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On the Surface
by Leslie Shoots
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The Latest News

Truck Stop in Hill Country Threatens Llano River

Hill Country preservationists are calling on state officials to act after Pilot Flying J, the nation’s largest truck stop operator and diesel fuel retailer, broke ground on an environmentally sensitive site in Junction only a few hundred yards from the banks of the North Fork of the Llano River. Read more from the Rivard Report.

Texans Speak Up for Beautiful Highways: TxDOT withdraws proposal for taller billboards

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has withdrawn its June 2014 proposed rule change that would have allowed billboards along federal highways to be taller. After receiving public comments from more than 900 Texans and 15 organizations in opposition to taller billboards, the agency advised today it is removing the item from consideration on the August 28 Texas Transportation Commission agenda. Learn more

The City of Fredericksburg takes steps to protect the night sky

Efforts to limit the nighttime glow in and around Fredericksburg were buoyed this month as the council approved an outdoor lighting standards ordinance, which will primarily affect new residential and commercial development. A complete draft of the ordinance can be found on the city’s website, www.fbgtx.org. Learn about Hill Country attorney-astronomer, HCA Night Sky team member Ken Kattner who records skies from home observatory and advocates for proper lighting in the Hill Country here.

SAWS proposing Burleson County pipeline – questions raised

SAWS presented plans for a 142 mile pipeline from Burleson County to San Antonio at a recent community forum at UTSA. Learn more and watch a video from SAWS news here. While the plan promises 50,000 acre feet of non-Edwards water annually, a Texas Public Radio segment points out that perhaps not enough questions have been raised. Are there consequences related to costs to the community and impacts on San Antonio’s conservation ethic worth exploring? Click here to read and listen to “The Source: Some Critique On A SAWS, Vista Ridge Deal." Decisions will be made by SAWS in September and SA City Council could take this up in October.

Save the date for the October 8th Water Forum: Securing our Water Future

“Innovative Strategies and Hard Choices for a Secure Future” will be moderated by Robert Rivard and hosted at the Historic Pearl Stable in San Antonio. A stellar line-up of speakers includes: Berto Guerra, Bill West, Andy Sansom and Karen Guz. Learn more and mark your calendar today.

The City of Dripping Springs is planning for a “World Class Trail”

“The routes will connect destinations beyond Dripping Springs and will take advantage of opportunities to reach the proposed Violet Crown Trail and other regional trails and parks planned for Central Texas.” Read more and get involved. The City of Dripping Springs is soliciting input.

West’s historic drought stokes fears of water crisis

“Streams and lakes have long since shriveled up in many parts of the state, and now the aquifers — always a backup source during the region’s periodic droughts — are being pumped away at rates that scientists say are both historic and unsustainable.” The Texas Hill Country can learn from today’s water crisis in California. Read more from the Washington Post.

Rainwater Revival Returns to Dripping Springs on October 25

Look to the sky for your water supply—and learn how to capture and use it at the fifth annual Rainwater Revival, which returns to Dripping Springs on October 25. The popular and free edu-fest event is put on by the Hill Country Alliance. “We began our part-educational, part-fun fest in Dripping Springs in 2010, and after two years there we took the event on the road to other parts of the Hill Country,” said Event Chair Karen Ford. “We’re happy to be coming ‘home’ to share the latest information about rainwater conservation and harvesting at Dripping Springs Ranch Park. Learn more

Lack of Shared Dream Challenges Management of Rural, Open Space

“The population growth has had some obvious impacts, For one, there are a lot more straws, big and small, taking from the groundwater supply.” David K. Langford tells the audience at a recent private lands summit hosted by the Texas Wildlife Association. Read more from Livestock Weekly.

NPSOT Native Landscape Certification Program - Register Now for 2014 Fall Classes

The Native Plant Society of Texas Native Landscape Certification Program is a series of courses that teaches best practices for native plant landscape and habitat preservation. Targeted audiences are homeowners, native plant enthusiasts, landscape architects, architects, landscape designers and nurserymen, Master Naturalists, teachers, citizens, Master Gardeners, engineers, and more. Learn more and register.

San Antonio Mulls $3 Billion Water Supply Project

Depending on whom you ask, San Antonio might either be on the cusp of securing its water future at a relatively low cost, or it is pinning most of its hopes on a multibillion-dollar boondoggle that could diminish the water supply for fast-growing Central Texas and wouldn’t deliver what San Antonio expects. Read more from the Texas Tribune

Hill Country Alliance Announces Winners of Photography Contest for 2015 Calendar

“It’s through photographs like these that we help share the importance of protecting our Hill Country environment, and one of the reasons our calendar has been so popular with both area residents and nature lovers worldwide,” said Milan J. Michalec, board president of HCA. Read More

Our Desired Future at the Legislature and in the Field

“The 2013 Legislative Session may have been all about water, but it's clear from the Committee testimony that 2015 will be the year of groundwater. Across Central Texas, groundwater is the next big play. But is it really the only alternative to drought-stricken reservoirs?” Learn more about the work of Sharlene Leurig as she travels Texas uncovering and telling the stories of our water.

Subdivision on subdivision violence in the Texas Hill Country

"This is often the case -- and is happening more and more in the increasingly crowded Hill Country suburbs of Austin: Recent transplants bristling at the prospect of new development next door. It's probably true that a new subdivision will ruin Hill Country views -- but weren't those views also ruined with the previous subdivision and the one before that? Wells could very well go dry, the night stars will surely be more obscured, roads will see more traffic, and waterways may be polluted: Obviously the risk of those things coming to pass only increases with more development. Thus, subdivision on subdivision violence." Read the full story from Statesman.com.

During Drought, Once-Mighty Texas Rice Belt Fades Away

“This is the state’s youngest land – a vast accumulation of sediment, slowly left behind during ages of floods. From the high Hill Country, the Colorado River carried dirt down to the flatlands, extending Texas’ coastline over millions of years. The region was literally created by water.” Read the full story from State Impact.

