10-year research project cleans up Buck Creek watershed - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

10-year research project cleans up Buck Creek watershed

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Childress, TX - Drinking water will be safer for many in our area thanks to an ongoing effort to preserve the Buck Creek watershed.

The Buck Creek watershed spans almost three hundred square miles in the Texas Panhandle and feeds into the Red River and several tributaries.  And in just the last decade, there were significant concerns about that water supply being contaminated - but research and innovation is addressing those concerns.

In 2000, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality added Buck Creek to their list of "impaired waters" because it had high levels of E. coli - but they didn't know why.  so a team of AgriLife scientists made a concentrated effort to pinpoint the problem and devise a solution.

After nine years of collecting and analyzing water samples and educating landowners, the project culminated in an 88 percent reduction in E. coli and Buck Creek being taken off the "impaired" list in 2010.

"It will return, I'm sure," says Phyllis Dyer, AgriLife's Buck Creek Watershed Coordinator.  "There's going to be a time when the creek will flush again - there's going to be some high times. But all in all - we have studied this creek now for nine years and we know that it is a healthy creek."

The study found that wildlife was responsible for about 60 percent of the fecal contamination, and livestock for about 18 percent (and interestingly, another 18 percent was due to human activity).  So solutions as simple as preferred grazing and rerouting water sources, like creating solar powered wells for wildlife, had an enormous impact

Much of the project's focus was on education - farmers and ranchers were taught how to better care for the watershed to keep it usable for their children and their neighbors.

"When that water supply runs, you think, 'Oh, well, it's just Buck Creek,'" says Dyer.  "But Buck Creek empties into the Red River. The Red River then goes further down stream, and there are people in the Texhoma area that drink water from Buck Creek ... every place you live - it doesn't matter if you're in the city or if you're in the country, you live in a watershed."

The Texas Water Resources Institute will continue monitoring water quality and educating landowners.

If you'd like to learn more about the project or the watershed itself, follow the links attached to this story.