Bank and City officials announced $52,650 a grant from Wells Fargo on Monday that will go towards enhancing community rain gardens in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. Representatives from the San Antonio River Authority and the Edwards Aquifer Authority also joined in to contribute an additional $15,000 each for the community rain gardens.
Part of that enhancement includes the launch of an online and social media campaign to educate people who live in the recharge zone about the benefits of taking care of the regions most relied upon water source.
The Edwards Aquifer Authority will use the grant to create 10 Low Impact Development (LID) projects – community rain gardens – to purify storm water before it enters the aquifer. The community rain gardens will use native vegetation to treat the rainwater before it seeps into the aquifer.
Many of these rain gardens will be implemented on school grounds to educate students about the Edwards Aquifer and safe practices for quality drinking water.
The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance will work with Western Kentucky University to teach those people who live in this sensitive area about groundwater quality.
The first rain garden will be constructed on the University of Texas at San Antonio campus as a model facility, and then an additional nine neighborhoods will be selected for rain garden structures.
Instead of the concrete structures that currently serve as water filtration systems, the community rain gardens will enhance water purification practices while adding a touch of green to the city’s landscape.
Along with the Wells Fargo grant, which is part of the nationwide $15 million Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities five-year grant, the San Antonio River Authority and the Edwards Aquifer Authority are each giving $15,000 for the community rain gardens. Wells Fargo has partnered with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to allocate $15 million for environmental projects across the nation.
Steve Arnold, Wells Fargo area president for San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country, said the Environmental Solutions for Communities initiative was designed to support environmentally-friendly projects.
“Personally, I’m excited that we will be able to enjoy green projects like these rain gardens in our city,” he said.
Mayor Ivy Taylor said the grant is critical for the city’s future growth and development because it focuses attention on our most precious resource: water.
“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to take a first step towards having multipurpose infrastructure that will be a lot more pleasant to look at while also being effective,” Mayor Taylor said.
Taylor said the community rain gardens are a stepping stone toward a broader adoption of LID standards.
The Texas Commission for Environmental Equality designated the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone as the most environmentally sensitive area in the state of Texas. Water seeps into the aquifer through soil, cracks, and other pervious surfaces in the recharge zone, that can allow water contaminants to enter the aquifer.
Rapid urban growth is negatively impacting the recharge zone by contaminating and channeling water in the area, concentrating contaminated runoff from parking lots, gas stations, homes, and other impervious surfaces straight into the aquifer. Bexar County has more than 3,000 storm water filtration basins on the recharge zone, and the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) found that about one-third of the structures do not function sufficiently. GEAA officials found that most of the defunct systems are in residential areas that defer to Home Owners Associations for maintenance.
Taylor said introducing the bio-engineered rain gardens to the communities in the recharge zone will educate residents about innovative filtration methods and teach them to be better stewards to the environment.
San Antonio River Authority General Manager Suzanne Scott said she hopes the rain gardens will inspire community members to look at innovative water purification techniques throughout the Edwards Aquifer watersheds, not just the recharge zone.
“If it improves the quality of what water is being recharged into the aquifer, just imagine the improvements that can also be made in the water quality in our creeks and rivers,” she said. “And we want to make sure that we can continue to show and demonstrate the importance and the effectiveness of using these types of vegetative areas in order to improve our water quality all over, not only in our drinking water but in our creeks and rivers.”
*Featured/top image: (From left) Suzanne Scott, San Antonio River Authority general manager, Mayor Ivy Taylor, William J. Sibley, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance board member, Annalisa Peace, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance executive director, Steve Arnold, Wells Fargo area president, and Councilmember Ron Nirenberg (D8) stand with the Wells Fargo grant. Photo by Joan Vinson.