Hill Country Land Trust Celebrates 15 Years

The Hill Country Land Trust (HCLT), headquartered in Fredericksburg, Texas, is celebrating 15 years of land conservation work. In 1998, a group of like-minded people including Trudy Vars Harris, Terry Hershey, and others from the Fredericksburg area started meeting as a group with the goal in mind to conserve and protect the Hill Country from the break up of family lands, loss of wildlife habitat, and degradation of water resources and scenic views. Learn more

Enchanted Rock International ‘Dark Sky’ Status!

Copper Breaks and Enchanted Rock, which were awarded the highest “Gold-tier” night skies status by IDA, join Big Bend National Park and the City of Dripping Springs as the only locations in Texas to have earned the coveted Dark Sky Places recognition. Learn more

CARD Hosts a Community Water Meeting September 11

Today the supply of water for our area is adequate. But we know additional growth is bringing many more people and businesses. As responsible, foresighted citizens, we must consider how we can assure a reliable supply of water for our own future, and for those who follow us. To help us all learn more about the risks facing our community and our future, CARD will host a free Community Meeting September 11 in Wimberley. Details

LCRA Accepting Applications for Regional Councils

LCRA is accepting applications through August for membership on its four Regional Councils, groups of volunteers who provide an important link between LCRA and the communities it serves. Regional Council members meet several times a year to discuss regional topics involving LCRA services in their communities. Members pass along information from council meetings to their local communities to provide a clear, accurate understanding of issues related to LCRA. Read more

Limits to outdoor watering become a permanent part of the Texas landscape

Cities across Texas have adopted water conservation policies that limit outdoor lawn irrigation as a way to reduce water waste and stretch existing water supplies. The City of Fort Worth is among the most recent to adopt no more than twice per week lawn watering as part of their “always-in-effect” water conservation policy. Read more from Texas Living Waters.

LCRA and City of Mason award $24,000 to Odeon Preservation Association for LED lighting

The Odeon Preservation Association (OPA) will be able to purchase and install LED stage lighting for Mason’s historic Odeon Theater with the help of a $24,000 community development grant. Learn more

The Source: Calls For Development Freeze Over Recharge Zone

Water conservation advocates are calling on the San Antonio Water System to cease permits for service to new developments over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone until a plan for growth can be established. The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance wants to ensure less ground cover for the area that refills our water supply. Read more from TPR.

"Destination Junction" Community Meeting All Invited

The South Llano Watershed Alliance invites all persons interested in protecting and restoring the confluence of the North Llano River and South Llano River to attend a community meeting on Thursday, July 31st at 6pm in the Kimble County Courthouse. Topics to include: Strengths of our Water Resources, Fundamentals of Hill Country Rivers, creating a Land of Living Waters Nature Center and Effective Water Quality Protection Measures for Development in the Hill Country. Learn more

Can brush control program enhance water supplies?

“A state program meant to encourage old-school range management and new-school water saving methods has become the subject of a peculiarly Texas controversy. The State Soil and Water Conservation Board will decide Monday how to disburse millions of dollars to clear brush from ranches in the name of boosting water supplies. Money has already been set aside for projects to begin this summer.” Read more from Asher Price at Statesman.com.

Call for 2015 Rainwater Revival Exhibitors!

HCA is currently looking for Rainwater Harvesting and related businesses and organizations to exhibit at the 2015 Rainwater Revival! This one-day “edu-fest” is the perfect opportunity to meet one-on-one with citizens interested in water conservation, rainwater harvesting and native landscaping. Become an exhibitor today.

Certified Interpretive Guide Training Workshop Just added for August at Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center

Do you want to create meaningful experiences that last a lifetime? HCA is offering an Interpretive Guide Training workshop that will help you connect the minds and hearts of your audience to the beauty of nature and the mysteries of history. Register now, class size limited. Details

To protect aquifer, limit SAWS service

“Now that San Antonio Water Systems is considering acquisition of new water supplies from the Vista Ridge project, the prospect that these supplies will be used to expand development over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone looms large. By approving these utility service agreements, SAWS opens up new areas of highly sensitive aquifer lands to high density development.” Read an open letter to SAWS by Annalisa Peace as published in the San Antonio Express News.

Conservation Groups Encourage Input on State Water Funding Rules

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has proposed agency rules to govern the use of a new state water project fund approved by voters last November with the passage of Proposition 6. State conservation groups are encouraging Texans to take the opportunity to review and comment on the proposed rules. Hearings on the rules begin next Thursday, July 24 in San Antonio, with additional public hearings set for August 13 in San Angelo and August 21 in Fort Worth. In addition TWDB is taking comments via email and postal mail or through a portal on the agency’s website. Read more from Ken Kramer. A guest commentary was published in the San Antonio Express News today by Luke Metzger of Environment Texas. Read “State Water Fund Rules a Big Deal.”

