Big Bend Climate Change Seminar

Climate change and its effects upon the Big Bend will be the subject of scientific presentations on January 18th from 3 to 6 pm, at Sul Ross State University’s Espino Conference Center. Sponsored by the Big Bend Chapter of the Native Plant Society, Big Bend Conservation Alliance, the Big Bend Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Presidio County Underground Water Conservation District, the speakers will discuss expected climate-change effects on temperature and water cycles, vegetation communities and wildland fire and strategies to influence, manage and adapt to those changes.

 “This is a great opportunity to examine expected climate change impacts on Big Bend forests, grasslands, and desert,” said Dallas Baxter, president of the Big Bend Chapter of the Native Plant Society. “These topics are important to area parks, ranches, farms, water planners, fire managers, conservationists, and natural resource professionals as well as state, county and city governments. No challenge in the coming years is more dire than climate change.”

Dr. John Nielson-Gammon, Texas State Climatologist and Professor of Atmospheric Science at Texas A&M University, will present the latest climate models and their complications, with emphasis on Trans-Pecos water cycles.

Dr. Nick Smith, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Texas Tech University, will discuss response to climate change by Trans-Pecos plant communities and how land management decisions influence resilience to climate effects.

Dr. Dylan Schwilk, Professor of Biological Sciences at Texas Tech, will provide results of studies on how plant traits influence fire behavior, and effects of drought and fire on trees in Trans-Pecos mountain ranges.

The seminar will be in Room A, Espino Conference Center in the Morgan University Center at Sul Ross State University. Attendance is free; however, registration is requested. To register, e-mail fondag@sbcglobal.net.

Balmorhea Springs System Study

The San Solomon Springs system is an oasis in the middle of an otherwise dry, desert landscape. The system includes six major springs that contribute significant flows to water sources for the region’s unique wildlife and endangered species. Each year thousands of visitors swim in these waters with the fish and turtles in the world’s largest spring-fed pool located at Balmorhea State Park.

The six major springs in the area are: San Solomon, Phantom Lake, Giffin, Saragosa, West Sandia, and East Sandia. Earlier studies identified two major sources of the San Solomon Springs system: baseflow from the Apache Mountains and Wildhorse Flat in the west and from the Davis Mountains in the south; however, there has been a lack of data to identify the specific source areas of the individual springs. As demand for water in the area continues to increase at unprecedented rates, there is an urgent need for a better understanding of these source areas in order to protect water by minimizing impacts of pumping.

In a new report in collaboration with the Big Bend Conservation Alliance, Dr. Ron Green of the Southwest Research Institute has made a significant contribution to the previous understanding of the springs system’s interconnectedness.  Dr. Green asserted that one key to understanding the system would be to definitively clarify whether there is a separation between the six springs in the area.

According to the study recently released by Southwest Research Institute, “Individual springs have the potential to originate from individual source areas…[while clusters] of springs, such as the San Solomon Springs system, can have different source areas that are controlled” by different underground features. It is also possible that the same source area may feed multiple springs. This would explain why certain springs in West Texas, such as Comanche Springs in Fort Stockton, have dried up due to over-pumping, while others continue to flow under similar pumping conditions.

In order to better understand the differences among source areas and determine whether there is a separation between the different springs, Dr. Green and his co-worker, Rebecca Nunu, conducted chemical analyses on water samples from all six spring systems to identify any differences in their “chemical signatures.” It was assumed that any minute differences in chemistry would help determine whether the springs are sourced from different areas, potentially revealing a separation that had long been assumed by earlier researchers.

Dr. Green’s preliminary results suggest that the source areas for Phantom Lake, San Solomon (which feeds the pool at Balmorhea), and Giffin springs are distinct from the source areas for West Sandia, and East Sandia springs and possibly Saragosa Spring. These individual groupings validate earlier assertions that Phantom Lake, San Solomon, and Giffin springs are artesian springs (where water flows to the surface under natural pressure underground), while Saragosa, West Sandia, and East Sandia, are water-table gravity springs (where water flows underground until the water table intersects with the ground surface  and issues out as a spring). Though limited in scope, this study goes a long way in verifying assumptions and solidifying the foundation for ongoing and future science in the region.

The San Solomon Springs system is located in the Delaware Basin, a southern extension of the Permian Basin. In response to growing concerns about fracking and water depletion, the Big Bend Conservation Alliance is building on recent research findings to continue working with the Southwest Research Institute in creating a hydrologic conceptualization and model of the region to better integrate the available data. The goal of this project is to eventually provide tools for area decision-makers and industrial operators to predict the impacts of pumping on groundwater and spring discharge.

Click here for more information and details of the preliminary findings.

Join our Board of Directors

Big Bend Conservation Alliance seeks new board members to help protect the natural and cultural resources of the Big Bend. Are you passionate about the Big Bend? Do you want to help strengthen BBCA’s mission throughout the region?

