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Providing sufficient water to meet the community’s needs has been a long-standing challenge for Olton.

During the crop growing season, when irrigation pumping is at a high level on farmlands surrounding the Lamb County community’s water supply dwindles substantially due to drawdown of the Ogallala aquifer.

Fittingly, Olton will be the site of the latest Stewarding Our Aquifer (SOA) Field Day that will be presented by Ogallala Commons (www.ogallalacommons.org) on May 17 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at the Olton Community Center (406 Second Street)

The purpose of the SOA Field Day series is to provide education about management practices

that can reduce or stabilize groundwater depletion levels in the region, assist in the transition

from irrigated agriculture to rainfed agriculture, and help to sustain water resources for

municipalities, as well as for wildlife and the natural world.

Master Naturalists, farmers, ranchers, educators, and the interested public are invited to attend the upcoming Stewarding Our Aquifer (SOA) Field Day presented by Ogallala Commons in Olton to discuss some of these matters and potential solutions.

Doors for the Olton event will open at 9 a.m. May 17 with registration and snacks.

Following introductions and an overview at 9:30 a.m., the opening presentation will be a summary

of the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative from Heather Johnson, Migratory Game

Bird Specialist, Region I, with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Littlefield. Playas are receiving increased consideration as a recharge source to boost the water supply for municipalities in the region, making preserving and restoring them through the TxPCI particularly important and timely. TxPCI continues its successful efforts to rehabilitate playas and enhance their aquifer recharge potential.

At 10:15 a.m., a presentation highlighting an historical overview of aquifer depletion in Lamb County entitled, “Consequences of Aquifer Depletion on the Llano Estacado” will be given by Dr. John E. Stout,

Physical Scientist at the Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research Unit, USDA-Agricultural

Research Service in Lubbock. Stout conducts research focused on basic physical processes that govern agricultural problems such as wind erosion, dust emissions, regional air quality, groundwater quality, and Ogallala Aquifer depletion. The goal is to provide a solid scientific basis to aid in the development of wind erosion mitigation strategies and contribute to water conservation strategies. Stout’s research objectives include determining the connection between the frequency of wind erosion and the critical threshold of a surface; developing mathematical relationships that describe the natural intermittency of wind erosion processes; obtaining long-term dust records of ambient dust levels and relate changes to evolving land-use practices; defining the relationship between environmental conditions and regional dust levels; and investigating problems associated with the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer and changes in water quality as groundwater resources are exploited in the Southern High Plains.

After a break, Dr. Melanie Barnes, long-serving Public Representative on the

Llano Estacado (Region O) Water Planning Group from Lubbock will deliver the final

presentation of the morning on the topic, “Region O Water Planning: Impacts/Guidance for the

South Plains.”  Dr. Barnes, has an extensive understanding of geology, and has been an advocate for realistic water use goals in the Region O area. She has worked with other conservation-minded Region O Planning Group members to write important ideas and standards into regional water planning. Dr. Barnes has served the League of Women Voters of Texas as a State Board member and Natural Resources Chair (1989-1991) and as Hazardous Waste Director (1995- 2007). She has also served as a member and co-chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Pollution Prevention Advisory Committee (1995-2011), and in 2004 was a finalist for the Texas Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award. Dr. Barnes has been a member of the Region O Llano Estacado State Water Planning Board since 2003.

At 11:40 a.m.  participants will head out on an hour-long driving tour to visit urban playas near the City

of Olton wells that have the potential to provide recharge to the aquifer level at those sites. 

The driving tour will return to the Olton Community Center by 12:30 p.m. for the pleasure of digging into a crowd-pleasing lunch catered by the famous Rejino Barbeque of Olton.

A summary of the day’s discussion points and topics will be presented in closing remarks by Jim Steiert of Hereford, playa author, agriculture journalist, Master Naturalist, and Environmental Representative to the Region O Water Planning Group since its inception at 1 p.m.

Registration for the Olton SOA event is $20 per person. The fee includes the cost of lunch and snacks.

To RSVP for the event in order to ensure a reliable meal count, please contact Dr. Darryl Birkenfeld, executive director of Ogallala Commons (darryl@ogallalacommons.org) or by phone at 806-945-2255.

Potential participants are asked to register by May 15.

The Field Day is presented by Ogallala Commons and its program sponsors including the High Plains Underground Water Conservation District and the Dixon Water Foundation.

By K.L. Steiert

Ogallala Commons

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