Cibolo Conservancy sets Aug. 6 workshop to help families protect land, get tax incentives

A workshop exploring how families can legally protect and preserve the legacy of their land – and be eligible for tax relief at the same time – will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 6, at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm auditorium. Details

Texas Tribune Q&A with Karen Ford

“There are two schools of thought. One is we are not going to build our way out of this, and I’ve heard other people say we’re not going to conserve our way out of this. I have to take issue. I think we really are going to have to adopt as a citizenry a new water ethic in the way we think about and use water. And the way we look at our landscapes. And the way we value our large landscapes and understanding the role that they play in our water supply.” Read More

HCA's Certified Interpretive Guide Training Workshop Returns October 14-17 in San Antonio

Do you want to create meaningful experiences that last a lifetime? HCA is offering an Interpretive Guide Training workshop that will help you connect the minds and hearts of your audience to the beauty of nature and the mysteries of history. Register now, class size limited. Details

AgriLife Extension sets Living Waters Conference for August 19 in Junction

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will conduct the Living Waters Conference beginning at 8 a.m. Aug. 19 at the Texas Tech Junction Center, 254 Red Raider Lane in Junction. “This is a well-rounded program that centers on topics relating to watersheds, riparian areas and best management practices for managing cattle, horses and feral hogs along these fragile environmental areas.” Details

Plans for Texas 45 Southwest bring quest to document historical sites

“Environmentalists eye the proposed road’s path over the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer. Fans of the tollway note how it would provide an alternative to congested roadways. History enthusiasts, though, see what’s not on the map. They see land that the Spanish first traveled in the late 1600s, that stagecoaches traversed beginning in the mid-1800s, and they worry that the proposed tollway — and the additional development it would likely bring — would erase that rich past. That little-heard concern about growth has prompted the Travis County Historical Commission to begin a survey of properties in Southwest Travis County.” Read more from Andra Lim at Statesman.com here.

How to Inspire Millions More Americans to Ride Bicycles

“Over the past five years we’re seeing an infrastructure revolution, a rethinking of our streets to accommodate more users — busways, public plazas, space for pedestrians and, of course, bike lanes,” said David Vega-Barachowitz of the National Association of City Transportation Officials. “More protected bike lanes is one of the most important parts of this.” Read the full story from the Rivard Report here.

Proposed Truck Stop along the Llano River draws concerns

Hill Country conservationists including HCA have expressed concerns over a proposed Pilot Flying J truck stop to be constructed close to the North Llano River in Junction. “The South Llano Watershed Alliance (SLWA) is a non-profit organization of landowners and interested stakeholders whose mission is to preserve and enhance the South Llano River and adjoining watersheds by encouraging land and water stewardship through collaboration, education, and community participation. Since our inception in 2009, SLWA has partnered with other local, state, and federal agencies and organizations to develop and participate in programs that to date have brought in nearly $3 million in research and restoration efforts in the local community.” Read the SLWA letter of concern urging for more time for due diligence.

LCRA and PEC Award $25,000 to Old Blanco County Courthouse for Masonry Repair

The Old Blanco County Courthouse Preservation Society will be able to repair masonry and stone on the building’s exterior, thanks to a $25,000 community development grant. The Lower Colorado River Authority and Pedernales Electric Cooperative provided the grant to repair and replace mortar and stone in critical areas of the old courthouse on Blanco’s downtown square. Details

Water Planners Focus on Bigger Texas, Not a Hotter One

After Texans overwhelmingly approved spending $2 billion in public funds on new water infrastructure projects last November, Republicans and Democrats alike hailed the state’s ability to solve its water woes in the wake of explosive growth and debilitating drought. But as state water planners prepare to spend that money and address Texas’ water needs in the coming decades, they are only planning for a bigger Texas — not a hotter one. More from the Texas Tribune.

Travis County attempts to guide surging growth in unincorporated areas

"One difficulty is that the county has little say in what ultimately gets built on unincorporated land." This issue is felt in Bexar, Kendall, Comal, Hays, Burnet, Bandera and all of the rapidly expanding counties throughout the Hill Country. Read the full story in the Austin American Statesman. Learn more about the County Authority issue here.

HCC Ruby Ranch – A Conservation Success

The Hill Country Conservancy (HCC) announces a new conservation easement. 747-acre Ruby Ranch, a historical property in Hays County, is the final piece of the puzzle that will result in over 10,000 acres of contiguous open space. As rapid development continues in the region, it has become harder and harder for families to keep lands together and intact. Like many ranching families, the Ruby’s felt the burden of these pressures. This property has been in the Ruby family since the 1930s. Read more from HCC.

Taller billboards could be coming to Texas

Billboards designed to get people’s attention could be getting taller. In a proposal the Texas Department of Transportation has rolled out, drivers on interstates, major roadways and rural areas could see signs as high as 65 feet tall. “It may seem like a small thing coming from a city, but it’s really a big deal and can really negatively impact your experience of Texas Hill Country,” said Katherine Romans with the Hill Country Alliance. Comments can be submitted through July 14th. Read the full story from KXAN. Learn more about Billboards in the Hill Country from HCA here.

GEAA making a difference in and around San Antonio

The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) has consistently opposed utility service contracts for new developments in the Edwards Aquifer watershed. Of particular concern are contracts for sewer service, which allow for much higher density development and have the potential to pollute the Aquifer with high volume sewage leaks. Find out how you can get involved and influence the upcoming SAWS board agenda, July 17th. Learn more from GEAA.

Who Stole the Water?

As the water crisis in Texas continues to escalate, it is becoming a topic of national interest. This article illustrates that the prospect of dried up springs, streams, and lakes in our Hill Country and the bays of Texas is provoking anger far and wide. One thing to note, “waste” is NOT permitted under the rule of capture, although the article alludes that it is. The author Paul Solotaroff, holds back nothing; ecology, water rights, politics, greed, all part of the story. Read more from Men’s Journal.

Rainwater harvesting communities find fertile ground in Hill Country

While traditional developers scramble for scarce water resources, sustainable development in the Hill Country is happening right under our noses. Several water-neutral projects incorporating rainwater harvesting systems are in progress and more are in the planning stages. With proper consideration and non-invasive infrastructure, the Hill Country gets enough rain even - in the worst drought year - to supply a home’s water needs. Local builder and The Hill Country Alliance’s own Paul Sumrall is featured in the following Austin American Statesman news story written by Andra Lin. Click here to read.

Here’s 5 Challenges to Texas Water That Might Surprise You

"Beyond those two big-ticket items — how to pay for water supplies and how to regulate water underground — there are some other smaller challenges the state faces when it comes to water. At a hearing by the House Natural Resources Committee Thursday, several state agencies told lawmakers about the water challenges they’re dealing with." Read more from State Impact.

