The Texas Water Resources Institute’s Texas Riparian and Stream Ecosystem Education Program will host a workshop for area residents and related professionals interested in land and water stewardship in the San Gabriel River watershed. The workshop is on September 3 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Georgetown.
The free workshop is co-hosted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service office in Williamson County and the City of Georgetown. The morning session will be at the Georgetown Community Center, 445 E. Morrow Street. The afternoon session will include a walk and presentations along the San Gabriel River. The City of Georgetown is providing a catered lunch from Chick-Fil-A that will be offered free of charge to participants or attendees may bring their own lunch if they prefer.
Dictson, Texas Water Resources Institute Extension program specialist and coordinator of the program in College Station, said the workshop will focus on the nature and function of stream and riparian zones, as well as the benefits and economic impacts from proper functioning riparian systems. A riparian zone is the land area adjacent to the bank of a stream, creek, bayou or river.
Dictson said workshop topics will include riparian and watershed management principles, water quality, riparian vegetation, hindrances to healthy riparian areas, stream processes, management practices and discussion of local resources.Workshop presentations will be given by representatives of the Texas Water Resources Institute, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, AgriLife Extension, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Williamson County and the City of Georgetown.
Nat Waggoner, transportation analyst for Georgetown, said the goals of city’s water quality strategies are to protect the river, wildlife and promote recreational opportunities through responsible watershed planning and stewardship.
“The city and county are working together to promote habitat protection for the recently listed Georgetown salamander, a goal which also will benefit water quality. Williamson County Commissioner Valerie Covey and Gary Boyd of the Williamson County Conservation Foundation will provide an update on the effort during the morning session of the workshop,” Waggoner said.
Dictson said portions of the San Gabriel River watershed are considered impaired due to high levels of bacteria, chlorides, and sulfate. There also are water quality concerns for high levels of sedimentation nutrients in the river, specifically elevated levels of nitrate and low dissolved oxygen. This workshop will provide information and strategies that may help address those impairments.
Dictson said the Brazos River Authority developed a watershed protection plan in 2011 to help mitigate the water quality concerns including sediment and nutrients. According to the plan, one main contributor to these impairments is the increased development within the watershed. “Urbanization has led to increased runoff, carrying pollutants, and the destruction of riparian vegetation, which increases sedimentation and erosion along the river banks,” Dictson said. The City of Georgetown’s work to improve water quality will certainly help mitigate those effects.
“Healthy riparian areas protect our streams and our lakes, which are the sources of our drinking water, by protecting stream banks from erosion, slowing down the storm water velocity and filtering out sediment and pollutants of concern,” she said. “Poor management of the land and riparian areas leads to erosion. High amounts of sediment carried by streams have reduced reservoirs’ water storage capacity where the sediment is deposited.”
Dictson says high amounts of sediment also have been a problem for Lake Granger, which receives flows from the San Gabriel River. A 2010 Texas AgriLife Research study showed a reduction in the lake’s capacity from 2007 to 2010 of 1,173 acre-feet (an approximate sedimentation rate of 328 acre feet a year).
“The goal of the workshop is for participants to better understand riparian and watershed processes, the benefits of healthy riparian areas and what resources are available to prevent degradation while improving water quality,” Dictson said.
Fred M. Hall, AgriLife Extension agent for Williamson County, said participants who hold a pesticide applicators license and request continuing educational units will receive their confirmation certificate at the conclusion of the training.
The workshop offers over five types of continuing education units including three units— two general and one integrated pest management — for Texas Department of Agriculture pesticide license holders. It offers one unit from the Texas Water Resources Institute, and six hours for Texas Nutrient Management Planning specialists. The program may also be used for continuing education units for professional engineers.
The riparian education program is managed by the Texas Water Resources Institute, part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University. It is funded through a Clean Water Act grant provided by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.