Arroyo Colorado

Pesticide Education in the Coastal Zone of the Arroyo Colorado Watershed

Project Overview

Funding Source

Funding provided by General Land Office as part of the Coastal Management Program.


The Arroyo Colorado is an ancient channel of the Rio Grande River that extends eastward for about 90 miles from near the City of Mission through southern Hidalgo County to the City of Harlingen in Cameron County, eventually discharging into the Laguna Madre near the Cameron-Willacy County line. The tidal segment of the Arroyo Colorado, as classified by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, is between the confluence with Laguna Madre in Cameron/Willacy County to a point 100 meters (110 yards) downstream of Cemetery Road south of Port Harlingen in Cameron County. This part of the river is also defined as a coastal natural resource area (CNRA) and a coastal wetland in the Coastal Coordination Act.

Water quality monitoring over the past decade has confirmed low oxygen levels, as well as escalated ammonia and nitrate concentrations, that have contributed to multiple fish kills in the tidal segment. These sub-optimal aquatic conditions resulted in this portion of the Arroyo Colorado being placed on the 303(d) list for high aquatic life use impairment in 2002. Numerous urban sources, such as point source wastewater discharges, have contributed to this impairment; however, according to the Arroyo Colorado Watershed Protection Plan, nonpoint source agricultural runoff accounts for much of the water quality issues in the tidal segment.

These coastal issues and other water quality issues in the watershed have been addressed by the more than 500-member Arroyo Colorado Watershed Partnership in the Arroyo Colorado Water Protection Plan (ACWPP). That plan identifies needs specific to water quality protection and improvement for the agricultural community as well as addressing nonpoint source pollution from the urban environment such as landscapes . Therefore, Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) proposes to work through the Texas AgriLife Extension Service (Extension) to implement an educational program for agricultural producers including turfgrass producers as well as those managing athletic fields such as school district personnel. The agricultural effort will be an integrated farm management program focused on pesticide education and proper nutrient management for Cameron and Willacy Counties to address water quality issues related to agricultural production in the tidal segment of the Arroyo Colorado. While the turfgrass community will also be invited to the education programs provided through the agricultural effort, a targeted educational conference will be held for turf producers and managers to better their skills at nutrient, pesticide and irrigation management to reduce the potential for nonpoint source pollution.


This education plan will help fulfill two of the goals of the Texas Coastal Management Program. First, agricultural and turfgrass producers and managers in Cameron and Willacy County will be educated on water quality issues and how the proper application of pesticides meets current laws and regulations and can improve the water quality and fish community in the Arroyo CNRA. Second, utilization of proper pesticide application practices by producers and managers will reduce the potential for nonpoint source pollution, which will improve the water quality in the Arroyo CNRA and enhance the ability of this area to continue to support valuable aquatic life and meet water quality goals outlined in the ACWPP. An additional benefit not associated with the Coastal Management Program, but still an environmental success for this area given the over-allocation and availability of clean surface waters will be the added water savings attributed to the irrigation management education program provided through this effort.


The overall objective of this project is to implement components of an integrated farm management program to educate agricultural and turfgrass producers about laws and regulations and on how to better manage their land through safe use of crop protection chemicals, nutrients and irrigation and in doing so, reduce the potential for nonpoint source pollution. Extension will utilize its already developed resources and delivery system to enhance their programs and educate producers on pesticide laws, use regulations, and management and application techniques. The Pesticide Applicator Safety Training and Continuing Education program will address the following topics: principles of integrated pest management, non-chemical alternatives, pest features, ground and surface water protection, laws and regulations, pesticide labels, endangered species protection, Worker Protection Standards, record keeping, personal protection, application equipment, and calibration. The Sports Athletic Field Education Program addresses the following principles: effective and economic nutrient applications; reduced pesticide management techniques including proper soil and plant management; maintained turf health for proper playing surface; reduced water use and efficient irrigation management; and continued support for program implementation to ensure sustained success of the program.

TWRI and Extension will host educational meetings and produce educational materials for producers on the importance of proper pesticide application and use of integrated pest management practices to protect water quality in Cameron County as they implement the Arroyo Colorado Watershed Protection Plan. Funds to support the development and delivery of the educational programs will be provided by the EPA Strategic Agricultural Initiative Program. In addition, the EPA program will cover the delivery of an IPM and Best Management Practice (BMP) Newsletter and a fact sheet directed at implementing BMPs for proper natural resources management. TWRI and Extension will document project participation at all events and meetings. Programs will have pre and post assessment surveys where knowledge gained can be gauged. Follow-up surveys will be used to quantify implementation of BMPs. Overall success will be measured by the number of individual producers the project reaches and estimates of BMP implementation.