Green Spaces Alliance Hires New Executive Director

Julia Murphy has been tapped as the next Executive Director of Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas. As the creator of the San Antonio Bikes program at the City of San Antonio's Office of Sustainability, Julia has managed a number of important initiatives as the city is changing its image from a fat city to a fit city and a stronger environmental conscience. Read more

Ensuring sufficient water supplies in Texas

As the current drought sweeping Texas and the Southwest continues, state leaders work to create rules and procedures for wisely administering the $2 billion in water infrastructure loan funds approved overwhelmingly by legislators and voters in 2013. Investments made through this program are critical to the future of Texas and will come none too soon, particularly those investments related to water conservation. Read more from the Houston Chronicle.

Comprehensive rating system released for developing sustainable landscapes

The most comprehensive system for developing sustainable landscapes, the SITES v2 Rating System, has been released by the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ program for use by landscape practitioners, developers, policy-makers and others that work in land design and development. Learn More

TPWD announces wildlife management area seminars

The Kerr and Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Areas are planning on opening their doors for a series of workshops on a wide range of wildlife topics. The three-part series will be organized with a combination of lectures and outdoor field-trips. These outings are free and open to the public, though a reservation is appreciated. Workshops run August through October. More details can be found here.

The Ebb and Flow of a Sustainable Water Plan

As the drought in Texas has intensified over the last several years, the water plan has taken on new prominence. A new report from the Texas Center for Policy Studies examines whether the planning process is producing useful results, and, if not, how it can be improved. Read more from Mary Kelly.

Texas Watershed Steward Workshop, July 17 in Dripping Springs

The AgriLife Extension will be hosting a free, one-day educational workshop designed to help watershed residents improve and protect their water resources by getting involved in local watershed protection and management activities. Learn more

First Home Powered by the Sun in Mason

Mason County Habitat for Humanity completed the first Solar PV (photovoltaic) system powered home in the city of Mason. The house was constructed to the latest green building standards and to the 2102 building code energy requirements. Read more from Mason County News.

Rainwater harvesting: simple idea, big benefits

Installing a rainwater collection system costs about the same or less than drilling a well but offers multiple advantages, making it the more economical and environmentally-friendly choice in the long run. Most importantly, rainwater collection systems do not deplete underlying aquifers the way wells do, making them much more reliable sources of water. Read more from the Hondo Anvil Herald.

Don't count your El Niño before it hatches

Much has been said in recent weeks and months about the development of an El Niño system this fall that could bring a "wetter than average" season to Texas and the Hill Country, possibly ending our region's recent drought. The latest satellite images have led some to urge caution in an overly optimistic El Niño forecast. Find more details in this AgriLife article.

Texas Today: A Sea of the Wrong Grasses

This article from 2010 contains timeless insight about exotic grasses in our landscape. "With the elimination of a few native weeds, wildflowers and bunchgrasses in a pasture overcome with an exotic grass, comes elimination of a few bugs that live only on a single wildflower, a few weed seeds, and a few quail nesting sites." When you extrapolate that across Hill Country, you start seeing fewer butterflies, insects, quail, native wildflowers, grasses and other species- declines that compound year after year. A worthwhile reminder of the importance of natives. Read more

Better Lights for Better Nights Conference

The City of Dripping Springs, in partnership with the International Dark Sky Association Texas (IDA Texas), will host the Better Lights for Better Nights Conference on Friday, August 15, 2014 at the Dripping Springs Ranch Park Events Center. Details

TWDB Board to approve financial assistance at Board meeting on June 18

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) will hold a Board meeting to approve financial assistance for numerous water projects across the state. Projects to be considered for financial assistance include emergency water supply and water supply projects, wastewater treatment plant improvements, a new wastewater treatment plant and an agricultural conservation center. Learn more

Hill Country Alliance Urges Texas Water Development Board to Make Conservation Priority in Funding State Water Projects

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) soon will announce draft rules and priorities for how SWIFT funds will be spent. In advance of that announcement, the Hill Country Alliance (HCA) convened a roundtable discussion in Blanco on June 4th where HCA board, advisory team and other water and land stewardship experts discussed a range of solutions that could save money and provide water to see the state through future severe droughts. Read more

Rainwater Revival call for sponsors and exhibitors

HCA is currently accepting sponsor and exhibitor applications for the 5th annual Rainwater Revival to be held October 25th in Dripping Springs. Help HCA promote rainwater harvesting as a viable Hill Country water supply. Rainwater collection professionals and enthusiasts will gather for this “edufest” designed to teach and inspire the practice of rainwater collection. This event will be open to the public and free to attend. Learn more and get involved.

TWA On-Demand Webinar Previews on iTunes U

The Texas Wildlife Association has collaborated with the Texas Education Agency to create On-demand youth webinars. This educational tool for teachers and parents is a great resource for teaching our next generation about taking care of the natural world. Learn more]

Smart Growth Online

Around the county, communities are choosing healthy solutions for how our cities and towns respond to population growth. Smart Growth Online is a great resource for the latest trends in green infrastructure, urban agriculture, walkable and transit oriented developments and innovative development practices. The next generation is demanding a better way than traditional sprawl patterns. Find helpful articles, events and resources here.

Three Hill Country Schools Win Rainwater Revival Grants to Fund Water Conservation Projects

Impressed by the quality of proposals for its rainwater harvesting and conservation grant program, the Hill Country Alliance is awarding three – instead of the planned two – $1,000 grants to Hill Country schools to help teachers and students design and implement water-saving techniques. Read more

Severe drought calls for conservation throughout basin

There is nothing more important to our communities than a reliable water supply – our homes, our businesses, our very lives, depend on it. As we enter the seventh summer of this severe drought – and despite the recent rain in Central Texas – it is more essential than ever that everyone in the lower Colorado River basin do their part to conserve water. Read more

SARA Announces Inaugural Environmental Film Fest

The San Antonio River Authority (SARA) has announced it will host the agency’s first Environmental Film Fest to help commemorate National Rivers Month in June. Learn more

Our Texas Drought, What’s Happening?

