HCA is a passionate community caring for the unique features, spring-fed streams, heritage ranch lands, spectacular beauty and culture of the Texas Hill Country for the benefit of future generations. Join us.

Will Our Rivers Flow to the Gulf?

If you’ve heard of the “Environmental Flows” or the “Senate Bill 3 process” this is it, and it is extremely important for the future of water in the Hill Country.

A good Texas process is in place to make collaborative regional decisions about the health of our water systems - in order to work, citizens must be involved and the TCEQ must listen. For almost two years, the Guadalupe-San Antonio Stakeholder Committee (also the Colorado-Lavaca Stakeholder Committee), appointed by the State of Texas Environmental Flows Advisory Group, worked to recommend to the TCEQ changes to their rules for environmental flow protections. These recommendations were based upon the balanced perspective of more than 20 Stakeholders representing diverse interests, such as agriculture, manufacturing, municipal, conservation, and river authorities. The TCEQ staff recently made significant revisions to the Stakeholder Committee’s recommendations, which do not reflect the conservative and balanced goals set forth by the Stakeholders. TCEQ is proposing more business as usual permitting and withdrawals. People must speak up by May 14th. TCEQ environmental flows resources.

“Noted conservationist David Langford, former executive vice president of the Texas Wildlife Association, was on the ground floor when the Texas Legislature designed the stakeholder process for consensus-based regional solutions for environmental flows for each river and bay system. He served on the Environmental Flows Advisory Committee which made recommendations for Senate Bill 3, the latest water bill to end all water bills.” Langford believes what the TCEQ is attempting to do is a corruption of SB 3. Read this article that ran in the Corpus Christi Caller Times here.

The San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) is one of the best local examples of organized citizen activism. They are citizens working together to take care of the San Marcos River (part of the Guadalupe River basin). In a recent San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) newsletter, citizens are encouraged to send comments to the TCEQ urging more balance. Here’s what they said:

“WILL OUR RIVER FLOW TO THE GULF? As you read in the Sunday Record's opinion column by GBRA's Bill West, a few people in our region are fine with the TCEQ draft rules for future water rights that will most likely be pumped out of our river by GBRA. However, the vast majority of region's bay/basin stakeholders including cities like San Antonio, River Authorities like San Antonio and Nueces (the SA River is part of our Guadalupe basin and the Nueces provides a great deal of our aquifer's recharge) farmers, ranchers, landowners, industries and environmental groups are all very upset that TCEQ has ignored the recommendations of these stakeholders. SMRF was a stakeholder, and we worked hard for two years and spent untold hours "balancing" the needs for new water projects with the need for water in our rivers, to flow to our bays. We used scientific data to set the plans for how much could be withdrawn at what times, and still keep the rivers and bays healthy. We did not follow the exact outline that the science committee first recommended, but instead used that as our guide and asked the same scientists to help us adjust the flow patterns so new water projects could happen without hurting the rivers or bays. All this work was ignored by TCEQ when they made up their new rules, essentially doing the same old thing they've always done granting water rights. So the stakeholders are protesting mightily to TCEQ Commissioners on May 8, in person. If flowing rivers and healthy bays are something you care about (now and in the future) please go to the NWF advocacy website and easily send a letter to the TCEQ Commissioners. You can reword the first sentence to customize the letter, or insert your own comment there (stay civil!) Or you can reword the whole letter. Just please do it ASAP. In short, the TCEQ rules will allow big dams to be built and big diversions to withdraw water at the very worst times, dry times. And the set-asides of water for the bays (like dedicating a small percentage of wastewater flows to the river) recommended strongly by stakeholders were also eliminated from TCEQ staff's draft rules. We have a chance now to reverse that by speaking to TCEQ Commissioners directly, so please comment.”

HCA recently posted a blog by the National Wildlife Federation, that we encourage you to read for more insight and background. NWF serves as a technical resource to numerous groups including HCA, SMRF, and some of the NWF scientists serve on these Stakeholder Committees and the Expert Science Teams appointed by the Stakeholders. Learn from NWF here.

HCA will continue to collect background information, news articles, helpful documents and links on this very important subject. One of our core objectives is to create an informed and engaged citizenry so that regional decisions reflect the desires of the Hill Country community to protect water supply, water quality, heritage ranch lands and the unique quality of life found in Central Texas. Please review our Water Planning resource page and other Water Issue pages.

The Latest News

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.

Keeping Rivers Flowing: Innovative Strategies to Protect and Restore Rivers

"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

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.

