BRYAN — The Texas Well Owner Network has received a Superior Service Award in the team category from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Superior Service Awards recognize AgriLife Extension faculty and staff members who provide outstanding performance in Extension education or other outstanding service to the agency and to Texans. The award was presented Jan. 12 during the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Conference awards dinner at the Brazos Expo Center in Bryan.
Team members from the soil and crop sciences department are Diane Boellstorff, AgriLife Extension specialist and an assistant professor; Drew Gholson, program specialist; and John W. Smith, program specialist. Other team members are Ryan Gerlich, program specialist with the biological and agricultural engineering department; Danielle Kalisek, program manager, Texas Water Resource Institute; and Paul Pope, program specialist in the agricultural leadership, education and communications department.
According to the award nomination, the Texas Well Owner Network was developed to respond to the state’s water quality needs through the management and protection of private water wells under the control of the landowner. The network has been supported by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board in grant cycles beginning in 2010 and again in 2013.
The team developed the network to deliver a science-based, community-responsive education curriculum focusing on protecting human health, groundwater quality and aquifer integrity, the nomination stated. Another goal was to enhance awareness of water quality issues and increase knowledge of best management practices through statewide trainings.
Well owner training is delivered through the “Well Educated” and “Well Informed” programs. The Well Educated program addresses aquifers, household wells, improving and protecting water resources, groundwater resources, septic system maintenance, well maintenance and construction, water quality and water treatment. The Well Informed program focuses on wellhead protection and recommendations for remediating well contamination.
The team developed, updated or revised educational materials and publications addressing: interpretation of well water screening results; watershed and groundwater hydrology, aquifer integrity and groundwater quality; proper water well siting and construction; proper wellhead maintenance and protection; proper household waste management; proper on-site wastewater treatment; maintenance, aging and failure of on-site wastewater treatment systems; effects of land-use changes on well water quality; and locating and properly plugging abandoned wells. The publications and educational materials can be found at http://twon.tamu.edu.
Since the inception of the network, private water well screenings and wellhead protection educational training have been conducted for 6,087 private water well managers during 101 events for 149 Texas counties and in Mexico.
Per participant evaluations, the value of participating in the program is estimated at an average of $752 per person or a total of about $4.6 million for all participants to date.Evaluations also showed 99 percent of participants were satisfied with the training, 85 percent intended to test their wells annually, 83 percent intended to pump their septic system regularly, 95 percent intended to remove hazards from their well house and 85 percent intended to plug unused wells.
Also through the team’s efforts since 2010, thousands of private water well samples have been screened for fecal coliform, nitrate-nitrogen and salinity.