Parker County, Texas — Some of the best things in life are free.
This year, the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (UTGCD) is again opening applications for rainwater harvesting grants in Hood, Montague, Parker and Wise Counties. The district began accepting applications in October and the deadline to enter is Feb. 29, 2024. The program found its footing near the end of 2019, when it began collaborating with the Parker County Livestock Improvement Association.
Staff emeritus member and PCLIA President Melton Harms had championed the idea of large-scale rainwater harvesting systems for years in Parker County. The UTGCD worked together with the Parker County Sheriff’s Posse and Harms to establish a 65,000-gallon tank with a potable filtration system at the Parker County Sheriff’s Posse Rodeo Grounds in Weatherford. The project won the Texas Water Development Board’s Rain Catcher Award for 2020.
Encouraged by the success of the project at the posse grounds, the UTGCD has continued to provide funds for new rainwater systems every year since. UTGCD Education and Outreach Coordinator Jill Garcia said there had been a stark lack of funds and resources available for many kinds of local organizations that might benefit from these systems.
“It seemed like there wasn’t any large-scale grant program,” Garcia said. “There are things for private landowners, but we were thinking big scale because the Trinity Aquifer is big and so is our water footprint. It helped (PLIA) alleviate stress on the aquifer because they did not have to drill an additional water well with that system.”
Harvesting rainwater has many benefits that the public may not be aware of, Garcia said. With the grant program, it is her goal to provide resources and to educate the district’s consumers along the way.
“A common question in the rainwater harvesting communities is ‘are you taking away from somewhere else?’ And the answer is no,” Garcia said. “The catching of rainwater helps protect soil because it’s not eroding and flowing away during the storm. The rainwater is usually of higher quality or comparable quality to water utilities because as you’re aware, the water that comes out of people’s taps smells like chlorine, because that’s a treatment process that the utilities do. For those of us working with plants or agriculture, those byproducts can have an adverse effect and actually damage plants.”
Along with the PLIA, UTGCD has awarded grants to the Wise County Fairgrounds in Decatur for a 65,000-gallon tank and Weatherford’s Central Community Volunteer Fire Department for a 40,000-gallon tank. The fire department’s rainwater harvesting system was completed in the last week of September 2023 and cost approximately $80,000, all of which was covered by the grant.
“We’ve got a large unincorporated area just north between Weatherford, Springtown and Peaster and we don’t really have any fire hydrants,” CCVFD Chief David Chilcutt said. “Our closest hydrant to here is like four miles away. This provided us with an opportunity to have a fill site that is located away from hydrants. It really made a big difference and was put in here at our station. We’ve got a big building here. Every inch of rainwater we get, we generate 12,500 gallons of water captured off this roof.”
The department, which also trains cadets from the Weatherford College Fire Academy, uses the collected rainwater for training and fire suppression. Not only will this save time and resources in emergencies, but it will also have a positive impact on the local aquifer and other water suppliers, Chilcutt claimed.
“We’re using rainwater instead of groundwater and that helps reduce the aquifer issues,” Chilcutt said. “It gets our apparatus back in service a lot quicker and uses less fuel to go get tank water. Also, one of the other places we get water is the Stonebridge Estates Addition off Farm-to-Market Road 51 North in Weatherford and they’re a private well system. That’s a little taxing on them if we have a fire sometime in the summer, so that helps.”
Thanks to the rainwater harvesting system, the CCVFD is now considered a fill site by the Insurance Standards Office. Certain insurance companies may offer lower insurance premiums to customers located within the department’s service area as a result.
Chilcutt recommends organizations that might benefit from the grant talk with UTGCD staff and fill out the application.
“It’s a pretty simple application and scoring process, honestly,” Chilcutt said. “We just truly appreciate it. It’s going to make a difference in everybody’s emergency services out here over the long period of time. It’s going to make a huge impact for this area as it continues to grow. That’s 40,000 gallons less than that we’re having to pull out of the ground.”
Garcia says the UTGCD has already begun receiving applications for the grant and is looking forward to February when finalists are contacted. Parker is one of the fastest growing counties in Texas and is consistently one of the top counties in the state for the number of new water wells permitted. While the grant program addresses a substantial need within the district, Garcia said further action must be taken to protect the Trinity Aquifer.
A study released by the UTGCD in April determined current groundwater resources cannot indefinitely sustain the level of growth seen in the county and that eventually costlier, deeper wells must be dug; alternatives must be found, or the population must decrease in order to maintain the reliability and quality of these resources.
“If you have more straws in the ground, you’re going to have more water being pumped out,” Garcia said. “We want to be mindful of our groundwater use. The less water that comes through your septic system, the longer it’s going to last, and the less water your pump utilizes the longer your water well is going to last. Even if you’re just a private landowner, just a 55-gallon tank connected to your gutter system is going to save you money.”
The application and more information can be found at uppertrinitygcd.com/rainwater-harvesting-grants.
Entities eligible for the grant