Texas State Soil And Water Conservation Board
A newly-documented water quality success story about Buck Creek, located in the Texas Panhandle, has recently been published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since this stream was identified in 2000 as impaired for not supporting water quality standards due to elevated bacteria, the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) has been working with local landowners and several partnering agencies to reduce nonpoint sources of water pollution and restore the water quality of Buck Creek.
Located within the Red River Basin in the Central Great Plains of Texas, Buck Creek is a small stream surrounded by rural and agricultural landscapes, with land uses primarily devoted to row crops and grazinglands. Water quality monitoring data, combined with bacterial source tracking and computer modeling, indicated that the primary contributors of E. coli/ bacteria were wildlife (including feral hogs), livestock, and humans.
Extensive public outreach and education efforts increased public awareness of the condition of the creek and led to voluntary implementation of best management practices by landowners, such as installing alternative watering sources for livestock, implementing prescribed grazing, and installing crossfencing to manage livestock distribution and access to the creek. As a result of reduced bacteria levels, the State of Texas removed Buck Creek from the list of impaired waters in 2010.
“We should all take pride in this accomplishment,” said Scott Buckles, the TSSWCB Area I State Board Member representing the Panhandle. “By using the delivery system of local soil and water conservation districts, we have paired federal Clean Water Act grants with voluntary, incentivebased programs to help reduce nonpoint source water pollution.”
Over $719,000 in federal Clean Water Act Section 319(h) grant funds from the TSSWCB and EPA, paired with more than $459,000 in non-federal matching funds from Texas A&M AgriLife Research, supported collecting and analyzing water samples, conducting bacterial source tracking, developing pollutant loading models, facilitating stakeholder involvement in the watershed planning process, and crafting a watershed protection plan for Buck Creek.
The TSSWCB and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service also provided approximately $19,400 in state funding and $97,600 in federal Farm Bill funding to landowners as financial incentives to implement management practices on farms and ranches in the Buck Creek watershed.
“The information gathered from stakeholder meetings helped design a watershed protection plan that included prescribed grazing, alternative watering sources, cross-fencing, and invasive brush removal. These voluntary best management practices implemented by the stakeholders are paying off, not only for the producers, but also for Buck Creek,” said Curtis Scrivner, Chairman of the Hall- Childress Soil and Water Conservation District. “I believe that continuing to implement the watershed protection plan will keep Buck Creek healthy and productive for future generations.”
Each year, Congress appropriates federal funds to the States, through the EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 319(h) Grant Program, for restoration of nonpoint source-impaired waterbodies.
“Voluntary participation by landowners, with assistance from state and federal financial incentive programs, puts best management practices on the ground that improve water quality while taking into account economic considerations of agricultural producers,” said Rex Isom, TSSWCB Executive Director. “It is important for the public and our state and federal elected officials to be aware of these positive, documented results of the conservation partnership’s efforts to provide clean water for the people of Texas.”
Other key partners critical to the success in Buck Creek included the Donley and Salt Fork Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas Water Resources Institute, the Red River Authority of Texas, the Texas Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services unit.
Additional information on the Buck Creek watershed is available at http://buckcreek.tamu.edu/.
The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board administers Texas’ soil and water conservation law and delivers coordinated natural resource conservation programs through the State’s 216 soil and water conservation districts.
The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board is the lead agency for planning, implementing, and managing programs for preventing and abating agricultural and silvicultural nonpoint sources of water pollution. The agency also administers a water supply enhancement program for the targeted control of waterdepleting brush, works to ensure the State’s network of 2,000 flood control dams are protecting lives and property, and facilitates the Texas Invasive Species Coordinating Committee.