As Texas faces challenges in securing water for a rapidly growing population, many are looking to the private working lands that dominate the state’s landscape. The land management decisions made by Texan farmers and ranchers can affect the quality of quantity of water in water supply reservoirs.
Sand County Foundation joined ranchers, researchers, a water district, and a major brewer to better understand how rangeland management can affect the water supply of a major city. The Richland-Chambers reservoir supplies 40% of the water for the Fort Worth area. Three-fourth of this 2,000 square mile watershed in Texas' Blackland Prairie ecoregion is agricultural land.
We teamed up with Gary and Sue Price (2007 recipients of the Texas Leopold Conservation Award) and Dr. Bill Fox of the Texas A&M Blacklands Research Center to study water infiltration, runoff, and evapotranspiration on the Price’s 77 Ranch. Three small catchments including tall-grass prairie, mid-grass prairie, and mid-grass/mesquite savannah collected data.
Sand County Foundation also commissioned a formal survey of more than 200 landowners throughout the watershed to better understand their awareness, objectives, and needs for improving land management to meet financial, lifestyle, and ecological goals.
Along with Tarrant Regional Water District (operator of the Richland Chambers reservoir), MillerCoors (operator of a major brewery in Ft Worth), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, we worked to build support for management practices that can help sustain the water supply of a major city through strategic incentivizes for voluntary actions on private working lands.