DALLAS/FORT WORTH — At a recent workshop conducted in the Mill Creek watershed area of Navarro County, 11 area landowners heard from representatives of various conservation-oriented organizations, businesses and educational agencies on how effective riparian area management can provide long-term benefits to the Trinity River basin.
“The Sand County Foundation and Trinity Waters hosted the workshop as a learning experience for landowners taking part in the Water As A Crop initiative that seeks to implement water conservation measures on private lands,” said Texas AgriLife Extension Service assistant Blake Alldredge, who helped coordinate the workshop.
Other organizations represented included the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, MillerCoors, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and AgriLife Extension.
“Conservation practices that enhance water resources within the Trinity River basin are critical as the river provides water to nearly 40 percent of Texans,” said Ken Klaveness, Trinity Waters executive director. “There are almost 8 million people in the basin area and the population is increasing rapidly. Projects like Water As A Crop are vital in these rural watersheds, and landowner involvement is key in any effort to improve the water and wildlife of the basin.”
According to Water As A Crop project coordinators, conservation measures can provide long-term sustainability and increased land productivity for landowners, as well as help secure future water resources as both the state’s population and water demand increase.
“Mill Creek is of great importance for urban residents upstream in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, as it flows into Richland-Chambers Reservoir, a major supply of water for the metroplex area,” Klaveness said. “Good land stewardship in rural areas can have positive effects on the quality and quantity of water for both rural and urban populations.”
During the workshop, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service personnel explained the natural functions and flow patterns of streams, and how vegetation in and along streams provides benefits such as a reduction in erosion and flooding.
“Riparian areas are transitional margins between uplands and streams, where vegetation is strongly influenced by the presence of water, and can be different from upland communities,” said Ricky Linex, NRCS zone wildlife biologist at Weatherford and a workshop presenter.
The workshop’s morning presentations on riparian management were capped off by an afternoon visit to field sites to see first-hand how conservation practices work.
At the first location, participants saw how a healthy riparian buffer in the Mill Creek area consisting of native trees, grasses and forbs protects the stream from excessive erosion and maintains channel shape by impeding floodwaters.
“As floodwaters slow down, sediment is deposited on the riparian area and floodplain instead of continuing downstream into a reservoir or other water source,” said Kenneth Mayben, NRCS zone engineer at Weatherford and another presenter. “Infiltration of water into the soil improves water quality and acts as a ‘sponge’ that holds more water.”
At the second location, participants saw the effects of past poor land-management activities on Mill Creek by examining where erosion and channel down-cutting was apparent.
“Proper management in the Mill Creek area has been in place since local landowners Gary and Sue Price planted native grasses and forbs along and up to 180 feet from the creek, thereby reducing erosion of the channel until woody vegetation can reestablish,” Alldredge said.
Through the initiative, financial incentives are being offered to landowners who wish to improve the value of their land by increasing the value of their water resources and those of individuals living downstream, said Steve Parrett, Sand County Foundation’s Water As A Crop program director.
“Our aim is to inform and inspire people about responsible stewardship and the great value of water,” Parrett said.
As winners of the foundation’s 2007 Leopold Conservation Award, the Prices received funding from the Water As A Crop initiative for their work benefiting livestock, wildlife and water management.
“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.”
Project coordinators said the Mill Creek project site will target approximately 3,000 acres and 15 landowners for participation in the first year. Sand County Foundation and Trinity Waters are actively seeking more landowners along Mill Creek to participate in Water As A Crop. Interested landowners should contact Klaveness at 214-454-4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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.