During this presentation I will be discussing the natural resource challenges associated with the Trinity River and what is being done to reverse these trends through the Building Partnerships for Cooperative Conservation project that includes landowners, non-governmental organizations, as well as state and federal agencies.
Dreams by some folks in the mid 1800s that Dallas be a port city led to some navigation projects that altered some parts of the river channel. Luckily, railroads quickly “derailed” that dream. But about the turn of the century, as industrialization and population growth expanded in D/FW, the river was treated as a sewer canal and waste from slaughterhouses, industrial plants, and human sewage made their way into the river. Also, misapplication or overapplication of agricultural chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides further aggravated problems. In the 1960’s, the US Public Health Service deemed the river “septic” and essentially unusable 100 miles downstream of Dallas. This photo is from March 2011 when an private pilot was taking photos around Dallas and noticed this odd color coming out of Cedar Creek into the Trinity River in Dallas. Turns out it was pig’s blood and other waste products from a slaughterhouse just upstream that was illegally dumping this into the creek. They got shut down. But things like this happened all the time up to the 1970’s.
Then when the CWA was passed in 1972 with the goal to “Restore and maintain chemical , physical, biological characteristics of nation’s waters,” a lot started to change. CWA was a major step to cleaning up our waterways by controlling pollution sources, particularly in urban areas. Wastewater treatement technology has advanced a lot as well. The CWA requires states to set water quality standards and designate uses for creeks and lakes in the state. Designated uses include drinking water, aquatic life, contact recreation, and general use among others. TCEQ is responsible for setting these standards and uses in Texas. States also have to assess the water quality and report that to EPA to make sure waterways are in compliance.
In addition to that, every 2 years, the TCEQ must report to EPA the extent to which each water body meets the state’s water quality standards.Thatreport has two major parts: the Texas Integrated Report; and what is known as the 303(d) list. The TWQI describes the status of all surface water bodies in the state that were evaluated, tested and monitored over the most recent 5-year period. And any water body that does not meet the water quality standards is placed on the 303(d) list. These water bodies are considered impaired because they are not able to meet their designated uses. Impaired water bodies must be restored through various watershed management and protection activities, which will be discussed in later sections. The Inventory and List are important management tools because they identify the bodies of water that are a priority for restoration and those for which preventive measures (e.g., limits on discharges of wastewater) are necessary to prevent future impairment.Water bodies not meeting water quality standards are impaired and go on the 303(d) List.CWA Section303(d) requires states to develop a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the impaired water body within 13 years from listing.
Going further into water quality issues, the Clean Water Act requires monitoring of streams to ensure water quality standards are being met for their “designated use”, such as drinking water, fish and aquatic life, contact/non-contact recreation, etc. The 303(d) list specifies stream segments that do not meet requirements for their designated use, also called “impaired” due to high levels of pollutant. In the 2010 draft report, 37 segments evaluated were impaired, 67 were of concern because they were close to that threshold, while 4 segments were delisted and 7 were added to the list. Of the 37 segments impaired, 27 were due to high bacteria levels that can come from various sources, such as wastewater effluent, wildlife, livestock, and failing septic systems.
Significant watershed as the water in the reservoir is pumped back for distribution in Fort Worth and surrounding cities. Past issues include low DO, high pH and high levels of atrazine, so it appears agricultural chemicals could be the culprit. Not sure why it got taken off list, but need to remain vigilant to ensure it doesn’t get back on 303d list.
Sources of bacteria include livestock, wildlife, feral hogs, pets, humans etc.
Legacy pollutants from industrial and municipal waste
We have some major challenges that lie ahead of us, but we’re also working to change directions and forge a new path in the Trinity
The Trinity has several other challenges associated with it. Increasing Population within the basin has led to greater volumes of wastewater and stormwater and has resulted in poor water quality, raising water treatment costs and reducing recreational opportunities. Also, habitat has been lost throughout the basin as native grasslands, bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands have been converted to other uses. This in turn has led to declining grassland bird populations, such as bobwhite quail, which depends on native bunchgrasses and forbs for food and shelter.
