Friday, September 19, 2014

August Rainwater Harvesting Workshop

It is important to always be water conscious and do our part to conserve water, especially at our homes. To give people an opportunity to learn about ways to save and reuse water at home, Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District (PGCD) and Carson County AgriLife Extension hosted a rainwater harvesting and xeriscape workshop for District residents on Tuesday, August 5. The event brought in 27 people from around the District and was deemed a success.

Attendees learned about the importance and benefits of harvesting rainwater, basic components needed for a system, the average cost of installing a system, an average number of gallons of water that could be collected from their households, and different ways they can use their harvested rainwater. Xeriscape gardens were also a topic of discussion. Guests learned what xeriscape gardening is, the benefits of it, different types of plants to use in xeriscape gardens, the best types of grass to plant for water conservation, and how much is enough when it comes to watering your lawns. Attendees were also able to view PGCD’s two rainwater harvesting systems and xeriscape garden.

If you were unable to make it to the event and are interested in installing a system or garden or would just like more information about rainwater harvesting and xeriscaping, please contact our office by phone at (806) 883-2501 or by email at to receive more information and learn why it would be beneficial for you to implement your own rainwater harvesting system and xeriscape garden in your home or business.

PGCD Scholarship Program

2013/2014 PGCD Scholarship Winners

PGCD is proud to announce Jodie Detten, Megan Ruthardt, and Lauren Little as the top three winners of the 2013-2014 scholarships. PGCD’s essay topic this year was “House Bill 1025 authorizes a onetime investment of $2 Billion from the Rainy Day Fund to fund water projects through two funds the 83rd Texas Legislature created with House Bill 4, State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) and State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas (SWIRFT). What is the best use of these funds and why?”

Jodie Detten, daughter of Jeff and Peggy Detten, was awarded first place. She graduated fourth out of her class at Panhandle High School with a 3.875 GPA and plans to major in Dental Hygiene at West Texas A&M University in the fall.

Megan Ruthardt, daughter of Brice and Jeannie Ruthardt, was awarded second place. Megan graduated second out of her class at Groom High School with a 4.0 GPA. She also will be attending West Texas A&M University in the fall and majoring in Physical Therapy.

The third place scholarship winner was Lauren Little, daughter of Jess and Donna Little. She graduated first out of her class at Claude High School with a 3.92 GPA and plans to major in Pre-Vet at Tarleton State University in the fall.

PGCD wants to thank all of the applicants and congratulate this year’s scholarship winners. We thoroughly enjoyed each essay and your viewpoint on the topic. We wish you all luck on your future endeavors.

2014/2015 PGCD Scholarship Question

The Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District established its scholarship program in 2002 and has since given away $108,000 to graduating District students. First place is awarded a $4,000 scholarship, second place receives $3,000 and third place $2,000. Each scholarship amount is broken up and paid out over four years.

Graduating seniors from the District (Armstrong, Carson, Donley, Gray, Potter, Roberts and Wheeler counties) are eligible to apply for the scholarship. Applicants must write a 500-1,000 word essay on the topic chosen by the District. Recipients are required to enroll as a full-time student, attend college the fall semester immediately following selection and maintain at least a 2.5 GPA at the college of their selection.

The 2014/2015 essay topic is:

Due to continuing drought conditions in many parts of the state and a growing population, Texas is considering alternative water sources such as Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) and use of Brackish Groundwater. In your opinion, what would the advantages and disadvantages be to the use of ASR and Brackish Groundwater?

Applications and additional information can be found online at the Amarillo Area Foundation’s website:

