Nineteen years ago Texas NRCS recognized the benefits computer models developed by ARS and Texas AgriLife Research could have in addressing water quality/quantity issues in the state. To use of this new technology, a staff of NRCS employees known as the Water Resources Assessment Team (WRAT) was located at Grasslands/Blackland to work directly with scientists and researchers. In exchange for assistance with using the models, we provide feedback for improvement based on field experience as we study small watersheds over the State
This multi-agency effort has been underway since 1992. Housing our agencies in the same center promotes teamwork and benefits all. The partnership between ARS, AgriLife, NRCS, and others allows for pooling of technical resources, funding, in-kind services and transfer of technology.
The potential for modeling for watershed management and nonpoint source pollution assessment has also been recognized by others. Over the past years we have applied the model for various clients including River Authorities, Water Districts, Estuary Programs, and State Agencies.
The majority of our project partners are using the SWAT (Soil and Water Assessment Tool) model developed by USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Scientists with Texas AgriLife Research, Blackland Research and Extension Center (BREC) have developed the interface between the Geographic Information System (GIS) databases and SWAT to provide required model inputs and to graphically display the output data.
Some of our projects call for very detailed studies at the farm level. APEX (Agricultural Policy/Environmental eXtender) is the model of choice in these cases. APEX has the advantage of allowing the user to customize inputs so that they are very site specific. Advantages to the APEX model is there is less of long term farm scale monitoring for calibration purposes.
The intent of these projects is to assess water quantity and quality under current and projected management conditions. Results may indicate critical areas contributing to sedimentation and related nonpoint source water quality problems which can be addressed by conservation practices.