Water Quality Project Works to Improve Reservoir

On January 24th, 2008, representatives from the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) and the Kaufman-Van Zandt Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) participated in a meeting of the Cedar Creek Watershed Protection Plan Stakeholder Committee in Kaufman, Texas. Landowners and agricultural producers in the Cedar Creek watershed along with agency representatives and local and state government leaders are working on a proactive plan to help reduce pollution flowing into the Cedar Creek Reservoir.

A series of urban and agricultural nonpoint source best management practices were ranked by stakeholders at the previous meeting and results of that ranking process were presented for consideration. Lee Munz, a Natural Resource Specialist with the TSSWCB, said "it's good to see that the stakeholder process being used for this project is a genuine effort, and the landowners and producers who will be asked to voluntarily implement management practices are the ones making the recommendations." Potential reduction percentages for sediment and nutrients were suggested for consideration by stakeholders, and the group chose to make that a topic for further discussion at the next scheduled meeting. In addition, the floor was opened to a general discussion of stakeholder views. Community education efforts toward nonpoint source pollution and illegal dumping seemed to be viewed as quite important and key to overall reductions.

The 34,000-acre reservoir, southeast of Dallas, is the first of five reservoirs managed by the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) that is being studied. After conducting 15 years of monitoring in Cedar Creek, TRWD confirmed increasing levels of chlorophyll-a. Chlorophyll-a, an indicator of excessive algae growth, is accelerated by excessive nutrients flowing into the reservoir from the surrounding watershed. TRWD officials said they hope to avoid mandatory regulation by engaging in stakeholder-based watershed protection planning focused on holistic solutions to water pollution by examining the impacts of upstream activities.

Watershed-based planning is a relatively new approach to pollution reduction in all sizes of water bodies. The process evaluates the relationship of water quality to land use, soils, hydrology and climate within a single geographic area. "Watershed protection planning is based on the management of activities that take place within the land mass that drains into a specific body of water," said Clint Wolfe, grant and project coordinator with Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Urban Solution Center at Dallas and manager of the project. "By incorporating water quality testing and computer modeling, we are able to assess the condition of Cedar Creek Reservoir and its tributary streams to develop a specific plan of action to address the excessive pollutants."

The overall North Central Texas Water Quality Project is collaborative effort of EPA, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, TSSWCB, TCEQ, TRWD, Texas Water Resources Institute, Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Urban Solutions Center at Dallas, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Espey Consultants Inc. and Alan Plummer and Associates, Inc.

The TSSWCB awarded Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Urban Solutions Center at Dallas and Kaufman-Van Zandt SWCD a Clean Water Act, Section 319(h) grant to support efforts to improve water quality in the Cedar Creek Watershed. Utilizing grant funds, Kaufman-Van Zandt SWCD will work with local agricultural producers in developing water quality management plans (WQMPs). These WQMPs will include the best management practices identified in the watershed protection plan to voluntarily implement on agricultural lands to reduce soil and nutrient loss. Additionally, funds will be made available to landowners in the watershed as an incentive to implement best management practices. The grant funds from the TSSWCB will also be used by the Texas AgriLife Urban Solutions Center to demonstrate the effectiveness of several agricultural best management practices identified in the Cedar Creek Watershed protection plan such as the conversion of cropland to pastureland, grassed waterways and filter strip. These data will serve as reference for future modeling efforts and additional water quality projects for the State of Texas.