Another challenge before us along with the rest of Texas is fragmentation, which is the chopping up of parcel sizes into smaller bits. In this photo, if we examine forest area, we can see that it has been chopped up quite a bit. It is very difficult for wildlife to live in areas like this if they have to cover large areas of presumably hay fields or pastures that provide little cover or food. Wildlife will not do it
In the Trinity we gained 5000 new properties in the 1-100 size class from 1997-2007. Resulting problems can include loss of sustainable wildlife habitat and reduced ag productivity. Loss of sustainable habitat – one example is quail. Their home range is around 40 acres, but in order to fully support a healthy population, around 30,000 acres are needed. If multiple landowners are managing their land in different ways that do not benefit quail, the quail will not be sustained. In addition, agricultural productivity is reduced, especially for cattle producers.
The smaller your land holdings are, the less flexibility you have to adjust when say, drought hits. That’s why we saw a lot of folks have to sell off their cows that live on smaller plots. You can see for those who own less than 140 acres, only 30% report profitability from the land, while 60% of those that own over 2000 acres report profitiablity.
We’ve been especially hit hard by drought the last few years. This has seriously reduced our plant growth, which can make it hard for livestock producers to feed their cattle and overgrazing is then common. The problem is, when you allow everything to get eaten to the ground, your setting yourself up for failure or at least slow recovery because a lot of plants can die and lead to soil erosion or hardening. It’s better to leave some plant material so that when it does rain, you protect your soil, and those plants can recover quicker. We have also have crop losses, loss of recreation as lake levels get too low, and municipal watering restrictions. Dallas went to permanent 2 day/week watering restrictions in 2012!
We still havent recovered and it looks like we’re heading back into another dry summer that will continue to reduce plant growth and water supplies.
Purpose of cooperative conservation is just like it sounds: to engage landowners to cooperate together and “own” this project. By working with and for them, we can encourage them, together with other landowners, to see better ways to manage land through greater knowledge and application. Being proactive in this matter can prevent future regulation of various activities that affect landowners. This can save taxpayer money by not having to go through the process of developing regulations and allows dollars spent on conservation to magnify and go farther than before by enabling landowners to work with other landowners, instead of relying exclusively on agencies. What we want to see happen is a domino effect of one landowner accomplishing great conservation work on his land, who in turn discusses and shows it to his neighbors who then do the same thing.
Trinity Waters is a landowner organization dedicated to the land and people of the Trinity basin. (READ MISSION STATEMENT) They seek to accomplish this mission by restoring wildlife habitat that will produce greater economic and recreational opportunities from abundant wildlife populations, enhance livestock production with better management, and enable natural land functions to improve water quality.
We want folks to realize that rural land stewardship benefits urban water supplies, as most of their water comes from rural areas. We can then draw financial resources from urban areas to benefit rural landowners. The goals of the project include developing these cooperative conservation partnerships between landowners with the assistance of NGO and agency personnel, and to foster and encourage a natural resources culture that is knowledgeable and conservation driven.
These goals build on the 1st one. As landowners begin working together to restore and conserve land through various land practices, wildlife habitat will improve leading to healthy wildlife populations and opportunities for hunting, fishing, and ecotourism. As these practices are implemented, the lands natural filtering and storage functions will be more effective resulting in improved water quality.
A great tool that has come out is the Trinity River Information Management System, or TRIMS, developed by the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources. This is similar to a GIS program but is available for free on the web at www.trims.tamu.edu. On this interactive website, you can zoom to your specific piece of land, or look at a watershed as a whole. Features on this website allow you to determine soil and vegetation types on the land, measure land area, access elevation and stream gauge data, and others all in the overall goal of conservation planning. On this site, you can determine areas that are best suited for restoration.Replace screen shot, maybe with amy teaching someone at screen
To bring this all back around, im going to share an example of cooperative conservation already occurring in the trinity basin to restore bobwhite quail populations. It is called the Western Navarro Bobwhite Restoration Initiative, or WNBRI. Under the leadership of Jay Whiteside, Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist, landowners in western navarro county, between Hillsboro and Corsicana, have banded together to restore native grasslands on their property, which is vital habitat for the quail. By working together, they have gained the attention of the state who gave them a grant which was used to buy prescribed burn equipment, no till seed drill, herbicides, and native grass and forb seeds.
