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Statewide Bacterial Water Quality Impairment Reduction Initiative

Why a Bacteria Initiative?

According to the 2004 Texas Water Quality Inventory and 303(d) List, one hundred ninety-seven (197) waterbodies are impaired because they do not meet surface water quality standards for bacteria established to protect contact recreation use (in freshwater or saltwater) and/or oyster water use. The magnitude of bacteria impairments in Texas is evident when compared to all other types of water quality impairments. These bacteria impairments represent over 50% of all impairments on the 303(d) List. Another way to look at the issue is that these 197 bacteria-impaired waterbodies are over 25% of all waterbody segments assessed in 2004.

As the lead agency in Texas responsible for the prevention, abatement, and management of NPS pollution from agricultural and/or silvicultural activities, the TSSWCB plays a critical role in addressing water quality impairments for bacteria. Many of these impairments have been attributed, at least in part, to grazing livestock or animal feeding operations.

What is TSSWCB doing to address bacteria impairments?

Livestock Industry Organizations
TSSWCB staff has continued to strengthen partnerships with industry commodity organizations including the Texas Farm Bureau, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, the Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas, the Texas Poultry Federation, the Texas Association of Dairymen, and the Texas Pork Producers Association. Regular communication includes notification of public stakeholder meetings for Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) or Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) projects that will impact livestock operations.

Task Force on Bacteria TMDLs
The TSSWCB and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality established a joint technical Task Force on Bacteria TMDLs to make recommendations on effective bacteria TMDL development methodologies, including modeling and bacterial source tracking (BST) and on a science roadmap to reduce uncertainty in what we know about how bacteria behave under water conditions in Texas. The work of the Task Force is being faciltiated by the Texas Water Resources Institute.

EQIP South Central Texas Water Quality State Resource Concern
Working with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the State Technical Committee, an Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) State Resource Concern for Water Quality in South Central Texas was established to provide livestock producers in the Peach Creek, Elm and Sandies Creeks, Atascosa River and Lower San Antonio River watersheds financial assistance in implementing best management practices (BMPs) to prevent and abate NPS pollution from their operations which may be contributing to the bacterial water quality impairment in those watersheds. This financial assistance to livestock producers supports implementation of TMDLs in these watersheds.

What bacteria and livestock related projects is TSSWCB funding and administering?

The magnitude of water quality impairments from excessive bacteria in Texas has resulted in a marked increase in the number of bacteria-related education, assessment, demonstration, and implementation projects initiated and directed by the TSSWCB. Most of these projects are funded through the agency's Clean Water Act §319(h) NPS Grant Program, but the agency is utilizing other funding mechanisms such as the USDA NRCS Grassland Reserve Program.

Development of BST Library and Assessment of Bacterial Sources Impacting Lakes Waco and Belton (completed)
Funded though the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The Texas Farm Bureau coordinated a collaboration between the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station at El Paso, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University at College Station, and various other partners to develop publicly available and comprehensively characterized genetic fingerprint and antibiotic resistance libraries of unique E. coli bacteria isolates for determining the animal or human NPS contamination of surface water. These BST libraries were applied to classify E. coli isolated from ambient water samples from Lake Waco and Lake Belton and their main tributaries, the Bosque and Leon Rivers, to identify the likely sources of bacterial contamination. This project has concluded and the final report, which includes an assessment and comparison of four different BST methodologies and makes recommendations on Texas-appropriate BST methodologies, is available.

Lone Star Healthy Streams (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The Texas Water Resources Institute and Texas AgriLife Extension Service are developing an educational curriculum that delivers current knowledge training in production and environmental management of grazing lands and their associated watersheds as part of the Lone Star Healthy Streams program. The project also evaluates and demonstrates the effectiveness of value-added BMPs in reducing bacterial contamination of streams and water bodies from grazing lands in a pilot watershed. This education and demonstration project will contribute to the reduction of levels of bacterial contamination of Texas watersheds from grazing livestock (beef cattle).

