Thursday, March 31, 2011

Texas Senate Passes Groundwater Bill

Texas Senate Passes Groundwater Bill

  • The Texas Senate passed a much-discussed piece of groundwater legislation, voting 28-3 to approve a bill stating that landowners in the state have a "vested ownership interest" in the groundwater beneath their land.
    "We're just clarifying that you do have a vested interest in that water below your property," said state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, who chairs the Committee on Natural Resources and sponsored the bill.

    However, he said, the bill also establishes that landowners' rights are subject to the rules of the groundwater conservation districts, which are locally elected bodies that seek to manage aquifers for the long term and dole out permits to farmers and other water users.

    The bill approved today contains additional emphasis on the conservation districts' roles than in its original version. Fraser worked with Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, who had introduced a different bill on landowner rights that gave more emphasis to the groundwater conservation districts' importance. Duncan's concern was that declaring landowners' vested ownership interest — something understood in Texas today but not explicitly stated in the law — would lead to litigation among the various stakeholders in Texas water.

    However, he declared himself "very comfortable" with the version of the bill that passed today.
    The three senators voting against the bill were José R. Rodríguez, D-El Paso; Kirk Watson, D-Austin; and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.

    This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    SPUWCD Rain Barrel Workshop

    You must call the office to register. Rain barrels will only be given to those who call on or before April 7th.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Trash Can Rain Barrel

    The South Plains UWCD is hosting a Rainwater Harvesting Workshop in Brownfield on April 14th  at 6:30 p.m. The District will be teaching attendees how to build a rainwater catchment system out of a 44 gallon trash can. Participants will receive a free trashcan /rain barrel and will have the opportunity to paint their barrel at the workshop.

    (please excuse our scratched off paint. We are working on the best paint solution and found it after I took these pictures)

    In preparing for the upcoming workshop, we have been building our own trashcan rainwater barrel today in the office. We drilled holes in the top of the barrel and placed a screen underneath the holes.

    We painted the rain barrel/ trash can purple and turquoise.

    then  added a spigot to hook up a garden hose too

    And that's it. I will post more detailed instructions once the workshop is over.

     If you are interested in attending the workshop please send me an email at savewater windstream net and we will put you on the sign up sheet. The last day to register is March 31st.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Greywater: From washing machine to garden

    I never thought about using Greywater until i started working here. For people that haven’t heard of grey water, it is a concept of re-using water.  A simple example would be to collect shower water and then using it to water plants.Based on statistics about 70% of all water used in the home would be classified as grey water.

    Greywater: From washing machine to garden

    Among the southern and southwestern states, California was not alone in experiencing drought conditions from 2007 to 2009. And yet the average family uses about 500 gallons of water per day, according to the Los Angeles County Waterworks District. A significant portion of this often goes to watering lawns and ornamental plants.

    Of course, planting native and drought resistant plants in place of grass is a huge step towards water conservation. But suppose you want to have your cake and eat it too (i.e., conserve water and grow water-loving plants)? Welcome to the world of greywater reuse.

    Greywater is water which you have already used for something in your home, but is not technically toxic. This might include water from your sinks, showers, dishwasher and washing machine (but not toilet).


    By diverting this "dirty" but non-toxic water to your yard, you're conserving valuable drinking water, preventing what is technically useful water from going through an inefficient wastewater processing system, and you're diverting a wasted resource to grow plants, and perhaps to grow food.

    And it even helps the pocketbook. "Recycling water as greywater is good for the environment, and saves me money," said L.A. River advocate and L.A. Creek Freak blogger Joe Linton. He built a DIY laundry-to-landscape system, which directs water from the washing machine in his second story apartment to his garden.

    According to Linton, such a system is simpler for beginners because the washing machine's pump helps divert water to the garden. Also, with a washing machine there is less worry about clogged pipes compared to, say, a kitchen sink, where you're dealing with food particles.

    One might wonder about the difficulty and expense involved in diverting washing machine water to a yard. "Any handyman with basic plumbing skills can install it," Linton assures. His system cost around $150 and is quite lengthy, descending from the second story and snaking through the yard to its outlet at the base of a row of blackberry bushes.

    When reusing greywater, the average "eco-friendly" laundry detergents and other soaps may not make the cut. Some of these use ingredients that are more eco-friendly compared to traditional detergents, but they will kill your plants. Linton uses a detergent specially formulated to be used in a greywater reuse system.


    Such modification is illegal in some areas (especially in the eastern states) and you should familiarize yourself with local laws before proceeding. In California, home plumbing modification for greywater reuse only became legal in 2009. It has been legal in arid Arizona since 2002.

    But if there is any doubt about the safety of greywater reuse systems, Linton, at least, is confident of its safety. He enjoys the tree fruits grown from his greywater and attests that they are, in his words, "Yummy." He does suggest that, for safety reasons, greywater not be used for root vegetables like potatoes or edible plants which grow near the soil, like lettuce.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Rainwater harvesting increases in popularity across the state

    Story by Melanie Orth

    Richard Green constructed an underground 20,000-gallon concrete tank for a rainwater harvesting system for his business. Photo by Richard Green.

    As the need for water conservation becomes more apparent, residents across Texas are incorporating rainwater harvesting into their everyday lives. This innovative conservation technique involves capturing, diverting, and storing rainwater for later use.

    Reducing water costs and lessening the demand on water resources are the two main reasons people become interested in rainwater harvesting, said Billy Kniffen, Texas AgriLife Extension Service water resource specialist.

    "Most people who get involved just want to make a difference and be a part of the green effort to use less energy and water," he said.

