Buck Creek Project Wins Environmental Excellence Award
A decade-long project to restore water quality at Buck Creek, Texas, has earned recognition from the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality for tackling and eliminating bacterial impairment in the river.
The project, managed and run by Texas A&M AgriLife Research , took on the task of overturning water quality in the Buck Creek watershed in 2000, after bacterial levels were said to be much too high to meet state standards.
Now, Buck Creek is cleaner than it has been in at least 13 years, thanks to the input of Dr. Paul DeLaune, Phyllis Dyer and the team.
When it was first officially considered bacteria-impaired, tests showed there were over 12,000 colony-forming units per 100ml of water – considerably more than state standards for the quality of surface water.
However, by the end of the program this was brought under control, testing at just 100 colony-forming units per 100ml. This achievement has been recognized by the TCEQ, who have announced they are awarding the Environmental Excellence Award, to mark the substantial turnaround carried out by agronomists in the Creek.
Phyllis Dyer, who co-ordinated the clean-up effort, explained that the process involved a constant cycle of monitoring, tracking and treatment. After two initial phases of around 18 months to identify and diagnose bacterial causes of the water pollution, the team began taking measures to address the root causes of the problem.
During every step of the process, landowners and local stakeholders were invited to share their thoughts and opinions about the Creek, ensuring an approach that met the needs of all parties involved.
Strategies like solar-powered wells for obtaining fresh water have helped prevent the role of livestock in contaminating the Creek, while other voluntary changes to the way in which the surrounding land is managed has brought about the stark change in environmental conditions.
The award is expected to be presented to the team from Texas A&M at the Texas Environmental Excellence Awards, which takes place annually during Austin’s Environmental Trade Fair and Conference.
Energy expert and author of critically acclaimed energy books  Daniel Yergin said more schemes like this could help protect the environment and ensure the effects of pollution are felt less acutely.
“Any measures to tackle pollution and water contamination are a positive for communities and society at large. The efforts of the team in Texas are commendable, and this considerable reduction in contamination levels merits the Environmental Excellence prize.”
Buck Creek is located in the Red River Basin in the north of Texas. State guidelines had required the water to be made suitable for fishing and a range of other leisure activities including wading and swimming. Prior to its management, the Creek was far from compliant, with dangerously high levels of E. coli rendering the Creek bacteria-impaired.
Through using best management practices (BMP) and working closely with landowners, the project has been one of the most successful environmental turnarounds in Texan history. And with measures taken to monitor and prevent the re-contamination of the Creek on an ongoing basis, the Creek can be enjoyed by people and wildlife further in the years to come.
Image source: http://agrilifecdn3.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/DSC_0113.jpg