Peach Creek Water Quality Improvement Project (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The Gonzales County Soil and Water Conservation District is providing technical and financial assistance to livestock producers in the Peach Creek watershed in order to implement BMPs to reduce bacterial contamination along the creek. Additionally, Texas AgriLife Extension Service is educating agricultural landowners on the water quality issues in the watershed, how their operation may impact the water quality in Peach Creek and what measures they can implement to reduce the bacteria runoff into the stream. This project supports implementation of a bacteria TMDL in the Peach Creek watershed.

Technical Assistance Supporting Cooperative Conservation in South Central Texas (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The Atascosa County Soil and Water Conservation District, the DeWitt County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Karnes County Soil and Water Conservation District will provide technical assistance to livestock producers for the development of Water Quality Management Plans and implementation of BMPs and will assist livestock producers in utilizing cost-share funds through the EQIP State Resource Concern for Water Quality in South Central Texas.

Environmental Management of Grazing Lands (active)
Funded by the TSSWCB through the USDA NRCS Grassland Reserve Program. The Texas Water Resources Institute is coordinating a collaboration between Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Welder Wildlife Foundation and other partners to assist with development and delivery of technical information and support to ranchers on protection and enhancement of the functions and values of grasslands. This project will work in conjunction with the CWA §319(h) funded Lone Star Healthy Streams project to evaluate and demonstrate the effectiveness of proper grazing management in reducing bacterial runoff from grazing lands and to evaluate of the effect of complementary practices (i.e., alternative water supplies and fencing) on cattle behavior and stream water quality.

Leon River Watershed Protection Plan (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The Brazos River Authority is facilitating the development of a WPP for the Leon River above Lake Belton watershed using a locally-driven stakeholder process. The project will provide an overall assessment of the watershed, enhance data collection efforts to support and facilitate implementation activities, and provide the TSSWCB and the TCEQ with recommendations on implementation strategies that can be incorporated into the TMDL Implementation Plan.

Monitoring and Educational Programs Focused on Bacteria and Nutrient Runoff on Dairy Operations in the Leon Watershed (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The Texas Agricultural Experiment Station at Stephenville and Texas AgriLife Extension Service will evaluate the presence of bacteria and nutrients on dairy operations in the Leon River watershed and determine the risks of movement of bacteria and nutrients to surface waters. The project will also help to educate dairy producers about BMPs to decrease bacteria and nutrients in runoff from dairy operations. This project supports the development and implementation of TMDLs and a WPP in the Leon River watershed.

Buck Creek Water Quality Sampling and Assessment (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The Texas Water Resources Institute and the Texas Agricultural Experiment Stations at Vernon and at El Paso have coordinated monitoring, sampling, assessment and informational activities in the Buck Creek watershed to determine the severity of the bacterial water quality impairment in that watershed.

Watershed Protection Plan Development for Buck Creek (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The Texas Water Resources Institute and the Texas Agricultural Experiment Stations at Vernon and at El Paso are facilitating the development of a WPP for the Buck Creek watershed using a locally-driven stakeholder process. The project with identify specific sources of bacteria, evaluate potential management alternatives for restoring the waterbody and educate landowners on BMPs.

Surface Water Quality Monitoring to Support Development and Implementation of Bacteria TMDLs in the Copano Bay Watershed (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The Nueces River Authority will collect targeted water quality monitoring data from main stem and tributary stations in the Copano Bay and Mission and Aransas Rivers watersheds. This augmentation of the current monitoring regime will support the on-going development of bacteria TMDLs by more accurately characterizing bacterial sources throughout the watershed.

Education Program for Improved Water Quality in Copano Bay (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The Texas Water Resources Institute and Texas AgriLife Extension Service will conduct educational and outreach programs in the Copano Bay watershed including Urban Rancher Programs for small landowners and Lone Star Healthy Streams Programs for cattlemen. These educational programs will increase awareness of the water quality issues throughout the watershed and provide demonstrations for landowners and livestock producers in the watershed on practices to decrease or prevent bacteria from entering waterways. This project will support the development of bacteria TMDLs and an Implementation Plan for the Copano Bay watershed.

