COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Texas Water Resources Institute recently revamped its Texas Watershed Planning website to better assist water professionals in developing watershed protection plans, according to an institute official.

“The site is particularly useful for those who are interested in helping restore a nearby watershed but are unsure where to begin,” said Kevin Wagner, the institute’s associate director. “Watershed protection plans that outline ways to preserve or restore watersheds are a voluntary and accepted approach to protecting Texas surface waters. And this site provides useful information related to such plans.”

Wagner said the enhanced website at http://watershedplanning.tamu.edu/ includes steps for developing watershed protection plans and explains the benefits of these plans and ways to finance them.

“The website also posts upcoming training events for watershed coordinators and other resources,” he said.

The Texas Water Resources Institute is part of Texas AgriLife Research, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University.

“We revamped the website to make it more of a resource to watershed coordinators and groups in Texas,” Wagner said. “We wanted to provide easy links to available resources.”

He said one of the greatest challenges faced by all watershed groups is funding and that the institute has worked with the Environmental Finance Center at Boise State University to update the Directory of Watershed Resources to include Texas-specific funding programs. The directory is an online database for watershed restoration funding, and includes information on federal, state, private, and other funding sources and assistance.

 “This easy-to-use database links watershed groups with sources of funding for a variety of watershed activities from implementation of best management practices to conducting education and outreach programs,” Wagner said.

Wagner said the original website was created through a coordinated effort led by the institute and funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as a means to inform those interested in Texas watershed planning short courses, and information on these courses may still be found on the enhanced website.

“These short courses provide training to watershed professionals on approaches to managing water quality throughout the state and guidance on stakeholder coordination, education and outreach,” Wagner said. “Some of the training components include the EPA’s nine key elements of a watershed protection plan, data collection and analysis, and the tools available for plan development.”

Another resource available on the revamped website is information about the Texas Watershed Coordinator Roundtables, he said.

“These roundtables, held biannually, provide a forum for watershed coordinators, facilitate interactive solutions to common watershed issues faced throughout the state and add to the fundamental knowledge conveyed at the short courses,” said Courtney Smith, the institute’s program coordinator.

The water institute also has developed a listserv for watershed coordinators to receive information about the roundtables, training events and other useful information, he said. Interested coordinators may subscribe at http://watershedplanning.tamu.edu/developing/guidance/subscribe.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality continues to fund this project.

“Support for this project and the many benefits it offers to watershed professionals continues to grow,” said Kerry Niemann, team leader of the Nonpoint Source Pollution Program at TCEQ. “We believe that our continued efforts to build watershed-management capacity through this project and others is second to none. We are very proud of this result and are committed to making Texas number one in this regard.”

For more information, contact Courtney Smith, program coordinator, at 979-862-2299 or courtneysmith@ag.tamu.edu.