Texas Playa Conservation Initiative

Texas Playa Conservation Initiative

Project Summary:

Beneath the feet of millions of Texans, below the waving grasslands of the Panhandle, lie thousands of access points to the biggest aquifer in America. These shallow basins, called playas, are Texas’ recharge points for the Ogallala Aquifer, and they play a critical role in providing a plentiful amount of clean water for the entire region. However, the health and integrity of the playas, and therefore the assurance of a steady water supply, is declining. To counter this trend, the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative works with landowners and other stakeholders across the region to incentivize the restoration and rejuvenation of healthy playas.

The Texas Playa Conservation Initiative are working to restore playas in the Panhandle region of North Texas. The restoration facilitates the recharge of the Ogallala Aquifer, which has a major impact on natural water supply for the region. The partnership has funded and coordinated restoration of over 400 acres to date, and seeks additional funding and help driving awareness and support from the many landowners across this area. Landowners who participate receive a one-time incentive payment per acre for restoring their playas so long as they agree not to re-pit (dig out) the playa for 10 years. This is a very landowner friendly program that benefits the aquifer below the playa of the participating landowner.  By having a healthy playa, they are doing the best thing they can do to help put clean water back into the aquifer below their land for their future use.  Wildlife, including many game and non-game species, benefit from healthy playas as well.

Project Mission:

The Texas Playa Conservation Initiative (TxPCI) goal is to create an abundance of healthy playa wetlands across the Texas Panhandle in order to benefit current and future residents and producers reliant on the Ogallala Aquifer. These efforts also support healthy populations of resident and migrating wildlife that depend on playa wetland habitat and the surrounding upland grasslands that encompass fully functioning playas. They work to do this by educating locals about playas and their link to a healthy ecosystem and to the sustainability and integrity of the Ogallala Aquifer. Currently, TxPCI is completing projects with private landowners that restore, conserve, and protect as many fully functioning playas as possible to help sustain residents and wildlife in the High Plains of Texas.

Partners Include:

Texas Parks and Wildlife, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Natural Resources Conservation  Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, and Texan by Nature.

Project Impact:

The project area encompasses the entirety of the High Plains Ecoregion of Texas, including all or parts of 46 counties in NW Texas. Of the more than 80,000 playa wetlands found in the North American Great Plains, approximately 23,000 are found in the High Plains and Rolling Plains of NW Texas. Playa wetlands are ephemeral, clay-lined depressions ranging from a few acres to a couple hundred acres in size and their inundation is solely dependent upon runoff from heavy rain events. Healthy playas are important for recharging the Ogallala Aquifer with clean water and they also provide vital habitat to an array of resident and migrating wildlife. Land use practices have greatly altered most of the playas in Texas, leading to permanent loss of functionality for many of these important wetlands. Realization of the mounting threats to playas, and correspondingly, the Ogallala Aquifer, led to the development of a partnership focused on restoring and conserving this valuable resource. The Texas Playa Conservation Initiative (TxPCI) was founded in January 2015 to address playa resource concerns for the benefit of the Ogallala Aquifer, wildlife, and residents and producers in Texas’ playa region.

To date, 10 pits have been “filled” (restored), equaling 400+ playa acres at a cost of just $140,000

Playas recharge the aquifer at approximately 81,461 gallons an acre per year.

Therefore, restored playas are already providing 32.5M gallons of water annually!

Project Goals:

TxPCI continues landowner outreach in an effort to restore as many playa acres as possible while educating landowners on the vast impact even a small playa lake has on the ecosystem. TxPCI plans to soon begin outreach to local county and municipal stakeholders who have playa lakes on their lands in order to accelerate the impact of these restoration efforts even more.

Texan by Nature’s vision is for the efficiency and effectiveness of landowner participation in aquifer recharge. TxN strives to gain at least 20% of playa landowner participation in the TxPCI program in the next five years. This will result in an estimated 969M gallons of clean water annually back to the aquifer. This significant acceleration in the program is made possible as TxN acts as an extra voice in outreach and storytelling efforts, connecting with public and private interests who would benefit from these restoration efforts. TxN will lend its brand and image to an initiative whose audience is hesitant to trust government entities but finds nonprofits trustworthy, thereby initiating more conversations with key landowners. This will be accomplished through collateral, media outreach, town hall meetings, and other grassroots efforts. TxN and TxPCI hope to also bolster the sustainability of the project by developing an exchange or endowment for corporate partners and supporting foundations to contribute to funding land restoration. To learn more about playas, click here!

Are you a landowner who would like to participate in the TxPCI program? Email for more information!

Are you a business who would like to help fund this initiative to make more playa restoration possible? Email for more information!

Are you an educator or community leader who would like to help spread the word on the importance of playas? Email for more information!

Resources

Title Link
TxPCI One Pager Download

Tangible Results

People

1.2 million

Leading partners include:

Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD), Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV), Ducks Unlimited (DU), US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

People Impacted:

The playa-dense region (46,000 sq. mi.) that TxPCI works within is home to over 1.2 million people. Access to clean, reliable water, which playas can help provide, will be important to keep families in the region and keep growth strong.  

Prosperity

3.25M gallons

10 pits filled = 400+ playa acres restored at a cost of just  $140,000.

Estimating 3” per year of recharge for a 4-acre playa = 1 a acre-foot of water/year

1 acre-foot of water =  326,000 gallons, enough clean water for a family of 4 for 2 years.

390,000 acres of playas in the Panhandle = 19,500 acre-feet or about 7B gallons. That is enough for all of the Panhandle’s 425,000 residents for half a year.

More healthy playas mean:

  • More Water
  • Cleaner Water 
  • Recreational and Educational Opportunities

Natural Resources

1.5 million acres

The playas region is part of the High Plains ecoregion of Texas- home to hundreds or resident and migratory birds, such as: Northern Pintail, Sandhill Crane, Long-billed Curlew, Burrowing Owl, Lark Bunting, Grasshopper Sparrow, McCown’s Longspur, American Avocet,  Northern Bobwhite Quail, Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle, White-faced Ibis, Short-eared Owl, Northern Harrier, and Dickcissel.

Playas contributed up to 95% of the inflow water to the Ogallala Aquifer.

Recharge rates in playa basins are 10 to 100 times higher than under other areas.

Groundwater recharge may exceed three inches per year in unaltered playas.

 

Learn more about this project

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