Development of the Plum Creek WPP (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. Texas AgriLife Extension Service is facilitating the development of a WPP for the Plum Creek watershed using a locally-driven stakeholder process. The project will provide an overall assessment of the watershed, identify specific sources of bacteria, evaluate potential management alternatives for preventing and abating bacterial NPS contamination and educate landowners on BMPs.

Surface Water Quality Monitoring to Support Development of a WPP in the Plum Creek Watershed (pending)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority will collect routine and targeted water quality monitoring data from main stem and tributary stations in the Plum Creek watershed. This augmentation of the current monitoring regime will support the on-going development of a WPP by more accurately characterizing bacterial sources throughout the watershed.

Impact of Proper Organic Fertilizer Management in Production of Agriculture (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the USDA Agricultural Research Service are evaluating and demonstrating the benefits of using proper organic fertilizer management techniques. This project focuses on reaching several groups including third party applicators of dairy and other manures and other producers considering using animal manures in their fertilizer programs. Water quality impacts will be monitored and evaluated on both cultivated and pasture fields.

PLAN for Tomorrow: Poultry Litter Application on New Sites (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. Texas AgriLife Extension Service, in partnership with USDA Agricultural Research Service Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory, will educate third party applicators of poultry litter about the environmental benefits of using proper application management techniques beginning on the first day of application on new sites. This project will demonstrate that poultry litter can be land applied in an environmentally friendly manner that supplies necessary crop nutrients without increasing bacteria and nutrient levels in runoff.

Gonzales SWCD WQMP Development and Implementation Assistance (PDF) (completed)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. Through this project, the Gonzales County SWCD provided technical and cost-share assistance to poultry producers to develop and implement Water Quality Management Plans. These poultry WQMPs prescribed BMPs which reduce bacteria levels in runoff into the Peach Creek and Elm and Sandies Creeks watersheds.

WQMP Development and Implementation Assistance for Five SWCDs (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. Through this project, the Shelby SWCD, the Nacogdoches SWCD and the Gonzales County SWCD provided technical and cost-share assistance to poultry producers to develop and implement Water Quality Management Plans. These poultry WQMPs prescribed BMPs which reduce bacteria levels in runoff into the Peach Creek, Elm and Sandies Creeks, Toledo Bend Reservoir and Sam Rayburn Reservoir watershds.

Extending TMDL Efforts in the North Bosque River Watershed (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research is collecting routine and storm water quality monitoring data from main stem and tributary stations in the North Bosque River watershed. This targeted monitoring is used to asses agricultural nonpoint source pollution reductions, as well as, to support the development of bacteria TMDLs in the North Bosque River watershed by more accurately characterizing bacterial sources throughout the watershed.

Field of Dreams - Athletic Field Topdressing as a Commercial Market for Compost from Dairy Manure (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The Leon-Bosque RC&D Council is demonstrating the use of blended compost for topdressing of athletic fields. By gaining commercial acceptance a market is created which removes dairy manure compost from the Leon River and North Bosque River watersheds, thereby, reducing the potential for bacterial contamination from runoff.

Composting Support Project in the Bosque River Watershed (active)
Funded through the TSSWCB CWA §319(h) NPS Grant Program. The TSSWCB initiated the Dairy Manure Export Support (DMES) program in an effort to bring an innovation solution to the elevated phosphorus levels in the North Bosque River and Leon River watersheds. By exporting dairy manure out of the watersheds that would otherwise be land-applied, the potential for runoff is eliminated. This objective applies for bacteria as well. This project provides additional funding to continue to provide technical assistance to composters and dairy operations in order to generate a marketable composted product. Financial assistance is provided to approved contract dairy manure haulers to offset the cost of transportation of raw manure from dairies to the compost facilities.

For More Information, Contact:

For additional information or questions, contact TJ Helton at 254-773-2250, ext. 234, or by e-mail at thelton [at] tsswcb.texas.gov.

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