The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is seeking landowner participation in a research project on recharge to the Ogallala Aquifer from the playa lakes in the High Plains region. 

The project is a ten-year initiative to evaluate land management strategies that producers in the region could adopt to increase the amount of groundwater recharge from the playa basins.  Research is being conducted in cooperation with the US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Texas Tech University, and local groundwater conservation districts.  Producer participation in this research program will not affect any federal Farm Program benefits, under specific language in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Landowners can choose to participate in the research at several different levels:

  1. Basic Playa Monitoring:  The TWDB will install a sensor in the playa basin to record water levels during inundations.  Project staff will make semi-annual visits to download data and maintain the sensor, plus a one-time topographic survey of the playa basin with GPS equipment.
  2. Advanced Monitoring:   This option includes activities described above, plus installation of a small tripod-mounted meteorological station and subsurface sensors to track infiltration and recharge to the aquifer.  The sensors will be connected to a solar-powered data logger and cellular modem to record and transmit results to the research team on a weekly basis. 
  3. Playa Modification Assessment:  This option includes three years of advanced monitoring, then implementation of playa modifications designed to increase recharge, and finally three more years of monitoring to evaluate any changes in groundwater recharge.  Modifications may include wetland restoration activities such as sediment removal and buffer strip planting; re-vegetation of playa basins with deep-rooted forage plants to loosen heavy soils; or physical modification by deep plowing or V-ditching.  NRCS staff and landowners will be involved in the selection, final design, and implementation of the playa modifications.  All costs of the playa modifications will be covered by the project.    

 

For more information on the project, or to get involved, please call the project manager, Andrew Weinberg, at (512) 463-3210.