In May 2012, we partnered with NRCS and local SWCDS on the Chambers Creek Water Quality Initiative. Chambers Creek has a history of low dissolved oxygen and the mill creek watershed is within the Chambers Creek watershed, which lines up with goals of WAAC. NRCS will be providing technical and $5.4 million in financial assistance to landowners to improve the soil health of the land and water quality in the creek and reservoir thru various conservation practices. Some of these practices include cover crops on agricultural fields, native grass planting, and installing fences for prescribed grazing among others. Between WAAC and this initiative, this exemplifies how Trinity Waters works with private groups and agencies to bring resources to landowners in the Trinity basin.
Another great example of the rural-urban connection are 2 major constructed wetlands in the Trinity. Tarrant Regional WD and TPWD operate the Richland Creek WMA wetlands that are 1730 acres big to purify water before pumping back to FW. They can get 109 million galons per day from these wetlands. North TX Municipal operates the John Bunker Sands Wetland near Seagoville that is 2100 acres big. They can clean 102,000 acre ft per year that is pumped back to cities north of Dallas. Cheaper than a wastewater plant, and provides great wildlife habitat!
High efficiency appliances
There are 2 approaches to addressing water quality problems in Texas. Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, are regulatory in nature as they must be done after 13 years of being on the 303(d) list. Examines the maximum amount of pollutant that can enter a waterway and still meet water quality standards. TMDLs only focus on the pollutant causing the impairment, so other problems that may exist cannot be addressed in a TMDL plan. Whereas a watershed protection plan (WPP) is voluntary, and looks at all aspects of watershed health and all potential sources of pollution. A key difference between WPPs and TMDLs is that TMDLs are regulatory in nature. WPPs are voluntary programs and are not mandated by federal law. In general, WPPs are a way of restoring water quality and avoiding regulatory action in a watershed. For this reason, it takes a much more holistic approach to watershed management and focuses on all potential sources of pollutants in a watershed. TMDLs, on the other hand, focus only on the pollutant causing the impairment. For example, a typical title of a TMDL might be, 1 TMDL for bacteria in the Peach Creek Watershed. Lastly, WPPs can be developed for water bodies that are not on the 303(d) list, while TMDLs are always developed for water bodies that are on the 303(d) list. Developing a WPP for your watershed will ensure that regulations don’t get placed upon that watershed, which is another great reason to conduct one. But really, both of these take a lot of time and money, so if people in the watershed can just work together and look at their own operations and household habits, problems can get fixed by themselves.
At this point, you may be asking yourself what you can do. First, set conservation goals for your land that make wildlife habitat and water quality a priority. Next, contact Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists, County Extension Agents, or NRCS agents for guidance in how to go about getting those goals accomplished, as well as getting cost share information. Lastly, get involved with your neighbors. Wildlife management associations are groups of landowners that work together under the supervision of wildlife biologists that seek to improve wildlife habitat and populations on their land by operating under a wildlife management plan. This is a small scale example of what Trinity Waters is working to accomplish in the trinity river basin. Also, get involved with Trinity Waters and other conservation organizations such as Texas Wildlife Association.
Funding from state and federal sources was administered by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation board which recognizes hunters and landowners as the primary conservationists of land. They view landowners as the key to successful conservation, especially in Texas where greater than 90% of land is privately owned.
We are always available by email or phone to communicate personally with you.
