TRINITY RIVER BASIN — An increasing population and various land changes continue to place pressure on water resources and the ability to find a balance between water and wildlife management, according to partners in the new Water As A Crop project being piloted in Mill Creek in the Trinity River basin.
To help meet these challenges, Wisconsin-based Sand County Foundation is working with Texas-based Trinity Waters, formerly the Trinity Basin Conservation Foundation, as the implementing partner for this initiative, project leaders said.
“The Trinity River is the primary water source for the metropolitan areas of Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston, and the Trinity River basin is one of the state’s largest and most important watershed areas,” said Dr. Jim Cathey, Texas AgriLife Extension Service wildlife specialist and project participant based in College Station.
The Mill Creek project site will target approximately 3,000 acres and 15 landowners for participation in the first year, coordinators said. Mill Creek eventually flows into Richland-Chambers reservoir, a major source of water for residents of northeastern Texas.
Cathey said project coordination and implementation will include the involvement of area landowners such as landowner-leader Gary Price, who received the project’s first funding for implementing conservation practices that benefit livestock, wildlife and water management.
Price and wife Sue’s conservation efforts were recognized with the 2007 Leopold Conservation Award for Texas. The award, presented by Sand County Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife, is named for Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife management.
“Sand County Foundation provides funding and promotes activities that reflect Leopold’s conservation principles, and actions taken by individual landowners like the Prices are key in keeping with those principles,” said Steve Parret, the foundation’s Water As A Crop program director. “We are providing financial incentives to landowners to improve the value of their land by increasing the value of their water resources and those of individuals living downstream. Our aim is to inform and inspire people about responsible stewardship and the great value of water.”
Quality land management links common goals in livestock, wildlife and water management, said Blake Alldredge, an AgriLife Extension assistant recently appointed education and outreach coordinator for a new middle Trinity River project. The new middle Trinity project, titled Building Partnerships for Cooperative Conservation in the Trinity River Basin, is funded by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board through a Clean Water Act §319(h) grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Alldredge said some of the land management practices implemented on Gary and Sue Price’s 77 Ranch include an intensive rotational grazing plan that mimics the grazing habits of bison, using prescribed burns and herbicides to manage invasive woody species and employing soil stabilization techniques to create better habitat.
“The Prices’ approach to conservation serves as a model of sustainability and profitability for other landowners within the Trinity River basin, and demonstrates that private landowners’ actions can directly benefit those living in both rural and urban areas,” he said.
“We’re concerned about the Trinity River basin and the impact rural conservation by area landowners can have on the large urban population served by the watershed, said Gary Price, who also serves on Trinity Waters’ board of directors. “We want landowners in this area to know these practices absolutely work and that good water conservation practices can benefit livestock, wildlife and their own land’s productivity without a lot of additional inputs.”
Price said what he is striving for is “not to maximize his land’s productivity, but to optimize it” through conservation practices that ensure long-term sustainability.
“Currently, we are paying for 100 percent of the cost to implement practices determined to be in keeping with best conservation principles,” Parrett said. “We see the Water As A Crop initiative as a neighbor-to-neighbor, grassroots, community-based approach to design, promote and implement suitable conservation practices to enhance water resources on private land.”
Parrett said additional funding and participating organizations in the Water As A Crop project include Pioneer Hi-Bred, which is a national sponsor of the initiative, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Dixon Water Foundation, Meadows Foundation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M’s Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and MillerCoors.
“MillerCoors is a lead sponsor in this effort, in part, because their Fort Worth facilities are located in a water-stressed area, and they understand the importance of water conservation,” he said. “This is evident in that they sponsor the ‘Water Works’ portion of the ‘Mother Nature Network,’ in which Sand County Foundation is proud to play a role.”
Project coordinators said goals for Water As A Crop include:
– Identification and implementation of specific land management practices to improve water quality and quantity on private lands.
– Building contacts between stakeholders and potential water customers for water delivery on their lands.
– Making cost assessments for implementing conservation measures.
– Comparing the effectiveness of the new project to conventional water management strategies.
– Creating educational programs for urban and rural communities focused on the value of agricultural lands as they relate to water supply and environmental goods and services.
– Measuring the environmental effect of practices implemented during the project.
Water As A Crop is a prime example of the beneficial partnerships that can develop between landowners, non-governmental organizations and governmental agencies, Cathey noted.
“We anticipate that several local landowners who have already demonstrated a commitment to water quality and wildlife conservation will be involved in this project and will provide the impetus for its success,” he said. “This is an ideal project for this site to connect the rural and urban systems to one another by promoting land management techniques that will benefit stakeholders in both of those systems.”
More information on Water As A Crop can be found at: www.waterasacrop.com
EDITOR’S NOTES: Water As A Crop is a trademark of the Sand County Foundation. The Sand County Foundation is a charitable, nonprofit, non-governmental agency committed to the advancement of ethical and sound land-management practices by creating partnerships to benefit landowners and others who depend on the resources from their land.
Trinity Waters is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization committed to land and water conservation by partnering with landowners to implement land management practices specifically within the Trinity River basin.
The Trinity River watershed encompasses over 18,000 square miles and travels through 38 Texas counties. Approximately 8 million people live in the Trinity River Basin, making it the most populated river basin in Texas. Major activities within the watershed affecting water quality and quantity include urbanization, commercial and industrial development, row-crop farming, livestock production, outdoor recreation and timber production.