“If we want to have a Texas similar to the one our parents enjoyed, with good clean water, reasonably priced food, healthy rivers and quality bays, we are going to have to do the right thing starting at home and then carry those ideals to our counties, towns, and to Austin in particular. WATER IS LIFE!” Read more from Mike Mecke, published in Ranch & Rural Living Magazine.

Guarding San Antonio’s Eternal Water Future

“The path to a secure water future – and thus, our economic prosperity – was largely written when this area was first settled over the Edwards Aquifer centuries ago. Sound planning will be necessary to ensure clean and abundant water for generations to come and to maintain the aquifer as a primary strategic economic and environmental asset.” Read more from San Antonio Councilman Ron Nirenberg published in the Rivard Report.

Debate over Substation near Fredericksburg

“(Public reaction) is ranging from really high negative feelings, just outrage. I’ve talked to some landowners that were in tears,” Katherine Peake, an area landowner who also serves as president of the Hill Country Land Trust, said. “I’m convinced it’s needed. It’s just how can we minimize the impact of the lines and the substation?” Read more from the Fredericksburg Standard.

ASR and Texas water resources: A tool whose time has come?

With booming water demands and shrinking supplies, water resource managers in Central Texas and beyond are increasingly considering ASR -- aquifer storage and recovery -- as a tool for generating reliable groundwater supplies. While ASR is becoming more common throughout the rest of the U.S. and around the world, Texas has been slow to adopt the technology. Is it time for that to change? Read more

Rainwater harvesting ‘soaking in’ as way to conserve Texas’ water resources

After a long dry period, many parts of the state have finally received some badly needed rain, and those with rainwater harvesting systems have been reaping the rewards of this belated gift from Mother Nature, said Texas A&M AgriLife water resources experts. Read more

Austin Rides to the Front

Did you know that Austin’s green lanes, or cycle tracks, like the one you see on Guadalupe along The Drag or on Blue Bonnet Lane were inspired by the Netherlands and Denmark, where one-third to one-half of residents travel by bike daily? The improvements to Austin’s bike-friendly infrastructure and culture, including its recent designation as a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, is featured in this month’s Planning Magazine, the magazine for the American Planning Association.

Milan J. Michalec elected President of the Cow Creek GCD

“I’m honored for the vote of confidence given by my fellow directors,” Michalec said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to maintain, and more importantly, to advance the reputation of the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District as one of the most forward-thinking and effective districts in Texas. Read more from the Boerne Star.

Meet Andrew Murr

Former Kimble County Judge, Republican Andrew Murr won the Republican nomination for House District 53 last night. This seat includes Bandera, Crockett, Edwards, Kerr, Kimble, Llano, Mason, Medina, Menard, Real, Schleicher, Sutton counties, a district represented by Harvey Hilderbran since 1988. Andrew’s an 8th generation Texan, descendant of a pioneering family of one of our brave defenders of the Alamo, and grandson of former Governor Coke R. Stevenson. Learn more

Award-winning rainwater capture system crowning achievement of retiring Bandera High teacher

Congratulations to Brad Flink, who’s RWH project was honored by the Texas Water Development Board with its Texas Rain Catcher Award. HCA’s Rainwater Revival grant program provided support to document this project and create a model for other campuses. The stormwater retention and reuse system created by students is capable of holding 84,000 gallons for irrigating the Bulldogs' baseball field. Read more from Zeke MacCormak and the SA Express News.

Support for Low Impact Development

Low Impact Development (LID) is a comprehensive approach to site planning, design, and pollution prevention that attempts to minimize downstream impacts of land development by matching the pre-development runoff condition and creating a more sustainable and ecologically functional landscape. Read more from the Central Texas Land/Water Sustainability Forum.

Lawn alternatives gain popularity but ‘carpet grass’ remains norm

At a glance, Boerne shows up as an emerald dot on a NASA map of lawns. The area’s cultivated green St. Augustine or “carpet” grass also figures as a fraction of Duke University data in which 40.5 million acres are said to be covered by lawns across the nation. Accompanying that NASA-sponsored lawn-map is a statistic claiming that more than 7 billion gallons of water are used every year to maintain lawns. Lawns are, according to that site, “the single largest irrigated crop in America in terms of surface area.” Read part one of the two-part series from Boerne Star.

EPA Releases EnviroAtlas Ecosystem Mapping Tool

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released EnviroAtlas, a web-based interactive tool that integrates over 300 separate data layers, helps decision makers understand the implications of planning and policy decisions on our fragile ecosystems and the communities who depend on goods and services from these ecosystems. Learn more

Landowners in transmission line study area encouraged to send input by this Friday, May 30

A proposed transmission line and substation will affect Gillespie, Blanco and Kendall Counties. LCRA is requesting input using its “Project Questionnaire.” by this Friday. Read this helpful “Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions” fact sheet from Braun and Gresham. Learn more about the recent public meeting, links for additional information and what to expect next here. “We can insist on guarantees from LCRA and CTEC that once located, the lines and the substation will be built with regard for minimum aesthetic and environmental impact.” Read this letter to the editor from Hill Country neighbors.

Thinking about becoming a Master Naturalist?

The Hill Country Master Naturalists are now recruiting for their Fall Class. With a mission to “develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities.” HCMN works in Bandera, Gillespie, Kendall, Kerr, Edwards, Real, Kimble, Mason and Menard Counties. Learn more about how to apply. There are several other Master Naturalist programs in the Hill Country. Find a chapter near you.

