First the prairie dogs and now the cattle. As the City of Lubbock tries to comply with the requests of the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality or TCEQ, to lower the nitrate level in the City's water supply, they've decided to remove the cattle from the farm.
The City has a farm off of East 50th out past Loop 289, and another down in Wilson. All together they own more than 4,700 acres of irrigated farmland, and on the land there are more than 3,000 head of cattle. Cattle that may be contributing to the rising nitrate levels.
"That is just one thing we can do to see if it helps with the problem, but we are not totally convinced that that is causing the problem. But certainly anything we can do to protect the ground water and get rid of the high nitrate and start to remediate that then we're willing to do. It's one that will cost us about $300,000 in revenue," says Lubbock Mayor Marc McDougal.
It will cost the City because currently the cattle owners are paying to use the land. However, some of the money will be replaced when they convert the land to row cropping. "I think the whole situation is unfortunate, you know we've got a problem with the prairie dogs, one that you know I feel has caused most of this problem and of course we've got the groups from California or New York that don't want the prairie digs eradicated but at the same time they don't have to drink the water from here. So we have to do, as a City whatever it takes to make sure we protect our groundwater, so if it means moving the cattle for awhile to see if that helps we'll certainly do that," Mayor McDougal said.
The cattle will be moved by March, and for now the plan is to grow two kinds of corn feed and hay on the land. They expect to finalize the cost and effects by the end of November, then once the cattle are removed they will plow up the burrows in the center of the land and plant crops.