Symposium explores land, water connection

HCA’s March 20th Texas Water Symposium generated a crowd of more than 150 to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the Pedernales River watershed. Landowners, state and local officials and non-profit representatives gathered to explore these issues and the steps being taken to solve them. Learn more from the Fredericksburg Standard. An hour-long version of the event will be aired on Texas Public Radio in select regions Sunday, April 6th at 8pm - Details

You Can’t Say They Don’t Care What You Think – Public Input on HB 4

Approval of “Prop 6” indirectly transferred $2 billion from the state’s “rainy day” fund into this new State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) to provide water for “non-rainy” days. But just moving money around doesn’t create water. That’s why what’s happening now at the state’s Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is so important. Read more from Ken Kramer at TexasLivingWaters.org.

Groundwater Levels on the Decline

Stay informed about your local Groundwater Conservation District (GCD). The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) creates a monthly bulletin full of helpful water conservation information and news. Read the latest edition here. Do you know your local GCD? Do you have a local GCD? If you are unsure, contact HCA and we’ll help you learn.

Build Smart Water Now

While we continue to reduce our water use, demands increase every day with new homes of suburbia appearing on the horizon. Each will require more water, with a considerable amount going to establish and maintain hundreds of acres of new turf grass each year. In this region, traditional home lawns typically consume 25 to 35% of the annual treated water. Projecting into the future, new residential yards could require up to 30,000 acre-feet per year by 2040—enough water to meet about 20 percent of Austin’s current demand. Read More

A fun way for students to learn about life sciences from TWA

The Texas Wildlife Association provides Distance Learning programs to bring education about our natural world into the classroom via videoconferencing. Discover resources HCA has assembled to help parents and teachers inspire our next generations to be thoughtful stewards of the Hill Country here.

Financing the Cost of New Development

“With growth projected to skyrocket in the Hill Country, GEAA will keep working to make sure that the costs of growth are distributed equitably.” While the SAWS staff recommends new impact fees to fund additional water supplies, development interests are pushing back. Learn More

HCA's Certified Interpretive Guide Training Workshop Returns

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. The four-day workshop will be held April 28-29 and May 5-6. Register now, class size limited. Details

EPA proposes greater protections for streams, wetlands under Clean Water Act

“Intermittent and ephemeral streams provide critical fish habitat out West. They account for 94 percent of Arizona’s streams, according to the EPA, and 88 percent of those in New Mexico.” The same holds true here in the Hill Country as these tributaries feed the Llano, Pedernales, Blanco, Guadalupe and Nueces Rivers. “These streams provide the flow for larger rivers and spawning and rearing habitat for young fish and insects; they also help to determine the quality of downstream habitat for fish.” Read more from the Washington Post.

TWDB's Water Data for Texas website now includes groundwater data

Today Texans are more aware than ever of the importance of groundwater. As part of ongoing efforts to synthesize and communicate water-related data to scientists, policy makers and the public, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) recently announced its Water Data for Texas website now includes groundwater data. Learn More

CAMPO Planning – Now is the time to get involved

The Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is currently seeking public input for projects including new roads in the long-ranch plan. Learn more about transportation planning taking place in Burnett, Travis and Hays counties and attend an open house near you.

New Billboard Fact Sheet

Scenic America has just released a handy 4-page reference guide to basic facts and figures about billboards. Download the PDF here. Learn more about scenic issues and billboard in the Hill Country here.

The Bats are on their way back to the Hill Country

While South by Southwest (SXSW) comes to a close in Austin, Texas' bat season is just beginning. That's right, the Mexican free-tailed bats have begun their northward migration. To celebrate, here's a little "Q&A" to help answer any questions you may have about this awesome spring event. Learn more from Bat Conservation International.

Stormwater Management Can Be “Green” Too

Meet Dr. Katherine Lieberknecht. She is a professor in the University of Texas School of Architecture who proposes the revolutionary idea that stormwater runoff can – and should – be managed as a water resource, rather than as nuisance to be drained “away” as “efficiently” as practical. Read more from Waterblogue.

West's Drought and Growth Intensify Conflicts over Water Rights

Across the parched American West, the long drought has set off a series of fierce legal and political battles over who controls an increasingly dear treasure - water. Read more from the New York Times.

HCA’s Rainwater Revival calls for grant applications to fund water conservation and catchment programs at Hill Country schools

The Hill Country Alliance has set an April 30 deadline for local schools to apply for grants of up to $1,000 to develop or continue water catchment and conservation programs. The auction of “art barrels” during the Alliance’s annual Rainwater Revival, held in November, funds the grants. Learn more...