Managers Discuss Hill Country’s Water Resources And The Drouth

The Trinity Aquifer and the Upper Guadalupe River are major components of the hill country’s available water supply. While these water resources typically do not receive as much attention as the more prominent Edwards Aquifer, for example, with the rapidly growing population in this part of the state their importance has never been more crucial. Read more from Livestock Weekly.

Electric Project Open House Draws Large Crowd

An estimated 200 people attended an open house May 15th in Stonewall to learn more about the proposed Blumenthal substation and 138-kV transmission line project that will affect that area. Representatives from the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), Central Texas Electric Cooperative (CTEC) and the consulting firm Power Engineers, were on hand to answer questions and receive input regarding the study area. Learn more

Environmental and economic protection through water supply development

Recent rainfall in Austin delivered more water to the Gulf, but little to lakes Travis and Buchanan, the area’s water supply reservoirs. With near average rainfall the last two years and the lakes continuing to fall, a historic flood or an extremely wet year is necessary to replenish central Texas water supplies and avoid the unthinkable. Read more from Tom Hegemier of the Central Texas Land Water Sustainability Forum.

Western Hill Country Ranch honored by TPWD

Congratulations to Ruthie and Johnnie Russell for being recognized by TPWD as a Lone Star Land Steward. The Russell’s chose to enact a conservation easement on their property because of growing pressure of land fragmentation. “Ranchettes make it difficult to conserve land on the scale necessary to keep habitat intact and ecological systems functioning” Ruthie said. Read more from the Texas Agricultural Land Trust and enjoy a great video about the Sycamore Ranch here.

Wildscape proves to be sustainable landscape alternative

“As the drought deepens, as water rationing becomes the norm, as human population booms and as indicator wildlife populations drastically decline, people are stuck wondering what kind of world we will leave to the next generations,” Read more from George Cates of Native American Seed, published in the Boerne Star.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Awarded Grant to Support Landowners in the Pedernales River Watershed

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) was recently awarded $100,000 in grants to protect the Texas state fish, Guadalupe Bass, in the Pedernales River basin. TPWD will be working with the Hill Country Alliance to identify willing landowners for habitat conservation work within the Pedernales catchment- an area totaling more than 800,000 acres in the heart of the Hill Country. Funds will be available on a competitive basis for cost-share projects, and will benefit the whole health of the river system. Learn More

Comfort Heritage Foundation Recognizes David K. Langford

David K. Langford is being honored for his local stewardship and the book, Hillingdon Ranch: Four Season, Six Generations. Langford is one of four recipients of the Comfort Heritage Foundation's annual award for outstanding contributions to the preservation of the heritage and culture of Comfort. The awards will be presented May 31st. Read More

Seeing Stars in Dripping Springs

As Texas booms, the state is less and less able to brag that the stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas. In the big cities and the sprawling suburbs, and even in Far West Texas near the McDonald Observatory, light pollution is increasingly limiting our ability to enjoy the night sky. But the Hill Country town of Dripping Springs is showing that the starry skies can be preserved or restored even as the state grows. Associate Editor Forrest Wilder writes about the growing dark skies movement and how unlike many environmental woes—climate change, for instance, or the extinction of species—light pollution is eminently reversible. More from the Texas Observer.

Judge’s Corner: Judge makes his stance on groundwater

Water is not only a property right, it is essential to the health and welfare of all Texas citizens. For that reason, groundwater conservation districts are authorized by Texas law to protect this resource of our great state. There are now 100 such districts throughout the state. These local boards are to oversee, regulate, limit, and conserve the groundwater resources of Texas for the public’s benefit now and in the future. More from Statesman.com.

Enlightening New Report on Texas Water Planning

A report issued by the non-profit Texas Center for Policy Studies (TCPS) finds that the current water planning process in Texas tends to over-estimate future water demand and under-estimate the potential for making better use of existing supplies. “This report shows that, with more reasonable demand projections and better use of conservation and drought management, the demand/supply gap in 2060 is less than one-half that predicted by the current 2012 State Water Plan issued by TWDB. Read more and download the report from TCPS. Read more from the Texas Tribune, “How Much Water Will Texas Really Need by 2060?”

Fair Oaks Ranch project raises water concerns in Comal County

“The Reserve at Fair Oaks Ranch is exactly the kind of proposed development that Rep. Doug Miller long has cited in calls to create a groundwater conservation district in Comal County…after four years of litigation, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recently gave up its efforts to force Comal and Travis counties to create groundwater districts or join existing ones in neighboring counties.” “We would have liked to see the process continue,” said Milan J. Michalec, president of the Hill Country Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting natural resources. “There should be a district there and pumping should be managed by the appropriate authority.” - Read more from SA Express-News.

Landowners in Gillespie, Blanco and Kendall Counties

An open house will be held this Thursday, May 15th regarding a new LCRA electric substation and transmission line project in the Blumenthal area east of Fredericksburg. The meeting will be held at the Stonewall Chamber of Commerce from 5:30 – 7:30. Learn more and let your neighbors know.

San Marcos to offer rebates for rainwater harvest systems

The City of San Marcos Public Works Department is implementing a new program to help its customers conserve water. Through this program water customers can receive rebates for purchasing and installing rain barrels and large rainwater tank systems. Private home systems may qualify for up to $5,000, while commercial, institutional and multi-family systems may receive as much as $20,000 in rebates. Learn More

Keep Rivers Flowing

“Innovative Strategies to Protect and Restore Rivers,” is a 3-part webinar series designed to inform people about strategies to ensure the future health of Texas’ rivers, bays and estuaries. If you missed session one, presentations delivered by Myron Hess, Andy Sansom and Brian Richter are posted on the Texas Living Waters website. Mark your calendars and register now for the next two sessions scheduled for May 29th and June 25th. Great work by our friends at Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation and the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.

