As the population increases so does the demand for water. Our reliance on water for agriculture and household use has been very prevalent during the severe drought across the state this year.
Texas has more than 191,000 miles of rivers and almost 2 million acres of lakes. Texas rangelands play an important role in the quality of the water we depend on.
Rangelands, grasslands, shrub-lands, marshes, deserts and woodlands account for about 60% of Texas’ land. These rangelands support livestock production as well as habitat for native wildlife, but most importantly they serve as the state’s watershed.
Most of Texas’ water supply comes from captured surface sources such as lakes and ponds or is pumped from underground aquifers, both are dependent on precipitation that falls on rangeland so that re-charging can take place. These areas have an impact on the quantity and quality of water on which we depend.
It is estimated that in an average rainfall year about 42% of precipitation evaporates into the atmosphere and 47% is lost through plant transpiration and only 1% re-charges the aquifers and the remaining 10% runs down stream.
Rangeland influences the amount of water that evaporates, infiltrates and runs off. Researches have found that with 60% ground cover, run off can be kept to 5%, thus protecting water quality. Ground vegetation filters sediment particles in which pesticides, nutrients and other pollutants bind to, therefore increasing water quality.
As human populations grow so do the number of homes and roads to reach them, reducing the amount of land available to absorb precious rainfall and limiting natures filtering system and avenues to re-charge our aquifers. Fortunately due to the efforts of our fore fathers there are millions of acres of rangeland protected from development and misuse, but will it be enough to sustain us with the quality of live we have become accustom to or will there be other resolutions to be made?
Eddie Baggs, Denton County Extension Agent-Agriculture
Texas AgriLife Extension – Denton County
(940) 349-2880 or Metro (972) 434-8812
Educational programs conducted by the Texas AgriLife Extension serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.