All Things Trinity, All Things Conservation
All Things Trinity,All Things Conservation
Trinity Key Points– Connects D/FW toHouston– 512 miles long,1,983 miles oftributaries– Supplies water to~40% of Texaspopulation– Municipal wateruse is 80%– Rural land covers75% of 18,000square miles (7%of Texas)
Where We’ve Been• History of the river• Water quality problems and policy changes
History of Trinity River• Navigation projects in midto late 1800’s changedsome parts of river• Pollution fromslaughterhouses, industries, sewage from D/FW andagricultural chemicals• U.S. Public Health Servicecalled river “septic” in1960’sPig’s blood from slaughterhouse entering TrinityRiver in Dallas, March 2011
Clean Water Act• Federal Clean Water Act (CWA, 1972, 1977)created to “Restore and maintainchemical, physical, and biological characteristicsof nation’s waters.”• Requires states to set water quality standards anddesignated uses for streams and lakes.• Designated uses include drinking water, aquaticlife, contact recreation, and general use.• CWA requires states to assess quality of surfacewater (i.e. whether the water meets state-setwater quality standards) and report to the EPA.
• Every 2 years, the TCEQ must report theextent to which each water body meets thestate’s surface water quality standards:Surface Water Quality Standards•Describes status of ALL surface waterbodies in state that were evaluated,tested, and monitored in recent 7 yearsTexas IntegratedReport•Identifies ALL “impaired” surface waterbodies not meeting criteria fordesignated usesCWA 303(d) List
Fragmentation• 5,000 new properties in the 1-100 size class• Resulting problems– Loss of sustainable wildlife habitat– Reduced agricultural productivity
Fragmentation• Reduced economic sustainability for landowners
Drought• Plant growth veryreduced• Hampers livestockproduction andovergrazing common• Crop losses• Municipal wateringrestrictions• Loss of recreationOctober 2011
Trinity River BasinRestoration Initiative• Governor’s 2006Announcement• Improve water qualityby habitat restoration• Build capacity ofTrinity Waters• Foster naturalresourcesconservation culture
Purpose• Landowners at theforefront– Neighbor working withneighbor– Proactive stance canprevent future,unnecessary regulation– Magnify conservationdollars– Connect urbanresources
MissionImprove the quality of life, economic sustainabilityand ecological integrity of areas associated with theTrinity River Basin through a coalition of localcommunities, NGOs and stewards of private andpublic lands.
Goals• Connect rural land stewardship to urban waterresources• Establish cooperative conservation partnershipsamong landowners, NGOs, and agencies
Goals• Promote landstewardship practices– Improve ag production– Increase wildlifepopulations– Greater recreationalopportunities• Improve water resources– Allow for land-waterinteractions– Reduce pollutants
Tasks• Enhanced communication and data accessibility• Deliver information to the public and work withland managers to restore habitat
Trinity River Information Management System(TRIMS)• Accessible• Interactive• Watershed scale(local to regional)• Soils, vegetation,elevation, streamdata• Restorationpotentialtrims.tamu.edu
A Strategic Approach to Bobwhite Recoveryin the Western Trinity River BasinJay WhitesideTechnical Guidance BiologistTexas Parks and Wildlife DepartmentConservation Example
Conservation Example• Joint project withNRCS and local SWCDsannounced May 2012• $5.4 million infinancial assistance for60 contracts• Conservation practicesthat benefit waterquality and soil healthChambers Creek Water Quality Initiative
Wetlands for Water Treatment• Richland Creek WMA– TPWD and TarrantRegional WD– 1,730 acres, 109 MGD• John Bunker SandsWetlands Center– North TX Municipal WD– 2,100 acres– 102,000 acre/ft per year• Rural-urban connectionConservation Example
TMDLs vs. WPPs Regulatory Focuses only onpollutant(s) causingimpairment Water body always on303(d) list Voluntary, community-driven Holistic – focuses on allpotential pollutantsources in watershed Water body usually (notalways) always on 303(d)list
What Can I Do?• Set conservation goalsfor your land• Contact TPWDBiologists, CountyExtensionAgents, NRCS forguidance• Get involved with yourneighbors(WMAs), TrinityWaters and other
Restoration of the Trinity Basin is a Common LinkBetween Urban and Rural Texans