CASE CLOSED: Disappointment for Hill Country Aquifer Protection

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently halted a process that could have created groundwater conservation districts (GCDs) in some of the fasted growing areas of the Hill Country. TCEQ Executive Director Richard Hyde successfully petitioned the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) with a motion to dismiss the case that had been underway since 2010 to create GCDs in Western Travis and Western Comal counties. The request was granted January 27, 2014, and the case is now closed. Read More

May tour of Night Sky events scheduled in the Hill Country

HCA is hosting Night Sky educational programs the week of May 12th – 16th in Fredericksburg, Llano, Marble Falls and at the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. The HCA Night Sky Team welcomes Bill Wren of the McDonald Observatory back to the Hill Country to teach and inspire about proper lighting for the night sky. This is one of our most widely popular educational programs; we are discovering a growing regional consensus about the importance of protecting our starry Hill Country sky. Learn More

Hill Country Alliance Adds New Staff to Focus on Water Policy and Landowner Outreach Programs

The Hill Country Alliance is pleased to welcome two new full-time staff members, Charlie Flatten and Katherine Romans, who will respectively manage the organization’s water policy and landowner outreach programs. Read More

Water Development Board’s ombudsman will help towns navigate the process

Senator Troy Fraser and Carolos Rubinstein visited Fredericksburg last week to introduce TWDB’s new “rural ombudsman” Doug Shaw. “We hope underground aquifer storage becomes commonplace, as it is less intrusive than new reservoirs and it suffers less evaporation….But everyone will have to pitch in to begin thinking about and using water in more efficient ways.” Read more from the Fredericksburg Standard.

Bandera High School Among TWDB’s Texas Rain Catcher Award Winners

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) announced recently that Bandera High School is among the winners of its annual Texas Rain Catcher Award, a rainwater harvesting competition and recognition program. The award recognizes excellence in the application of rainwater harvesting systems in Texas, promotes the technology, and educates the public. Learn More

Wind farm and transmission line updates from SOSHE

Final CREZ lines have been completed, a public meeting will be held in Stonewall May 15th regarding the Blumenthal Substation and new transmission line, The first major wind farm in Central Texas is now online in Mills County. Learn more from the most recent Save Our Scenic Hill Country (SOSHE) newsletter.

Strong Towns Curbside Chat Thursday, May 8th, 6–7:30pm at the LBJ Museum in San Marcos

Meet Chuck Marohn, President of Strong Towns for a candid talk and conversation about the future of America’s cities, towns and neighborhoods. “The current approach to growth emphasizes investments in new infrastructure to serve or induce new development. This approach uses public dollars inefficiently, destructively subsidizes one type of development over another and leaves massive maintenance liabilities to future generations.” Event Details

Texas Riparian & Stream Ecosystem Workshop

The Texas Water Resources Institute’s Texas Riparian and Stream Ecosystem Education Program will host a workshop from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. May 13 in Kerrville for area residents interested in land and water stewardship in the Upper Guadalupe watershed. Learn More

City Wastewater Discharge May Threaten Clear-running Creeks and Water Wells

Some water experts believe Hill Country clear-running creeks and streams may soon be a thing of the past if cities are permitted to discharge treated wastewater directly into creeks such as Onion Creek. Water wells may also become contaminated. Read More

Keeping Rivers Flowing: Innovative Strategies to Protect and Restore Rivers - Starts April 30

"Keeping Rivers Flowing" is a free three-part webinar series designed to inform interested persons about strategies to ensure the future health of Texas' rivers, bays and estuaries. Drawing on practical experience from here in Texas and around the world, speakers will discuss innovative approaches for ensuring that rivers, bays and estuaries continue to get the flow needed to protect water quality and support healthy fish and wildlife populations. Learn More

Common Misperceptions Regarding Land and Wildlife Management in Central Texas

There’s a lot of bad information floating around in the Hill Country regarding land management, in addition to a lot of good information. Sometimes it is difficult to sort out the bad from the good. Misinformation can come from a variety of sources – the coffee shop, the feed store, magazine articles, well meaning neighbors and even natural resource professionals. By clarifying some of the common misperceptions, people will be able to make better decisions regarding natural resources. Steve’s writings are timeless. Read more from Steve Nelle and educate your neighbors.

Join HCA at Upcoming Bennett Trust Education Program: Protecting the Legacy of the Edwards Plateau

The Bennett Trust will host its first ever land stewardship and education conference April 23-25 in Kerrville. Wyman Meinzer, state photographer of Texas, will deliver the keynote address on the history and legacy of the Edwards Plateau. Attendees will also have the opportunity to visit local ranches, vineyards and orchards to learn more about sustainable practices in horticulture, forage production and wildlife management. Learn More

TWDB opens SWIFT for public comment

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has opened their State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) rules making process for public comment. Participation in the rules making process is critical to ensure that the intentions of the State Legislature are carried out in the long-term administration of the State’s SWIFT funds. The HCA has submitted a list of recommendations to the TWDB that will help ensure spring and stream-flow sustainability in the Hill Country.

PEC Candidate Forum April 24th in Johnson City

The Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) is hosting a candidates forum for two board of director seats up for election this year. The meeting will be held 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 24 at PEC Headquarters, 201 S. Ave. F in Johnson City. The event will also include discussion of a ballot referendum on whether to switch to single-member district elections for board directors. Learn more about the candidates from the San Marcos Mercury. Learn more about the process and forum from the PEC.

Hays County makes pitch for agency to secure, divvy up water

The Hays County Commissioners Court is actively searching for partners in a quest to supply water for the future growth expected west of I-35. Additionally, developers, water marketers, and local politicians are looking for new sources of water that will provide for that growth. The Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer east of I-35 is being marketed as an abundant resource ready for export into the Hill Country that would supplement the Hill Country’s already strained Trinity Aquifer. This Austin American Statesman article by Andra Lim reports on a recent Hays, Travis and Williamson combined County Commissioners Court meeting to explore the formation of a regional water grid that would pipe water from Bastrop and Lee Counties to points west of I-35.

