Open Letter: River Authority Asks for Aquifer Protection

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Dear Mayor and City Council:

The San Antonio River Authority (SARA) wishes to express its support for the proposed expansion of the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program and the Linear Creekway Parks Development Program to address existing water quality threats to the aquifer, rivers and creeks. Expanding the two programs to incorporate targeted water quality projects will enhance the economic vitality of our community by further protecting the health and use of important natural water resources.

(Read More: Aquifer Protection and Trail Expansion Headed for May 9 Ballot)

The springs of the Edwards Aquifer serve as the headwaters for the San Antonio River and other creeks within the watershed. Existing pollutants on the recharge zone not only threaten the drinking water supply, they also threaten the health and cleanliness of our rivers and creeks.

The popular linear creekways program, along with the completed Museum Reach and Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Walk, has raised the value of our rivers and creeks as treasured natural, recreational and economic resources for our city. Visitors and residents, whether they are walkers, runners, cyclists or paddlers, want to know that the water in the rivers and creeks they are enjoying is safe and clean.

Rain Garden at the San Antonio River Authority's Environmental Center off of Euclid Avenue, demonstrating one method to protect the watershed and improve water quality. Courtesy photo.

The rain Garden at the San Antonio River Authority’s Environmental Center off of Euclid Avenue demonstrates one method to protect the watershed and improve water quality. Courtesy photo.

The conservation of open space on the Edwards Aquifer funded over the past 15 years through the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program has undoubtedly avoided the introduction of some future threats to water quality through land preservation. In addition, the City and the San Antonio Water System have taken notable steps to address sources of contaminants to our rivers and creeks such as investments at the San Antonio Zoo and improvements in the wastewater infrastructure. Moving forward, however, we will be challenged with addressing the existing and more dispersed sources of pollution and trash present in the watershed.

SARA has collected water quality samples for decades, and impacts from stormwater runoff, as well as other documented water quality impairments, have resulted in several segments of our rivers and creeks in the San Antonio River Watershed being designated as impaired, or out of compliance with stream standards set forth by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency. If the trend continues as our data indicates, further segments could be designated as impaired, presenting a real potential for additional state and federal regulations.

Rain Garden at the San Antonio River Authority's Environmental Center off of Euclid Avenue, demonstrating one method to protect the watershed and improve water quality. Courtesy photo.

Rain Garden at the San Antonio River Authority’s Environmental Center. Courtesy photo.

SARA is developing science and engineering-based methods to target placement of water quality projects within a watershed to yield the greatest benefit in reducing contaminants and trash. In addition, SARA and the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance have developed specific technical design guidance manuals providing proven techniques that filter significant amounts of harmful pollutants from stormwater before it recharges the aquifer or discharges into our rivers and creeks.

With improved science and available local design standards, now is the right time to expand these natural resource enhancement and protection initiatives to allocate funding toward projects that can mitigate existing water quality threats to the aquifer, rivers and creeks. We applaud the City Council for considering the addition of recharge, recharge area or recharge protection to the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program and adding watershed protection and water quality improvement in the design of future additions to the linear creekways park network.

Should you want to discuss SARA’s available data and technical information, please feel free to contact me at 210-302-3613. We look forward to working with the City as you define the implementation standards for the expanded programs.

Sincerely,

SARA General Manager Suzanne B. Scott

*Featured/top image: In April 2012, bluebonnets brightened the trail along the Mission Reach. The Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project is gaining recognition from around the world for being an example of how urban ecosystem restoration can be accomplished. Photo by Al Rendon, courtesy of SARA.

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