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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Section 319 Success Stories, Vol. III: Texas


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Atrazine Problems in the Lake Aquilla and Marlin City Lake System:
Farmers Take a Proactive Stance

 

Contact:
Donna Long
Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board
311 North 5th
P.O. Box 658
Temple, TX 76503
254-774-6044

Primary Sources of Pollution:

  • agricultural runoff


Primary NPS Pollutants:

  • atrazine


Project Activities:

  • agricultural BMPs (setbacks, soil incorporation)
  • information and education on pesticide application
  • well-water testing


Results:

  • atrazine levels below MCL in Lake Aquilla

Increasing levels of atrazine, a herbicide, in the water supply caused concern among local citizens in the Lake Aquilla and Marlin City Lake system area of Texas. Atrazine levels exceeded the maximum contaminant level (MCL) at Lake Aquilla, and the development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) was imminent. The presence of atrazine in the water supply was attributed to storm water runoff from agricultural areas in the rural community.

Response of the locals

Local farmers took a proactive stance in response to this water quality issue by forming the Producers' Atrazine Action Committee. The primary goal of the Committee was to reduce the presence of atrazine in water supplies by encouraging producers to use the most economically feasible management practices conducive to the reduction of atrazine-contaminated runoff. They developed a list of recommended best management practices (BMPs) for the watershed and had meetings with pesticide dealerships to increase awareness at the chemical supply level. The Committee developed a questionaire to document adoption of BMPs over time and administered it randomly in the watershed.

The Stakeholders Group and Producers' Atrazine Action Committee sponsored a public meeting in December, featuring different speakers on water quality topics and pesticide applicator training. Farmers began to implement various BMPs from the list developed and recommended by the Committee, some of which included observing more setback area and incorporating atrazine into the soil to reduce herbicide runoff. Adoption of incorporation has been estimated at 33 percent for this year, and full adoption is expected within the next 3 years.

Role of education and outreach

Success could not have been achieved without strong, locally organized education and outreach efforts. As a result of such efforts, Lake Aquilla has had eight consecutive quarters without a violation of the atrazine MCL.

The Producers Atrazine Action Committee also targeted groundwater quality awareness, secondary to atrazine reduction, in their public outreach and education campaign. The committee promoted well-water testing through the TEX*A*Syst program and recommended that wells be tested for atrazine, bacteria, and nutrients. Many well owners were able to learn about well water disinfection processes, testing, filters, and protection of groundwater quality. As a result, 28 wells in the county have been tested for bacteria, nitrates, nitrites, sulfates, phosphates, and atrazine.


 
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On-Farm Composting of Dairy Cattle Solid Waste:
Protecting Water Quality While Producing a Salable Product

 

Contact:
Donna Long
Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board
311 North 5th
P.O. Box 658
Temple, TX 76503
254-774-6044

Primary Sources of Pollution:

  • agriculture (dairy)


Primary NPS Pollutants:

  • nutrients


Project Activities:

  • on-farm composting of solid waste


Results:

  • exporting pollutants off-site to low-risk areas
  • economic gains

A section 319 grant was awarded to Texas A&M University–Commerce to initiate a cattle solid waste composting demonstration project on a 400-cow freestall dairy. The outcome of this demonstration resulted in the conversion of solid animal waste into a value-added product suitable for high-end wholesale or retail markets. This product could be marketed in bulk for use in field, landscape, or nursery applications or could be bagged for retail sales to the homeowner market. Potential buyers of the compost include landscapers, commercial nurseries, home and garden centers, greenhouses, homeowners, farmers, golf courses, cemeteries, public water works departments, road and highway contractors, schools, parks, turf growers, and developers.

Advantages of in-vessel techniques

In-vessel composting has many advantages over other composting techniques. The need to transport raw materials on public roads to a centralized composting facility is eliminated when animal waste is retained for on-farm composting. Rapid completion of the composting process, through in-vessel composting, results in product stabilization and sanitation within 3 to 4 days during any season of the year. Raw waste material remains isolated from the environment until the process is complete, and the site manager has precise control of moisture, temperature, and aeration during the composting process, regardless of ambient weather conditions. Another advantage is that raw waste loses all offensive odors within 12 hours of start-up. The resulting composted product is of superior quality and suitable for high-end wholesale or retail markets.

Water quality and economic advantages

Water quality advantages followed as a result of 8,000 pounds of nitrogen and 3,000 pounds each of phosphorus and potassium being annually relocated and beneficially used in low-risk areas. This demonstration project also yielded a market price of $20.00 per cubic yard (bulk) for the compost. Sale of the compost provided the dairyman a total income of $43,800, which resulted in an annual net income of $20,150.

Demonstrations have also shown that this product can be substituted unilaterally for imported Canadian sphagnum peat moss in many applications, including use as an alternative plant-growing medium in greenhouses and as an organic soil amendment in the landscape.

 

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