Hays County makes pitch for agency to secure, divvy up water

The Hays County Commissioners Court is actively searching for partners in a quest to supply water for the future growth expected west of I-35. Additionally, developers, water marketers, and local politicians are looking for new sources of water that will provide for that growth. The Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer east of I-35 is being marketed as an abundant resource ready for export into the Hill Country that would supplement the Hill Country’s already strained Trinity Aquifer. This Austin American Statesman article by Andra Lim reports on a recent Hays, Travis and Williamson combined County Commissioners Court meeting to explore the formation of a regional water grid that would pipe water from Bastrop and Lee Counties to points west of I-35.

Sky Lewey, HCA Board Member receives Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Award

Sky has been selected to receive a “Lone Star Land Steward Award” for her work in education and outreach for the Nueces River Authority in Uvalde County. “Sky Lewey is a conservation educator with extraordinary leadership and dedication. A key figure in the efforts to restore healthy riparian function to the Nueces River Basin and beyond.” David Langford, HCA Advisor, and his wife Myrna are also receiving an award for their landowner cooperative in Kendall County. Congratulations HCA leaders! Read more from TPWD.

To Deal With Drought, Texas Needs to Manage Growth

“With the exception of the lower Rio Grande Valley and small parts of Far West Texas, much of the state has received less than 50 percent of normal rainfall,” reads TWDB’s most recent report. “This doesn’t bode well for the next six months. A dry winter generally portends a dry spring and summer.” Read more from Nextcity.org.

Amazing rally for Bracken Bat Cave

Bat Conservation International has inspired major support to prevent intense development of 1500 acres adjacent to Bracken Cave from the City of San Antonio, Mayor Julian Castro, City Councilman Ron Nirenberg, The Kronkosky Charitable Foundation and others. Find out more about recent negotiations to save the cave and learn about upcoming opportunities to personally visit Bracken Bat Cave and see the bats take flight.

The Great Grassland Myth of the Texas Hill Country

How many times have you heard that the Hill Country was once a great vast grassland with only a modest covering of trees and brush? Although this longstanding myth is deeply ingrained and embraced by many government agencies, biologists, landowners and professionals, it is false and misleading. Learn what the Hill Country was really like prior to 1860 from eye-witness accounts, and why it is important to understand the past. Read and share from Steve Nelle.

Georgetown moves to limit residential lawns and landscaping to save water

“The rules require residential developers to use only drought-resistant plants from a list provided by the city. St. Augustine grass, which tends to be very thirsty, can only be planted in areas where there is 10 inches of topsoil and less than 6 hours of full sunlight per day.” Read more from the American Statesman (subscription required). Learn more about St. Augustine and the impact lawn watering has on our regional water supply from Native American Seed here. KXAN reports “more buyers want homes with smaller yards and less grass to water.” View video here.

The High Cost of San Antonio’s North-South Water Divide

The fact is the city’s sprawling suburbs, gated communities and ex-urban neighborhoods are addicted to lawn and landscape watering. SAWS officials say about one-third of all the water we use in the hot summer months is pumped to keep grass alive. Not humans, but grass. Learn More

TWDB launches Interactive State Water Plan Website

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has developed a new Interactive 2012 State Water Plan webpage that will let water users statewide take an up-close look at data in the 2012 State Water Plan and how our water needs will change over time. This data will arm communities with important information as they plan for projects to submit for State Water Implementation Fund (SWIFT) funding. Learn More

A more “Night Skies” friendly community

It started when the Kimble County Commissioners Court, followed by the City Council, passed resolutions supporting voluntary efforts to protect the Night Skies. This paralleled actions being taken in other Hill Country communities to preserve the awe-inspiring Night Skies and the enjoyment that comes with stargazing, including its attraction for visitors. Read more from the Junction Eagle.

More News

Upcoming Events

August

August 26 in Austin - Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council & Lone Star Rail District Discussion on the Future of Transportation & Reception with State Representative Larry Phillips - Details

September

September 6 in Fredericksburg - HCA Landowner Workshop: Discussion of the Blumenthal Substation and Transmission Line - Details

Sepbember 8-12 in Austin - 6th International Workshop on Catchment Hydrological Modeling and Data Assimilation - Details

September 9 in Kerrville - “Drought Impact in Kerr County & How to Improve Our River’s Health” by Tara Bushnoe, UGRA’s Natural Resource Coordinator, at the Riverside Nature Center - Details

September 11 in Wimberley - Community Water Meeting, hosted by CARD - Details

September 12 in Kendalia - 2014 New Landowner Series: Wildlife and Range Management, Brush Work and Sculpting - Presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - Details

September 22 in Kerrville - Monthly meeting of the Texas Master Naturalists - Topic: Hill Country Land Trusts, Speaker: Bill Lindemann, Vice President of Hill Country Land Trust - Details

September 26-28 in Belton - Renewable Energy Roundup - Details

September 27-28 in Boerne - Texas Hydro-Geo Workshop - Details

September 28 in Austin - 7th Annual Celebration of Children in Nature - Hosted by The Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin and the Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center - Details

See more upcoming events


2015 Calendar

HCA's 2015 Calendar is coming soon! Check back for availability.

Check out the top photos from our 2014 HCA Photo Contest


Imagine a place where vibrant communities draw strength from their natural assets to sustain their quality of life. A place where citizens care about protecting the special qualities of a region – their region. A place where people and partners band together to envision a better economic future, tackle shared challenges and care for the natural, scenic, and recreational resources that define the place they call home.
~This is a Conservation Landscape



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Helpful Mapping Resources - Beautiful and informative maps of the region to print and share.

HCA Dynamic Mapping Tool - Interactive online GIS mapping tool

 
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