Weather Forecast for Texas: Extreme

Weather Forecast for Texas: Extreme

Westward Environmental, Inc. does much more than provide environmental and engineering products and services to our clients. Westward employees offer time, skills, and knowledge to their local communities by volunteering. One example is Westward employee David Knollhoff, who volunteers his time to Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District (CCGCD) commissioned in Kendall County, Texas. As a certified consulting meteorologist (CCM) as designated by the American Meteorological Society, David provides pro bono long-term weather forecasts and rainfall analyses to CCGCD on a monthly basis.

In fact, he has coined the term “drought with a chance of flash floods” as a broad description of what general weather patterns are like for those living in the Texas Hill Country. Weather patterns can be extreme in the 25 hilly counties that make up the region and the karst topography is reminiscent of Swiss cheese, with numerous caves, sinkholes, and underground streams.

The given weather pattern, as variable as it is, is highly dependent on several atmospheric factors located within the tropical region of the Pacific Ocean. The La Nina factor can bring droughts and the El Nino factor can bring floods, among other variations. Both can cause  extremes—long periods of insignificant rainfalls or short periods of excessive rainfalls.

So water availability in the Texas Hill Country is a huge issue, whether one is a city dweller dependent on public utilities or a county resident dependent on well water. Rightly then, development, pollution, resource conservation, population growth and water issues are given much attention where much attention is needed.

When drought strikes, the community as a whole suffers. David develops forecasts and analysis data to help CCGCD formulate their response to a drought. The data allows them to independently assess what level of water restriction is needed and for how long the restriction should last. Restriction helps mitigate the impact of drought. When rains return, restrictions are lifted. Restrictions are the norm here.

World Ecology Day

World Ecology Day

In recognition of the relationship humans have with living plants and animals on the planet, November 1st has been designated World Ecology Day, a day to reflect on how to maintain a balance between economic prosperity and environmental conservation. The natural elements we enjoy every day are in jeopardy and it is more important than ever to create ways to keep plants, animals, water, air, soil, forests, and oceans from being polluted and exploited. So how can we as individuals take small but meaningful steps that can contribute to a healthier planet? Here are a few easy ideas that can make a big impact:

 “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” 

  • Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as it takes to burn it. However, only about 23% of plastic bottles are recycled within the U.S.
  • Aluminum cans make up less than 1% of waste in the United States because they are the #1 recycled item. After recycling, an aluminum can is usually repurposed within 60 days.
  • A glass container can go from a recycling bin to a store shelf in as few as 30 days but takes approximately 4,000 years to decompose in a landfill.

 Use a Reusable Water Bottle

Americans purchase nearly 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the U.S.! That means by using a reusable water bottle, you could save an average of 156 plastic bottles annually.

Buy Local

It takes a lot of energy for 18-wheelers to get the goods you need to a store near you. According to elocal.com, a carrot will typically travel 1838 miles to become part of a meal. Instead, support your local farm markets, stores and small businesses that carry locally produced products. Buying locally made products reduces the amount of energy required to transport them.

Eat More Greens and Less Meat!

No matter how you slice it, cattle have a high water footprint. By eating more fruits and vegetables and reducing animal product intake, you can reduce the amount of resources devoted to raising cows and other animals. Try “Meatless Monday” in your home!

AG Air blog – AK

New Air Permitting Rules for Ag Operations

Air permitting for the agriculture industry has seen sweeping changes in the last decade. Seven new Agriculture Air Quality Standard Permits issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) became effective in April 2010, making life easier for many small agriculture operators and distribution centers servicing local farmers. Air Quality Standard Permits now cover most of the air permitting requirements for the industry, making it more straightforward and consistent, while alleviating undue burdens on regulators and reducing the financial burden on applicants.

Westward was able to dig deep into regulations and logically make connections between existing law and environmental requirements to gain new understanding of the relationship between federal and state regulations. Working with the TCEQ to evaluate the permitting procedures for agriculture clients, Westward demonstrated that seed treatments should be categorized no differently than these same products applied directly to crops. In December 2015, the TCEQ updated their list of De Minimis emission sources to include application of seed treatments.

Agriculture clients can authorize many simple facilities by claiming these Standard Permits, which require no registration with the TCEQ or fees and have no public notice requirements. However, Westward has several clients who elect to have emission calculations prepared and additional documentation to demonstrate compliance with the Standard Permit when a facility is inspected by the TCEQ.

While Standard Permits are a more streamlined approach to agricultural air quality permitting, there will always be some agriculture operations that do not meet the requirements and must continue to use the other available permitting options for more complex facilities.

How accurate and precise is your drone map?

How Accurate and Precise is Your Drone Map? Can You Prove It?

Many industries have started using drones for mapping related uses—everything from volumetric measurements, topographic maps, change over time, and other applications.  The number of people offering these services has grown just as dramatically.

Whether you have an in-house crew that handles all mapping related projects or hire a third-party to complete the work, do you know if the final product is accurate or just a pretty picture?  Are they recreational grade, mapping grade, or survey grade quality?

Before you task your in-house group or hire an outside provider to map your site, you need to determine how accurate of a map you need.  Do you really need survey quality?  Generally speaking, if you are using maps for measurements such as distances, areas, or volumes, you likely need survey grade quality, which is typically much more exact and costly versus recreational grade.

Not all maps are created equal. Many firms offer low-cost, attractive maps, but the measurements derived from those maps may not be valid. It’s best to ask some straightforward questions first.

A few questions to consider: Is the mapping crew using ground control points and check points? Do they understand accuracy is relative to the ground sampling distance (GSD) value? What are they using to measure these points?  Is the equipment, in ground or air, limiting the accuracy and/or precision they can achieve?  What photogrammetric software are they using to stitch the images and rectify the maps?  How much control do they have over the processing of the data?

A mapping project can be broken down into two major phases: 1) field data collection, and 2) data processing and analysis. We have found field data collection is, while important, easier to train personnel to attain survey grade products. Data processing and analysis generally requires more survey and photogrammetry knowledge to produce quality deliverables.

Westward Environmental Inc. drone experts can audit your existing program, provide turn-key outsourcing solutions, assist in the field and/or conduct data processing/analysis, and train your staff with the most advanced technology and know-how.

Quick note: some states define surveying to include drone generated maps or measurements. Check your state’s regulations as to what they define as surveying.