Playa Lakes: Enchancing Recharge to the Ogallala Aquifer
- Overall Goal: Increase recharge to the Ogallala Aquifer from the 20,000 Texas playa lakes
- Phase 1—Initial three years of monitoring completed: Quantify volume of water in playas and measure current recharge rates from selected playas
- Phase 2—Pending $1 million additional funding: Playa modifications to assess potential for increasing recharge to the Ogallala Aquifer
- Five years of Phase 1 monitoring has been completed. More than 100 flood events were observed, ranging in size from < 1 acre-foot to nearly 1000 acre-feet in volume.
- Access agreements were completed with 36 landowners.
- Monitoring equipment was installed in 38 playas in 13 counties across the Panhandle.
- Topographic surveys and satellite data were used to develop flood histories for 72 playas.
- Research cooperation was established with groups from Texas Tech, the US Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service, and Clemson University.
- Technical reports are in preparation.
- Intensive field monitoring will be discontinued at most sites in early 2016. Water level monitoring will continue at all sites pending Phase 2 approval.
- The volume of water collected in playas from 1996 to 2014 averages 200,000 acre-feet per year, significantly less than estimated by previous studies. Long-term trends of increasing evaporation and observed declines in playa water volume between 1996 and 2014 suggest that less water may be available from playas in the future.
- Current recharge rates measured at instrumented playas ranged near zero to more than one foot per year over the monitoring period; much of the region was in exceptional drought during 2011–2013.
- Large, infrequent flood events produce most of the recharge. Exceptional flooding in 2015 produced more recharge than the previous four years together. Rapid infiltration from small floods on dry, cracked soil is typically held in the top 10 feet of the soil and can be transpired by plants during dry spells between floods.
- Fifteen percent of the playas receive an average of more than a foot of water per year.
- Enhanced playa recharge may provide a sustainable local water resource but won’t substantially change the overall water budget for the Ogallala. The TWDB Groundwater Availability Model for the Southern High Plains estimated total recharge at 1,032,905 acre-feet in 2000; recharge enhancements at the 3000 wettest playas might gain 40,000 to 80,000 acre feet per year.
- The 200,000 acre feet of water collected annually by Texas playas represents less than four percent of the 5.6 million acre-feet of 2010 irrigation demand for Regions A and O.
- Playa Project Newsletters
- Playa Description Table - Descriptive information for each instrumented playa
- TWDB Playa Monitoring Network Location Map
- A Thousand Points of Recharge: Can alternative management strategies increase recharge from the playa lakes of the Southern High Plains to the Ogallala Aquifer? - Presentation summarizing some of the early results of the playa monitoring program
- Playa Project Background Paper
- Landowner Information Sheet
- Playa Instrumentation
- Phase 1 Access Agreement
- Playa Weather Stations
- Technical Note 15-03 - A Water Resource Assesssment of the Playa Lakes of the Texas High Plains
- Report 357 - Characterization of Playa Basins on the High Plains of Texas
- Aquifer Recharge Utilizing Playa Lake Water and Filter Underdrains Phase IV
- Report 288 - Evaluating the Ground-Water Resources of the High Plains of Texas
- Report LP 114 - Playa Lake Monitoring for the Llano Estacado Total Water Management Study
- Report 10 - Studies of Playa Lakes in the High Plains of Texas
- Playa Lakes Joint Venture
- Sibley Nature Center - Habitats of the Llano Estacado Playas
- Texas Tech Water Resources Center
- Texas Tech Ogallala Aquifer Program
- U.S. Department of Agriculture - Ogallala Aquifer Initiative
- U.S. Geological Survey - High Plains Unsaturated-Zone Research Network
- U.S. Geological Survey - High Plains Water-Level Monitoring Study
- Natural Resources Conservation Service Wetlands Reserve Program
- Natural Resources Conservation Service Wetlands Reserve Program in the Texas Playa Region Brochure
- U.S. Bureau of Reclamation - Llano Estacado Water Resources Study
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Waterfowl Management Handbook - Ecology of Playa Lakes
- USGS Circular 1333 - Recharge Rates and Chemistry Beneath Playas of the High Plains Aquifer: A Literature Review and Synthesis
- USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 99-4018B - Occurrence of Cotton Herbicides and Insecticides in Playa Lakes of the High Plains of West Texas
Groundwater Conservation Districts
- High Plains Underground Water Conservation District No. 1
- Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District
- North Plains Groundwater Conservation District
- Hemphill County Underground Water Conservation District
- Sandy Land Underground Water Conservation District
- Mesa Underground Water Conservation District
- Llano Estacado Underground Water District