If you live in the Big Bend region, we especially want to hear from you.

Contact us today at info@bigbendconservationalliance.org if you are interested in joining our board or learning more about the opportunity. Click here for more information on board member qualifications, duties, and expectations.

Helios Energy in Presidio County

Location of pad site can be found at: https://bit.ly/2lSbDNX

Oil and gas production has expanded with the completion of four wells owned by Helios Energy near Quinn Creek in northwestern Presidio County. Here is the information on the project BBCA has gathered from Texas Railroad Commission and investor materials published by Helios (more information on the project is available at: https://www.heliosenergyltd.com/projects/presidio-oil-project). 

  • Helios has drilled 4 wells – Two wells are vertical text/core bores, one was the initial vertical production test well, and the fourth (I&I #2) was a vertical bore, amended to horizontal, completed on September 4th.
  • The #2 well was initially a discovery/test well, but has been fully completed and fracked. Based on reported production numbers, this well does not seem to produce as much as other wells in the Alpine High/Southern Delaware Basin. 
  • Investor materials indicate that over 44,000 acres will be leased with a total footprint of 16 wells.
  • Helios constructed a 25 mile road from pad sites to US90.
  • Oil will be transported via truck to refinery in El Paso (170 miles away).
  • 3.328 million gallons of water were used to complete the #2 well – which is consistent with the shallowness of the well and short laterals. 
  • Local water wells are likely supplying the water used for production (per Helios investor materials). 
  • It is not known how flowback water is being disposed of – pictures indicate a number of evaporation ponds with excess water most likely being trucked to disposal wells outside of the county. 
  • With no ability to take away the natural gas produced, it is likely all being flared or vented. Flaring and venting is allowed during drilling operations and for 10 days after completion. After that period, an exemption is required for flaring and/or venting (or the well should be shut in). 

As oil production expands, it will be vitally important to understand the larger impacts to the region and support conservation efforts to protect water resources, dark skies, and ecology of the region. BBCA will continue to monitor oil and gas development and work with local units of government, landowners, groundwater conservation districts, and other stakeholders to provide information, tools, and support to make informed decisions and protect the natural resources of the Big Bend.

Additional information and media coverage can be found here:

https://bigbendsentinel.com/2019/09/11/in-far-northwest-presidio-county-fracked-oil-flows-quietly/

2019 Water Symposium a Great Success

Over 150 people attended the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Water Symposium hosted by Big Bend Conservation Alliance, Pronatura Noreste, Rio Grande Joint Venture, and Audubon Texas on July 18, 2019 at the USO Building in Marfa, Texas. Water and policy experts from the United States and Mexico discussed issues impacting the health of the Rio Grande in a number of different areas from environmental flows to policy initiatives on both sides of the border. On July 19, a group of conservation professionals from a number of organizations convened to craft a new vision of the Rio Grande and discuss solutions for how the public and private sectors can come together to find new approaches for protecting the Rio Grande. See full coverage from the Big Bend Sentinel on the symposium: https://bigbendsentinel.com/2019/07/24/binational-summit-on-health-of-the-rio-grande/.

Rio Grande / Río Bravo Water Symposium

Big Bend Conservation Alliance, Audubon Texas, Rio Grande Joint Venture, and Pronatura Noreste have partnered to present Rio Grande / Río Bravo Water Symposium. Water experts from the U.S. and Mexico will discuss the Rio Grande, environmental flows, groundwater, and solutions for enhancing the health of the river. The free event will take place at 9:00 AM on July 18th at the USO Building in Marfa, TX. Lunch will be provided. Registration for the event can be found at: https://www.audubon.org/2019-rio-granderio-bravo-water-symposium

July 18, 2019

9:00 AM – 5:30 PM

USO Building

Marfa, TX

Old Ore 10k & 50K Run – BBNP – November 3, 2019

Overland Racing returns to Big Bend National Park with the Old Ore 10K & 50K point-to-point run on November 3, 2019. Registration includes: screened long sleeve tech shirt, post race meal, and Off the Wheel Pottery finisher medals. BBCA will be the beneficiary of a portion of the proceeds – register today to support BBCA and experience running in the majestic Big Bend National Park! Registration link and additional details can be found here.

Montopolis CD Release Party: “The Legend of Big Bend” @ The North Door in Austin, TX – June 6, 2019

Montopolis turns west Texas tales into song in this concert inspired by Big Bend National Park. The performance weaves science, history, poetry and personal stories into music inspired by the land and the people that have walked upon it.  Submit your photo of Big Bend here:  https://montopolismusic.com/bigbend  and receive a discount code for 50% of the ticket price.  Photos will be projected during the concert on the North Door’s giant screen.    

Tickets are available via Eventbright.