Restoring the Playa Lakes

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

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