Friday, May 17, 2013

        The Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District (PGCD) is proud to announce the winners of the 2013 Scholarship Essay Contest. This years winners were selected from 18 applicants that wrote an essay on the topic, “Water is an important part of our daily lives in many ways, and it is becoming a limited resource in many places including the Texas Panhandle.  What water conservation strategies should county governments, municipalities and water districts initiate that would inspire you and your community to conserve water?”   
        Winner of the $4,000 scholarship is Zachary Berry of Panhandle High School in Panhandle, Texas. Zachary graduated with a 3.77 grade point average (GPA) and he plans to major in Agriculture at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. He is the son of Gerald and Karen Berry.
The recipient of the $3,000 scholarship is Tess J. Rusk  also of Panhandle High School. Tess is the daughter of Rebecca and Scott Rusk, and graduated with a 3.80 GPA. She plans to major in Nursing at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.
Winner of the $2,000 scholarship is Kyler Barkley of Groom High School in Groom, Texas. Kyler graduated with a 3.71 GPA and plans to attend Texas Tech University to study agriculture. Barkley is the son of  Keith and Kathleen Barkley.
To be eligible for the PGCD scholarship, applicants are required to be a high school senior and live within the District boundary of PGCD, and must write a 500 to 1,000 word essay on a topic chosen by the District. A committee of three board members, general manager and a staff member select the winners. The scholarships are paid out over four years. Recipients must enroll as a full-time student and attend the fall semester immediately following graduation.The winning essays can be found below.

1st Place, Zachary Berry
        Water is vital to all of life. Without water there would be no life. The vast Ogallala aquifer is our lifeline in the Texas Panhandle. It is our duty to not only take advantage of its abundant resources but to conserve and respect it. In our region we put much strain on our water sources. From trying to have the best looking lawn on the block or the best com in the county, we as a whole constantly keep stress on our water. Finely manicured fescue and bumper com crops are just a few of the numerous luxuries that are attainable with the help of the mighty Ogallala.
We are truly blessed to have its aid, but if we are not responsible our future generations will watch these so called "luxuries" dry up. In theory, being responsible individuals about our water should be the only strategy that needs implemented, but of course it is not. Conserving water always has and always will be a constant struggle. That's why an effective government strategy could possibly hold the key to proficient water conservation. Getting people to actually listen and follow instructions is never easy no matter what the age. That is why an effective government strategy could quite possibly hold the key to water conservation in the Texas Panhandle. Money talks and the basis of my strategy revolves around just that. If people do not want to be responsible on their own, maybe their pocketbook could talk some sense into them.
To put water conservation strategies in place, the county government, municipalities and water districts need to work together and target three groups: the youth of our communities, the city residents and the farmers.
The best place to start with water conservation strategies is the youth. If they are educated and constantly reminded from early on, they will be more likely to understand the importance of conserving our precious resource. We have all been taught since kindergarten to turn off the water while brushing our teeth and to take quick showers. The counties, cities and water districts need to work hand-in-hand with the school districts in presenting programs to the students at all grade levels on an on-going basis. I think our school has a good start. As a member of the Carson County Youth Leadership Advisory Board, we joined forces with the Groundwater District in staging a Water-Wise Program. Kids were shown the importance of conserving water and how it can be achieved through fun activities. Another idea for the youth would be an ad campaign competition similar to the "Every Drop Counts" instituted by the City of Amarillo through TV ads.
Getting participation from the second group of users, the city residents, will be harder than educating the youth. Most residents have never known anything other than having an abundance of water to use at any given time. The three entities could once again join forces and provide seminars about xeriscape landscaping explaining how water usage could drastically be reduced as well as saving time on yard maintenance and upkeep. Having labored in the PGCD's own xeriscape garden, I realized green grass is not the only way to have an appealing yard. I have two strategies for cutting down on water usage by city residents. Each of these will hit homeowners where it hurts most - in their pocketbooks. The current water rate for city residents in Panhandle is $23.05 for the first 2,000 gallons used and then 25 cents per 100 gallons thereafter. I suggest the rate remain the same for the first 2,000 gallons. For each subsequent 1,000 gallons, the rate would increase by 10 cents/100 gallons. For example, the first 1,000 gallons over the initial 2,000 gallons would be $0.35/100 gallons, 2,000 gallons would be $0.45/100 gallons, and so on. Another water saving strategy would be to implement restricted watering days and times to be enforced year-round, not just during summertime droughts. There will always be people who abide by the government enforced regulations and then there are those who deem to be "above the law." If residents do not comply with these restrictions, they would receive a hefty fine from the very first offense - no warning. If the drought lingers for many more years, a last resort would be water allotments. Once a resident has used their "quota" of water for the month, their water would be cut off. I can personally say I would much rather have a daily shower and clean clothes than a lush, green yard.
Water restrictions will hit the last group, the farmer, the hardest. Their livelihood depends on the Ogallala. With well-below rain averages over the past few years, farmers have had to irrigate practically non-stop from planting time to harvest just to keep their crops alive and produce average yields. Farmers, as a whole, are well aware of the severity of depleting the Ogallala and are taking necessary steps to preserve it for not only their future, but their children's future. Changes in crop production are already being made as farmers are planting more drought tolerant varieties and less water intensive crops. With the economics of farming the way they have been the last five years, it is becoming increasingly difficult not to pump water owned by the farmer. However, if the severe drought continues, the county government along with the groundwater district may have to step in and impose water allocation strategies such as acre/inch.
All strategies may look great on paper or from behind an office desk, but the real variable is how it reaches the individual. Mr. John Doe is the real key to success in conserving our most valuable natural resource - water. It is going to take each and every one of us working together and doing our part to "conserve water for future generations.”

