Cargill Supports ‘Texas-Sized’ Water

Conservation Goals In The Panhandle

Image Credit: Texas Highways

It’s no secret that Texas has BIG goals when it comes to water conservation. As our population increases, the demand for water increases along with it. But while everyday Texans can take steps to cut water usage, multiple strategies are necessary to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s water supply, including larger-scale conservation among municipal and agricultural operations. There is a major need for collaborative partnerships and innovative strategies to meet these Texas-sized water goals.

In 2021, Cargill and Global Water Challenge (GWC) launched Cargill Currents, a three-year, $3 million initiative to provide access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and enhanced water security in priority regions through programs and solutions tailored to the local community. In addition to providing water access, the program builds community resilience, promotes economic development, supports farmer livelihoods, empowers women and youth, and addresses climate impacts.

Through this program, Cargill supports water conservation in one of the most water-stressed areas of the state, the Texas Panhandle. In 2023, GWC awarded Texan by Nature grant funding to assist with building the capacity of the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative’s (TxPCI) Playa Restoration Program. TxPCI – comprised of conservation experts from Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service – is an initiative to increase groundwater recharge in the Ogallala Aquifer by restoring crucial playas to their fullest function, allowing them to filter as much water as possible into the aquifer. With growing interest from corporations and other funding entities in water conservation, there is increasing demand for investment opportunities in conservation projects located in the panhandle. The grant funds a collaboration between TxN and Sandhills Area Research Association (SARA) to work with TxPCI on building a pipeline of available projects. 

“Water is an incredibly valuable resource in the Texas Panhandle. Supporting TxPCI’s continued efforts to restore playas that enhance aquifer recharge through our Cargill Currents North America program is paramount to ensuring water security as the population of Texas increases.” 

Monica Ellis, CEO, Global Water Challenge

Playas are shallow wetlands that play a vital role in groundwater recharge, replenishing aquifers that serve as crucial water sources for Texans.

Many playas across the Texas Panhandle are “pitted,” meaning their clay lining is disturbed and their recharge function is impeded. TxPCI works with landowners to fill in these pits, plant native prairie grass buffers, and restore the function of these wetlands. The program comes at no cost to the landowner, and they even receive an incentive payment for participation, making the program extremely tenable to most landowners in the area once they learn about the initiative. Funder interest in the initiative is increasing, meaning there is a critical need for a list of shovel-ready projects capable of accepting the funding available. 

“This generous grant from Cargill and GWC will allow Texan by Nature and SARA to support TxPCI through building capacity, developing a best practices framework, and building a pipeline of landowners that want to participate in the program, potentially significantly increasing the number of playa restoration projects that are completed each year.”

Jenny Burden, Director of Development, Texan by Nature

TxN is working with SARA on an 18-month contract to build this project pipeline to reduce lag time between project demand and project availability. SARA’s goal is to find 50 additional landowners to participate in the program over the next 18 months. With playas averaging 17 acres in size, that is an additional 850 acres (at minimum, likely much more) put into the pipeline for restoration.

Photo: Kevin Kraai, TPWD

This is the second collaborative water conservation project between Cargill and Texan by Nature. The two organizations recently partnered with Texas Rural Water Association to fund its Water Loss Prevention Program. This funding from Cargill allowed TRWA to purchase additional line and leak detection equipment, resulting in an estimated 20% reduction in water loss from utilities that the program assists. 

To learn more about TxPCI, click here