What is a watershed? A watershed is an area of land that water flows across, through, or under on its way to a stream, river, lake, or ocean. American explorer John Wesley Powell described a watershed as "that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community."
Every part of the landscape - ALL land areas - are part of a watershed. Watersheds can be larger than a state or smaller than even a single neighborhood, but all rain that falls or springs that emerge within one of these areas ultimately flows to the same point at the bottom of the watershed, carrying with it everything that is washed away from the surrounding landscape.
The Leon River watershed encompasses approximately 2600 square miles in Bell, Hamilton, Coryell, Comanche, and Erath Counties. In 1998, the entire Leon River below Lake Proctor was listed as "impaired" on the State of Texas Clean Water Act Section 303(d) List for having bacteria concentrations that exceeded the state's water quality standards. In 2002, as a result of more focused water quality monitoring, that listing was limited to the portions of the Leon River north of Gustine and west of US Hwy 281.
As required by the Federal Clean Water Act, the Texas Commission on Environemtnal Quality (TCEQ) initiated a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) assessment of the Leon River in 2002 in an effort to identify the sources of bacteria and to develop management strategies to reduce bacteria loading to the Leon River.
In 2006, as a result of the TMDL Project local stakeholders expressed an interest in taking an active role in developing management strategies to reduce bacteria loadings to the Leon River by developing a Watershed Protection Plan (WPP). The Brazos River Authority (BRA) was asked to facilitate this planning effort. In late 2006 the BRA received approximately $440,000 from the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (through an Environmental Protection Agency grant) to conduct the 3 year planning project. The BRA dedicated approximately $290,000 of staff and financial resources to enable to the project. The BRA enlisted the assistance of Parsons Water Infrastructure, Inc. (Parsons) to help day-to-day project activities.
While the primary focus of the WPP will be on the impaired reaches discussed above, water quality data suggests that there may be some concerns with bacteria and nutrient concentrations throughout the watershed. The WPP will address these issues as well as others that may be raised by local stakeholders.
The Leon River Watershed Protection Plan was developed by local citizens and a Leon River Watershed Coordinator has been hired to help implement this voluntary plan. The Watershed Coordinator position is funded through a grant from the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and con-tracted through the Central Texas Council of Governments. One of the major goals for the Coordinator is to help educate and inform local citizens on local surface water quality issues and to encourage our citizens to implement voluntary management practices on their properties which will hopefully have a positive effect on current surface water quality conditions over time. Another important duty of the coordinator will be to seek additional government funding to continue the work.
Andy James is the Leon River Watershed Coordinator! As an extension assistant with the Tx A&M IRNR, Andy James fulfills the position left by Mike Marshall. Andy received a B.S. in Rangeland Ecology & Management at Tx A&M University and a master’s degree in Natural Resources Management from Sul Ross State University.