The Texas Playa Conservation Initiative was recognized by Texan by Nature as one of the 2018 Conservation Wranglers. The program highlights the very best Texan-led conservation projects in the state. Texan by Nature supports select innovative and transformative projects in the field of conservation with tailored aid, resources and visibility.
Within the grasslands of the Texas 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 plentiful clean water for the entire region. 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. However, the health and integrity of the playas and the assurance of a steady water supply is declining. To counter this trend, the Texas Playa Conservation Initiative (TPCI) works with landowners and other stakeholders across the region to incentivize the restoration and rejuvenation of healthy playas.
TPCI partners include the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited and Texan by Nature. The project area includes all or parts of 46 counties in northwest Texas. Of the more than 80,000 playa wetlands found in the North American Great Plains, approximately 23,000 are in the High Plains and Rolling Plains of northwest Texas.
The partnership has funded and coordinated restoration of more than 400 acres at a cost of $140,000.
Playas recharge the aquifer at approximately 81,461 gallons an acre per year, which means the restored playas are already providing 32.5 million gallons of water annually. TPCI is seeking 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 as long as they agree not to dig out the playa for 10 years. 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.