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Healthy streams workshop looked at ag use of water

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Sky Jones- Lewey with the Nueces River Authority points out how maintaining healthy riparian areas along streams can help with flood recovery and prevent loss of top-soil and habitat.

The third of a five-part series of five water workshops was held Wednesday June 3 with two more sessions scheduled. The workshops are a collaborative educational venture sponsored by Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, with support from Bandera Electric Cooperative, Hill Country Alliance, and the Ranchers and Landowners Association of Texas. Attendees have gained CEUs as well as a broad ranging education on various water issues.
This month featured a Healthy Stream Workshop with emphasis on agricultural uses of water, its conservation and the preservation of water quality on farms and ranches.
Presenter Matt Brown with Texas A&M Extension Service urged guests to take advantage of educational materials on the Lone Star Healthy Streams website. The goal of the healthy streams program is to protect Texas waterways from bacterial contamination, Brown said. They have developed five resource manuals that can be downloaded from the website.
"Clean water is important for agriculture," Brown said. "Texas has a $100 million food and fiber industry and clean water is important to irrigate crops and produce healthy livestock."
Brown's presentation focused on watersheds. What is a watershed? Well, "it's not a shed that holds water, and it's not the sweat you shed while exercising," Brown explained.
Well, if you're smarter than a fifth grader, you knew neither of those was the definition of a watershed, too. We live in the Medina River watershed, which is itself made up of many smaller watersheds. Any place that water flows across, through or under to a body of water is a watershed. You probably have a watershed in your backyard!
There are 15 major river basins in Texas. We are in the northern part of the San Antonio River Basin. They are all subject to two sources of pollution: a point source pollution and a non-point source. Point sources of pollution are easy to find, said Brown, because we can see them: feed lots, manufacturing plants, waste water treatment plants. Non-point sources of pollution may be more difficult to pin down and identify, but they can be caused by agriculture activities, forests and cities. Fecal bacteria is a leading cause of non-point source pollution.
It can come from humans, domestic animals, feral hogs, livestock, wildlife and non-domestic animals and illegal dumping.
According to Brown, all of the Texas river basins have been affected by pollution. Currently there are only two impairments in water quality on record for the Medina River watershed.
Water quality laws and policy have developed out of the Clean Water Act of 1971 and 1977, a federal act that requires states to set standards for water quality. In Texas, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) manages water policy. At the federal level there is the USGS, USDA, EPA and the NRCS.
Quality of water is evaluated on chemical, physical and biological parameters based on its designated use, Brown explained. In Texas TCEQ sets the designated use for every body of water, develops and enforces standards and reports impairments to the EPA.
If a body of water has significant impairments, the state has 10 years to show the EPA the steps that are being taken to correct the impaired sites.
Brown's presentation was followed by a program on beef cattle production and best management practices to reduce fecal contamination by grazing cattle. Following lunch, guests heard a program on preventing damage to riparian areas by feral hogs. The workshop closed with a visit to a riparian area along the Medina River.
The final two workshops in this valuable series will include one on well plugging and another on building a rainwater catchment system.
The well plugging session will meet at BCRAGD offices on August 11 from 6-7:30 pm with no fee. The rainwater program will include a rainwater catchment system build with the Rainwater School. It will be held on Saturday, August 22 at BCRAGD from 8 am to noon. The fee is $80 per person.
For more information, or to reserve a place in a workshop, call 830-796-3938.