    Kniffen, who has statewide responsibility for rainwater harvesting education for AgriLife Extension, said interest in rainwater harvesting mostly begins by word of mouth.

    "Master Gardeners are influential in spreading information about local programs," Kniffen said.

    Master Gardeners receive 16 hours of rainwater harvesting training and are armed with educational materials to contribute a minimum of 50 hours of volunteer service to earn the title of Master Gardener-Rainwater Harvesting Specialist. The training allows them to volunteer through local AgriLife Extension offices to provide horticultural related information to communities.

    In 2004, AgriLife Extension and the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) established the Rainwater Harvesting Task Force, a multidisciplinary group of 18 or more members whose goal is to teach and train others about capturing and managing rainfall, according to B.L. Harris, TWRI acting director.

    Since its inception, the rainwater harvesting education group has developed several courses geared towards rainwater stewardship, published peer-reviewed Extension publications including a new rainwater harvesting manual, developed video clips teaching rainfall capture techniques, and created a rainwater harvesting website. The team has also installed rainwater harvesting demonstrations at 37 different locations across the state, including more than 20 locations in West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley.

    For its efforts, the team was awarded the 2008 Superior Service Award from AgriLife Extension.

    Kniffen said the cost of implementing a rainwater harvesting system varies depending on the system.

    "A simple rain barrel can be built for $20-$35," he said, "or bought for $100. Many who get involved have 1,000 gallons of storage, which costs less than a $1,000."

    The cost also depends on the type of tank installed and who the installer is. Having a company install the system costs about twice as much, he said.

    Kniffen, who lives exclusively on rainwater in dry West Texas, said his system cost $10,000.

    He and his wife decided to capture rainwater while building their house because they had no access to city water and the groundwater was of questionable quality. Kniffen collects water off his house and barn roof, which is about 5,900 square feet of catchment area.

    Like Kniffen, when John Kight began building his house in Boerne, he decided to use rainwater as the sole source of his water supply because the groundwater in his area was too hard and contained iron and sulfur.

    "Installing a well would have cost $26,000, and I spent $14,500 on the rainwater system," Kight said.

    His rainwater harvesting system includes a 7,826-square-foot roof area, and seven 5,000 gallon, three 1,550-gallon, and one 1,000-gallon aboveground polypropylene tanks for water storage. "With this system I can collect close to 4,800 gallons of rainwater per inch of rain," he said.

    Kight said he sees many benefits in rainwater harvesting.

    "It's as close to pure water as you can get," he said, "and I don't have to deal with lime build-up or water bills."

    Kight has always been conservation-minded and gives numerous presentations and workshops to the community to encourage rainwater harvesting.

    He was awarded the 2008 Texas Rain Catcher Award from the Texas Water Development Board, which recognizes excellence in the application of rainwater harvesting systems in Texas.

    Although most rainwater harvesting systems are for private use, about 25 percent are for commercial use, Kniffen said.

    Richard Green's commercial rainwater harvesting system involves running the water through an ozone treatment recirculation system and a UV light, making the water readily available. Photo by Richard Green.

    Richard Green, owner of Magline Inc. in Plainview, began his commercial rainwater harvesting project after his company's building burned down.

    Magline Inc. is a small manufacturing resource lab that develops foliar fertilizers or liquid solutions that are sprayed directly onto leaves.

    When it came time to rebuild, Green decided to collect rainwater instead of drilling a well. "The water that is needed to make the fertilizers has to be soft and clean," he said. "The quality of water that rainwater provides is better for our products."

    "It would have been cheaper to put in a well, but the water table in this area is declining," he said. Plainview is over the Ogallala Aquifer, which is depleting at rates of 1 to 3 feet per year.

    His system is an underground 20,000 gallon concrete tank that runs rainwater through an ozone treatment recirculation system to disinfect the water and then through an ultraviolet light, making the water readily available and up to drinking water standards.

    Green said it has always been a dream project for him, and he is anxious to get rainfall in the recently completed system.

    Local governments are incorporating rainwater harvesting into their policies. Some cities and counties provide financial incentives for rainwater capture systems to encourage residents to conserve water.

    The City of Austin Water Conservation Department promotes both residential and commercial rainwater harvesting by offering rebates from $30 to $5,000, depending on the system.

    Rainwater harvesting projects in San Antonio are eligible for up to a 50 percent rebate of the installed cost of the system under the San Antonio Water System's Large-Scale Retrofit Rebate Program.

    Universities across Texas are also catching on to the idea of rainwater harvesting. As new buildings are constructed on the Texas A&M University campus, rainwater harvesting systems are being implemented in accordance with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which is a national rating scale developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to encourage sustainable buildings.

    Texas A&M recently completed the George P. Mitchell '40 Physics Building and the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy building. These buildings include a cistern that collects and stores both air conditioning condensate and rainfall that is used to irrigate exterior landscapes and the university's first rooftop garden.

    The four-building Agriculture Headquarters Complex currently being constructed will capture roof rainwater into four 9,000-gallon cisterns that are part of the canopy structure. Water will flow into a 40,000-gallon underground tank that will be used for irrigation.

    Two cisterns were installed at Texas Tech University on the east/west sides of the new Raider Park parking facility across from Jones AT&T Stadium. Each cistern can hold up to 14,700 gallons of rainwater that is used to supply the landscape irrigation system at Raider Park.

    Rainwater harvesting is a promising alternative for supplying water in the face of increasing water efficiency needs. "Incorporating rainwater harvesting into everyday lives," Kiffen said, "can potentially ensure sufficient water quantity for years to come."