Other essays Coming soon

Monday, May 13, 2013

Recent rain...

Some welcome rain fell around the district last week on Thursday evening (May 9.)

Of course, the term "welcome rain" is redundant at this point, as any moisture we get (almost!) is welcome. (We say almost, because some folks in southern Wheeler county could have done without the hail that fell earlier in the week.)

About two inches were recorded in parts of Pampa and White Deer. Parts of Amarillo received a half inch, with other reports coming anywhere between those amounts.

The clouds first began building over southern Donley County about 3:00 pm, and Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District's weather modification pilots were put on alert. Aaron Woolsey was soon in the air, firing flares as instructed by staff meteorologist Jennifer Puryear--who was keeping a hand on the mouse, a hand on the microphone, ears on the radio, and eyes on the radar and satellite images. In between all of that, she was finding time to inform this blogger what the images meant, what the messages from the pilot told her, and what she was telling the pilot to do. (Aaron also covered Armstrong County and was joined in ther air later by Herb Speckman who covered Roberts and Gray Counties.) It was fascinatiing--and obviously productive.

On a personal note, this was the first real test of my rainwater harvesting (RWH) system. It is crude and comparatively small--catching only a fraction of the runoff from my roof--but it captured a full 55 gallons in a matter of minutes, with the overflow going to a tree in my back yard. I will save the water for an "unrainy day"!

Click for more info on our Precipitation Enhancement program.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Water Awareness

People are becoming more aware of wasted water--if not their own, at least that of others!

Recently, I was taken aside by a resident of a community in the District who told me she had noticed a business was repeatedly weasting water during lawn irrigation. She called the proprietor and mentioned it to him. At first he was defensive, but she later noted that the practice had stopped. I applaud this concerned citizen. One of the points of the "Water Warriors Pledge" we do with school-age children is "I WILL ALSO TEACH MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF SAVING WATER." We emphasize not to be annoying about it, as it could have the opposite effect, but people are more likely to listen to their neighbors than to an impersonal organization.

Our concern, here at Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District, is to educate and inform, not to police. We appreciate any concerned resident taking it upon themselves to help others see the need to conserve water.

At events we have attended this spring we have been encouraged at how many people are aware and concerned with water conservation. Many visitors to our booth have expressed an interest in rainwater harvesting (RWH) and xeriscaping. We have given out hundreds of lawn gauges to help people know how effective their lawn irrigation is. We have given presentations to civic and professional  clubs regarding conservation, and talked to almost 3,500 school-age children across the Panhandle.

We are available for programs for any group and have spoken at civic clubs, homeowner's associations, schools, scouting groups, and others. And conservation is not our only topic; we can talk about legislative issues, weather modification, hydrology, the role of the Panhandle Groundeater Conservation District, just to name a few. Look at our website for a more complete list.

When it comes to water...we're all in it together!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Join us at GardenFest 2013

Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District will be at Amarillo Botanical Gardens on Saturday, May 4, for GardenFest 2013. We will have information on rainwater harvesting, xeriscaping, and water conservation in general. We will be giving out lawn sprinkler gauges. Come see us!