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Area creek studied for rangeland effects on water quality

VERNON Elevated levels of bacteria in streams can affect water quality, the health of the aquatic ecosystem and activities such as fishing, swimming and wading, a Texas Agricultural Experiment Station researcher said.

Dr. John Sij, Experiment Station agronomist in Vernon, and his team are working on what might possibly be a showcase study for Texas. He and his team are measuring water quality of a rangeland watershed.

"This may be one of the first efforts on small streams such as this to get scientific involvement from Step 1, the impairment, through the entire process of identifying the sources of non-point pollution and looking for solutions through a watershed management plan," Sij said.

Working on the project with Sij are Phyllis Dyer, research technician; Mark Belew, research associate; and Cody Pope, research technician.

As a part of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's Clean Rivers Program, limited testing was conducted on Buck Creek in the southeast corner of the Texas Panhandle. Tests showed bacterial levels (E. coli) in the water there were sometimes elevated, indicating a potential water quality problem, Sij said.

Landowners and the Soil and Water Conservation District were concerned that possible government regulations could impact agriculture without knowing the source and scope of the contamination, Sij said.

The Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board and Texas Water Resources Institute were contacted. The two entities requested the Experiment Station at Vernon conduct a three-year study to determine the degree of impairment and possible solutions, he said.

Any pollution of the water would be regulated under the Clean Water Act, enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The first steps were to define the problem, Sij said. The creek is spring-fed from a rural watershed, which includes crops and grazing lands.

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Contact: Dr. John Sij
jsij@ag.tamu.edu
940-552-9941
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
24-Oct-2006


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