Under this program, TWRI and Extension will supplement the agricultural educational programs and field days with outreach materials that address specific practices to reduce the potential for nonpoint source pollution from pesticides, nutrients, irrigation and sediment. These materials will encourage the adoption and implementation of proper integrated pest management practices. For example, signs will be distributed to growers to use on-farm to designate areas of pesticide mixing, clean-out and the proper disposal of used pesticide containers. Additionally, growers can participate in soil-testing campaigns to encourage proper nutrient applications. Finally, a fact sheet will be produced that can be used outside of the Arroyo Colorado Watershed to address water quality issues in other coastal areas impacted by agricultural nonpoint source pollution.

A targeted turfgrass educational program will also be included in this program. Extension will couple the already successful Sports Athletic Field Education (SAFE) Program with its resources for turfgrass producers to present proper management techniques through an educational conference, hands-on learning techniques, soil-testing campaigns to encourage proper nutrient applications, and on-site visits to ensure proper implementation of the suggested practices. The SAFE Program offers turf management assistance for sports field maintenance personnel and many turfgrass producers operate within the Arroyo Colorado floodplain. Thus, a program targeting both turfgrass managers and producers has great potential to reduce nonpoint source pollution to the Arroyo Colorado.

Measures of Success

The overall impact of this project will be that it will provide landowners with accurate technically sound information that they can utilize to reduce the potential for nonpoint source pollution caused by improper use of land management techniques and to maintain and improve water quality in the Arroyo Colorado Watershed. TWRI and Extension will document project participation at all events and meetings. Education programs will have a pre and post assessment survey where knowledge learned can be gauged. Overall success will be measured by the number of individual producers the project reaches.

Project Tasks

Task 1: Project Coordination

TWRI will effectively coordinate and monitor all technical and financial activities performed under this contract, prepare progress reports, and maintain project files and educational materials. TWRI will be responsible for hiring and supervision of all project personnel.


  1. Quarterly Progress Reports (QPRs) - March 15, 2009; June 15, 2009; September 15, 2009; December 15, 2009; March 15, 2010.
  2. Agendas, attendance and summaries from regularly scheduled meetings submitted with QPRs - March 15, 2009; June 15, 2009; September 15, 2009; December 15, 2009; March 15, 2010.
  3. Quarterly Reimbursement Forms - March 31, 2009; June 30, 2009; September 30, 2009; December 31, 2009; March 31, 2010.
  4. Final report - March 31, 2010

Task 2: Supplement Integrated Farm Management System Education Programs

Through the EPA Region VI SAI Program, Extension will host educational programs promoting the adoption of an integrated farm management system. Agricultural producers will learn how to better manage their land and resources through the adoption of IPM, nutrient, irrigation and production practices that reduce the potential for nonpoint source pollution. The programs will typically be held as multi-county events. Under the General Land Office, Extension will produce educational materials (including a fact sheet and signage encouraging proper pesticide management practices) and implement a soil testing campaign.


  1. At least 300 pesticide disposing signs will be distributed at pesticide applicator safety training and continuing education programs, which are held quarterly.
  2. At least 1 fact sheet will be produced addressing identified regional needs
  3. At least 700 producers (400 in year 1 and 300 in year 2) will participate in the soil testing campaign. Estimates of nutrient (N and P) reduction will be provided as a result of the soil testing campaign.

Task 3: Conduct Turfgrass Production and Management Education Program

Extension will host a one-day educational programs for turfgrass producers and managers promoting the adoption of best management practices to reduce pesticide use, encourage efficient applications of nutrients and irrigation, and implement management techniques that reduce nonpoint source pollution. As a follow-up to the educational program, Extension will provide on-site visits to turfgrass managers encouraging irrigation audits, soil testing (clegg impact meter) and the adoption of practices learned through the education program. The SAFE program will be utilized where possible.


  1. A one-day education program for turfgrass managers and producers will be held in the spring 2009. Results from pre- and post-evaluation surveys or knowledge assessment surveys conducted at the program will be provided.
  2. Extension will conduct on-site visits for at least 5 school districts to encourage participation in the SAFE program and conduct an irrigation audit.
Project Personnel
Brad Cowan
County Extension Agent, Hidalgo County
Enrique Perez
County Extension Agent, Cameron County
Lucas Garcia
County Extension Agent, Willacy County
Geraldo Tapia
Extension Technician, Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy Counties
Ruben Saldana
District Extension Administrator, District 12
Allen Berthold
Project Manager, TWRI
Allen Berthold
Project Manager, TWRI