Since I had been spending time trying to get the garden watered before Environmental School, imagine my delight when the wonderful rains came on Thursday. Nothing like a good rain storm with thunder and lightning to perk up the garden.

I journeyed to Old Fort Parker for my “summer camp” – Environmental School. I only need one more course to get certified as a consultant. Everyone arrived in time to have dinner together on Friday and then a class and a test. 

After the test we all headed to our rooms to make our beds, clean up and go to sleep for Saturday started early with a field trip. 

After breakfast, we headed to Waco to see the wetlands which weren’t so wet thanks to the drought. Lake Waco is fed by the North Bosque River and the city of Waco and the Corps of Engineers raised the lake level by 7 feet. To mitigate the loss of habitat, the city started construction in 2001 of 180 acres of wetlands along the North Bosque River. The new wetlands provide habitat for a diverse population of Texas flora and fauna.  

Wetlands are a valuable natural resource to Texas providing flood protection, habitat and improved water quality. 

We have two types of wetlands in Texas – coastal wetlands; a mix of salt and fresh water and fresh water wetlands both are teeming with life. They are one of our most threatened environmental treasures. They are complicated ecosystems that are essential to the quality of life. They serve as a nursery to spawning fish and shrimp providing food for birds and other critters. 

Over the last 200 years, Texas has lost more than half of its wetlands. They have been drained and filled, used for crop land, pastures, roads, business, as dumps and housing additions. 

As we have discovered the value of this natural resource there is a move to mitigate lost wetlands. Texas Parks and Wildlife states wetlands save our cities and towns up to $1.6 billion a year in clean-up costs to water supplies by filtering out pollutants.

Nora Schell, Lake Waco wetlands coordinator, took us on a tour of the wetlands and then gave us an overview of the watershed, lake and wetlands and the issues they face to provide clean drinking water, recreation and habitat.  She gave us an overview of the critters inhabiting the wetlands. 

The city, Corps of Engineers and Baylor University have a working relationship with a research center to study the impact of wet and dry cycles on the flora and fauna inhabiting the wetlands. 

Since the 1970s, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the EPA and the General Land Office have implemented wetland conservation programs and partnerships. 

TPWD has a wetlands conservation plan that works with landowners who want to restore and protect wetlands on their property. There are joint venture groups that bring representatives from state and federal wildlife agencies, corporations, non-profit groups, landowners and educators together to promote the restoration of wetland habitat. We all benefit from this initiative. 

In addition to the field trip we covered ecological stewardship – what we can do to protect and preserve the natural environment. We can take action by planting rain gardens, recycle, compost and monitor water. We can educate, buy from local farms or grow our own foods – victory gardens.

Playas, shallow depressions, in the High Plain fill with rainfall which in turn provides recharge for the Ogallala Aquifer. Texas has about 19,300 playas, more than any other state.

We studied aquatic plants and the problems some of our lakes struggle with invasive plant species.  

Water in the home landscape was another class filled with ideas on how to conserve water while maximizing what we use. We even covered how to introduce youth to water stewardship. After each class we test.

While about 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, the oceans hold about 96% of that amount. 

Water exists as water vapor in the air, in rivers and lakes, in glaciers and polar icecaps, in aquifers and us. Less than 1% of the Earth’s water is freshwater that is easily accessible to meet our needs. Rainwater replenishes freshwater. The other two percent of freshwater is held in the polar ice caps and glaciers. 

In 2022, more than 2.3 billion people face water stress while the average American uses 176 gallons of water each day.

Extreme drought in our western states is becoming critical. 

Lake Mead has been dropping at an alarming rate and may soon be too shallow to use the hydro electric generators that provide energy to seven states. 

If the drought continues the next phase will be the loss of drinking water. Lake Mead provides electricity and water to Las Vegas. They have instituted numerous initiatives to conserve water and have been highly successful in lowering their usage but Mother Nature will have the final say.  

Water is our most valuable resource. We all have a responsibility to protect water from pollution and waste to ensure clean drinking water. Civilizations have collapsed from a lack of water.  Water is life.

Happy gardening.

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