Archive for the 'Water' Category

Restoring the Playa Lakes

Friday, August 4th, 2017
Playa Lakes, Photo: Kevin Kraai, TPDW

Playa Lakes, Photo: Kevin Kraai, TPDW

This is Passport to Texas

Playa lakes are shallow clay basins bordered by native grasses that depend on rainfall to fill them. Panhandle playas provide a direct link for rainwater to reach the Ogallala Aquifer, and as stopovers for migrating waterfowl.

[But] land use has altered playas in many different ways. Some playas are completely barren and farmed through – which is one issue.

Biologist, Don Kahl says an initiative started in 2014 by a coalition of organizations is returning functionality to altered playas.

We’re targeting the playas that have a grass buffer around them – that helps with that primary filtering – and playas that have pits that were dug into them. These pits typically aren’t used anymore. They were used in irrigation practices back in the fifties. The easiest way to fix a playa that’s pitted is basically to go back in and put the dirt back into the hole to seal off that clay layer.

Deep pits dug into playas force rainwater into limited areas, greatly reducing a basin’s usefulness. But by backfilling the manmade pits…

It’s going to: 1) help reestablish the filtering mechanism [for the aquifer], and 2) instead of all that water collecting in a deep pit in the middle, we’re going to spread that water back across the playa to create that shallow water habitat that we want for waterfowl.

The Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program supports our series and funds wildlife surveys throughout Texas.

That’s our show for today… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Ephemeral Panhandle Wetlands

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017
Playa lakes attract waterfowl.

Playa lakes attract waterfowl.

This is Passport to Texas

Something that is ephemeral is random, and exists for a short time, such as the playa lakes in Texas’ High Plains.

On average, playas are only wet one out of every ten years. And as we go from one side of the panhandle to the other, from west to east, our rainfall totals increase. So, the likelihood of a playa being went increases as you go further east. On the western side of the panhandle, along the New Mexico border, it could be tens of years between wet spells for these playas.

Biologist Don Kahl says playas are the most direct link for rainfall to reach the Ogallala Aquifer. Yet, their importance goes further yet.

There’s numerous plant species that can be found [around playas] – upwards to 350 plant species. And up to a couple hundred different bird species can be found around playas. So, they’re very useful, especially in the high plains landscape.

Playa lakes are valuable to migrating waterfowl, too.

It’s a very productive area for waterfowl whenever we do have the rain. Our mid-winter surveys in 2017, which were conducted this past January, set an all-time high for our estimate of the number of ducks for the High Plains of Texas, at about 1.4 million ducks in the Panhandle. So, this past year was good evidence of just how productive it can be for waterfowl.

The Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program supports our series and funds wildlife surveys throughout Texas.

That’s our show for today… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Panhandle Playas and the Ogallala Aquifer

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017
Playas are the most direct route for water to reach the Ogallala Aquifer.

Playas are the most direct route for water to reach the Ogallala Aquifer.

This is Passport to Texas

A playa lake is a natural landscape feature of the vast, flat expanse of the Great Plains and Texas High Plains.

Really, what it is, is a low spot where rainwater collects.

More than a mere low spot, Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Don Kahl says Texas playas are ephemeral wetlands, and vital recharge points for the Ogallala Aquifer.

They’re really the most direct link between rainwater or rainfall to the Ogallala Aquifer below. The amount of water going into the aquifer is from 10 to 100 times greater in a playa basin as compared to surrounding soils or surrounding upland areas.

Kahl calls playas “self-contained watersheds”, each playa is the center collection point of runoff from surrounding uplands. Most playas only exist for a brief time after it rains. Clay soil lines the bottoms of these shallow basins permitting the rainwater and runoff to collect and slowly filter into the aquifer below.

In combination with a healthy playa, having a grass buffer around it helps to filter out sediments and some of the contaminants running off of neighboring fields. You also get a secondary cleaning with the clay layer in the basin, helping to filter out other contaminants and nitrates as the water passes down into the aquifer.

Recharge rates are slow, and it takes years for rainwater to pass from playas, through soil, and into the aquifer.

The Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration program supports our series and funds diverse conservation projects throughout Texas.

That’s our show for today… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Preventing the Spread of Zebra Mussels

Thursday, July 6th, 2017
Places where invasive zebra mussels hitch a ride.

Places where invasive zebra mussels hitch a ride.

This is Passport to Texas

Last month we discovered zebra mussels in Canyon Lake.

Every time you get a new infestation it’s discouraging – it just really is. It just gets you down. And it’s frustrating, because you know that if boaters and people who we know care about the lakes and rivers in this state, if they would just take some time, and be a little careful and make sure that they just clean, drain and dry their boat before they leave the lake every single time, that will go a long time towards preventing their spread.

Fisheries biologist Brian Van Zee says zebra mussels can clog public water intakes, and damage boats and motors left in infested waters.

You know, if boats are stored on the water in the marina, those are the ones where we’re going to have colonies of adult zebra mussels attached to them. Those are the ones that boat owners need to take the time to have that boat fully cleaned and decontaminated; have it inspected by Parks and Wildlife before you go ahead and move it to a different lake.

Once in a river basin, zebra mussels are there to stay.

But, what we can do is we can prevent them from being spread to a new river basin. If we can get the word out to these boat owners and public and transporters in the state, and let them know we’re trying to stop this spread, and prevent new infestations within new river basins – then we have a chance.

Find procedures to clean, drain and dry your boat on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

TPW TV – Guzzlers for Wildlife

Friday, March 3rd, 2017
Guzzler on the Black Gasp Wildlife Management Area

Guzzler on the Black Gasp Wildlife Management Area

This is Passport to Texas

A guzzler is a rain catchment device. Collected rainwater gets funneled into a tank that feeds a water trough for wildlife.

As we all know, animals need water. Our annual rainfall is only around 11 inches a year. So we’re trying to supplement that water during dry periods.

Travis Smith is a biologist at the Black Gap Wildlife management area in Brewster County. So is Will Rhodes.

We’re in southern Brewster County which is in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas.

They build and maintain guzzlers on the Gap—45 so far—and see to the needs of wildlife on the management area.

We’re in the Chihuahuan Desert Ecosystem. The area is 103,000 acres or a little over. Black Gap is kind of in the middle of nowhere.

Next week the men explain and demonstrate guzzlers on a segment of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS.

So this catchment consist of R-Panel in 12 foot lengths, which is connected to these 6 inch C-Purlins by…

Let’s stop there. Will’s going to tell us about purlins and pitch threads and storage tanks; it’s not sexy stuff. But it’s necessary when building guzzlers at Black Gap. And, so are wildlife cameras.

On these game cameras it’s triggered by motion. Usually that’s going to be wildlife coming in to get water from the guzzlers here.

Which means their efforts are successful. See the segment on Guzzlers next week on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV Series on PBS. The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.