Researchers at SFA’s Waters of East Texas (WET) Center provided state and regional leaders with an overview of select research projects related to East Texas’ water resources at a recent gathering organized by State Representative Travis Clardy.
The WET Center event at Lake Naconiche Park was followed by a luncheon that featured guest speaker Kathleen Jackson, member of the Texas Water Development Board, and focused on Texas’ current and future water resource issues.
“Not only do we have an abundance of water in East Texas, but we have people who have the expertise and the knowledge needed for the entirety of the state,” Clardy said.
Texas’ projected population growth, as well as its accompanying demand on water resources, was a common theme throughout the event. Water quality and availability is such a concern for Texas, that in 2013, the legislature authorized the use of $2 billion dollars from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” to finance current and future water projects to ensure that Texans have access to sufficient water supplies.
Dr. Kenneth Farrish, coordinator of the WET Center, said that East Texas’ abundant water will undoubtedly be called upon in coming years to address the state’s needs.
“In order to support the population and attract new industry, we’re going to have to have water,” Farrish said. “And our job is to make it happen while still looking out for the environment.”’
The WET Center is uniquely positioned to accomplish this goal as it combines the skill and experience of 24 interdisciplinary researchers from across the SFA campus. Expertise of the WET Center range from water quality assessment and wetland ecosystems to environmental chemistry and remote sensing.
On the shores of Lake Naconiche, Dr. Hans Williams, associate dean of the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, and environmental science graduate student Amy Urbanovsky, provided guests with an overview of their ongoing project that monitors the development of wetlands surrounding the lake. Their research, which began in 2009, projects the creation of approximately 188 acres of new wetland adjacent to the reservoir.
Hydrologist Dr. Matthew McBroom’s presentation highlighted the WET Center’s leadership in monitoring the water flows and water quality at Lake Naconiche and Naconiche Creek. In addition, he discussed the recently completed Attoyac Bayou Watershed Protection Plan, a comprehensive document developed by researchers and stakeholders to address the elevated levels of E. coli that led to the watershed being listed on the state’s 303(d) list of impaired water bodies.
Aquatic invasive plant species control also plays a substantial role in the future of Texas’ water. For that reason, endocide, a concept developed by Dr. Shiyou Li, director of the National Center for Pharmaceutical Crops, was also featured. He and a team of researchers discovered that a compound in giant salvinia, one of the South’s most damaging aquatic invasive plants, can be used to eradicate the plant without harming surrounding flora and fauna.
Clardy says he hopes this event brought awareness to the work being done by the WET Center and facilitates further dialogue regarding the importance of water issues, both locally and statewide.
“We all need to be on the same page so we see East Texas’ water used appropriately, and we see this resource that is so important for the whole state protected, conserved and handled the right way,” he said.