, write a proposal, and present their presentation to be submitted for judgement. Winners receive a scholarship and an all-expense paid trip to Austin.

HPWD Building
Outside of HPWD’s Lubbock office located at 2930 Ave. Q. Photo by Keni Reese.

Groundwater conservation districts throughout the state provide valuable services to the citizens in their districts. Water is arguably our most vital resource and it is important to have services, like the ones HPWD provides, to teach the public about conservation. For more information about groundwater conservation districts, go to www.hpwd.org or http://www.twdb.texas.gov/.

Understanding Agricultural Water Use and Conservation

Johnson, Evan (Photographer). (2018). A center-pivot sprinkler system at sunset in West Texas irrigates a cotton field. [photograph].

Water in Texas 

Water is undoubtedly one of the most important resources in Texas. The state of Texas has attempted to solve water shortages for over fifty years with many different water plans. Though many Texans know water preservation is critical, the methods to conserve water are hotly debated. However, farmers cannot produce the food and fiber you need to eat and wear without access to sufficient water.

According to a report by the Texas Water Resources Institute, annual estimated water use in Texas totaled 16.2 million acre-feet in 2009, with about 57 percent used for agricultural irrigation. With a large amount of water being used in agriculture, it is important to understand individual’s attitudes on irrigation and then work to spread accurate information. It is widely believed policy measures that support water saving irrigation methods will make water more available for cities and environmental issues; however, little has been done to test these ideas.

Pivot
A center-pivot sprinkler system at sunset in West Texas irrigates a cotton field. Photo Credit: Evan Johnson

Water Conservation

As standards of living continue to increase, water consumption also rises and available water diminishes. As a society, it is important to understand that we must also take responsibility and action in conserving water. In addition to farmers, many cities and power plants must think about conservation in industrial uses.

Water planners hope the drought of 2011 is enough initiative to make changes in the lack of major investment in water infrastructure. The public’s support, your support, is imperative to creating proposals, and getting constituents involved in resolving water shortages while allowing farmers to have access to the water they need.

Aspects including water supply regulations, changes in climate, and increased population growth have intensified the search for methods to help conserve water in irrigated agriculture, as agriculture is the world’s largest user of water. Texas requires an effective water plan for reasons like recent droughts and predictions that the number of people living in the state in 2060 would reach 46 million.

Field
Bones and debris rest among dead grass in a field. Photo Credit: Evan Johnson

What You Can Do

Though the drought has served as the push companies needed to innovate, lawmakers’ involvement is essential in obtaining funds and encouraging conservation. However, there are many issues in water resource development and regulation in Texas, and pressure for progress is growing.

Society is beginning to understand that we also must take responsibility and action in conserving water. So, it is extremely important to communicate information on water use and preservation to consumers that may be uninformed. Educating the consumers will hopefully result in personal water conservation and an interest in Texas water policy and legislation.

Pump rig
Johnson, Evan (Photographer). (2017). A pump rig replaces a submersible well. [photograph].

Why Water is Important for Agriculture

According to the United Nations, the world population is anticipated to grow from 8.3 billion in 2030 and to 9.1 billion in 2050. By 2030, food demand is predicted to increase by 50 percent, and 70 percent by 2050.

Every living creature needs water and food to survive and thrive. Water is necessary to producing food. A farmer’s role is to produce food while actively working to preserve water. The public’s role is to become educated and involved in pressuring lawmakers to work toward a solution that will allow farmers to have access to plenty of water while planning for future water security.

So today, educate yourself about agricultural water use then share why it is so important for farmers to not be cut off from this critical resource with someone who might not know.

To learn more about water use in Texas and how you can get involved, visit the below links:

http://www.cropsreview.com/importance-of-water.html

http://www.twdb.texas.gov/waterplanning/waterusesurvey/index.asp

https://www.texastribune.org/2017/05/30/water-update/

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