Working to improve water quality

Sep 30, 2015, 15:04 PM
By definition, a watershed is “an area or ridge of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins or seas.” Tina Hendon, Tarrant Regional Water District’s (TRWD) watershed program manager, said it can simply be described as “when rain falls, it all flows to one central point.” That regularly used path creates a watershed, and for decades TRWD has gone to great lengths to protect it.

Working with federal, state and local programs, TRWD and other stakeholders support land owner education programs, explaining the impacts of erosion and the use of excess pesticides.

“Having a relationship with agricultural producers is important because the land owner is the one making the actual difference; they have direct interaction with the ground,” she said. “Changing their behaviors can make an impact on water quality. We provide encouragement, support and help build that network.”

“There are some agricultural producers that have really stepped up and are sharing their experiences. They are the champions of this program. Without their support, the project would not be a success. We are working to support relationships that have been there for decades.”

TRWD partners with Texas A&M AgriLife and local Soil Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) to host workshops and one-on-one consultations with these agricultural producers as well as homeowner associations and master gardener associations about overgrazing, land stewardship and BMPs that can help prevent erosion.

“One of the worst offenders when it comes to watershed pollution is sediment,” said Hendon. The more sediment we keep out of the reservoirs, the more storage capacity we have.”

Hendon said soil health, which encourages farmers to manage grazing and plant year-round, has been a big push to help minimize erosion and improves soil quality.

TRWD is also getting hands-on with kids and the community through an interactive erosion trailer that educates children and adults about the impacts of erosion and water quality.

Perhaps TRWD’s biggest contribution to the watershed program is its water quality monitoring.

Darrel Andrews, assistant environmental division director at TRWD, said the monitoring program is what first created a growing awareness about existing water quality. Today, the program provides vital information to the local SWCD and allows the SWCD to obtain more federal funds.

Hendon said another point she tries to make to land owners and the general public is minimizing the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

“The goal is to use just enough pesticide/fertilizer so when it does rain, the all of it is absorbed by the plants,” she said. “These small things can have a big impact on our water quality. Nutrients can produce algae, which can cause a bad taste/odor in our drinking water. And if our water is cleaner then our customers don’t spend as much cleaning it up.”

Photo: Morgan Buob with TRWD's environmental department demonstrated the impacts of erosion during a September 19 presentation at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth. The event was sponsored by the Texas Wildlife Association and Imagination Fort Worth. The erosion trailer will also make several appearances at D/FW schools to teach children about water quality.

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