SAWS Backpedals on Right Choice – Still Considering Groundwater Importation Project

Last month, the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club praised staff at the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) for recommending to their Board that the focus of future water supplies for the city should rest on nearby brackish groundwater, rather than the importation of fresh groundwater from locations distant of the city. Unfortunately, the SAWS Board, sensing pressure from the business community, has backpedaled against that recommendation to reject all three of the groundwater proposals. Read more from the Texas Living Waters Project.

American Dream and the Economic Myth

Property is a thing. Happiness is an ideal, a story of the future created by the imagination. The American dream, even when it takes material form, is a wish the heart makes in its pursuit of happiness. It is an act of the imagination made vivid by the life and liberty that allow us to pursue it with hope. Read and share one of our timeless favorite pieces by Betty Sue Flowers.

SAWS: Yes to Desal Plant, Maybe to Pipeline

The San Antonio Water System board voted unanimously Tuesday to fund Phase I construction of a brackish water desalination plant in southern Bexar County – the most ambitious water diversification project in the city’s history – and enter negotiations with the Vista Ridge Consortium to provide San Antonio with an even greater supply of new water via a privately-owned regional pipeline, a second diversification project of unprecedented scope and cost. Read more from the Rivard Report.

Registration is open for the Annual Kent Butler Summit

Faucets, Toilets, and Automobiles: Balancing Growth and Sustainability in the Barton Springs Aquifer Region. Join us Friday, April 25th for a day of learning at the Lady Bird Wildflower Center. Click here to learn more and register online.

Texas’ Most Endangered Places

Nominations are now being accepted for the Preservation Texas, Most Endangered Place list. Some wonderful places in the Hill Country already grace this list including the Spettel Riverside House in Bandera County, The Old Llano County Jail, Hamilton Pool, Scenic Loop-Boerne Stage Corridor and statewide, Texas Dance Halls! The deadline is fast approaching, March 21st, take it upon yourself to nominate an iconic Hill Country treasure. Learn More

More News

Upcoming Events

April

April 16 in Canyon Lake - Billboards in Comal County: TxDOT will present findings from a recent inventory of billboards in Comal County - Presented by the League of Women Voters, Comal Area - Details

April 17 in Austin - TWDB will hold two Board meetings to discuss innovative water solutions for Texas and financial assistance for water projects - The public and interested stakeholders encouraged to attend and provide public comment - Details

April 19 in Boerne - Streamside Management: Restoring and Maintaining Riparian Areas - Details

April 22 - Earth Day! - Earth Day Events

April 22 in Austin - Texas Water Journal Forum focusing on current challenges to rural and urban water conservation - Details

April 23-25 in Kerrville - Bennett Trust Educational Program: "Protecting the Legacy of the Edwards Plateau" - Details

April 23-27 - 2014 Hill Country Nature Quest - Tour the Hill Country River Region and learn about native plants, birds, butterflies and wildlife - Details

April 25 in Austin - Kent Butler Summit, “Faucets, Toilets, and Automobiles: Balancing Growth and Sustainability in the Barton Springs Aquifer Region” - Details

April 25-27 in Fredericksburg - 4th Annual Wings over the Hills Nature Festival - Details

April 26 in Austin - Native Plant Spring Symposium - Hosted by The Native Plant Society of Texas and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Details

April 28 in Kerrville - Native Bees of Texas - A meeting of the Hill Country Master Naturalist - Free and open to the public - Details

April 30 - Keeping Rivers Flowing: Innovative Strategies to Protect and Restore Rivers - Free three-part webinar series on strategies to ensure the future health of Texas' rivers, bays and estuaries - Details

May

May 3 in Bandera - 13th Annual Medina River Cleanup - Details

May 6 in Medina - Fruit Tree Management Workshop - Hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - Details

May 7 in San Antonio - Public Health and the Built Environment - Healthy Communities by Design - Details

May 8 in San Antonio - Urban Wildlife Management Workshop - Details

May 9 in Boerne - Monarch Workshop: Monarch Biology, Ecology & Monarch Larval Monitoring Project Training - Hosted by the Cibolo Nature Center - Details

May 9 in Stonewall - 2014 New Landowner Series: Forage Production, Livestock Production and Handling, Crop Production - Presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - Details

May 10 in Wimberley - Grand Opening of the newly improved Jacob's Well Natural Area - Details

May 12 in Fredericksburg - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Hill Country University Center - Details

May 13 in Llano - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Details

May 14 in Marble Falls - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Details

May 16 in Fredericksburg - Better Lights for Starry Nights: Learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing! - Enchanted Rock State Natural Area - Details

May 16 in Austin - Exploring Conservation Design in Central Texas with Randall Arendt - Details

May 28-30 in San Antonio - Southwest Stream Restoration Conference - Details



See more upcoming events


Photo Contest

Photo contest begins March 1st!
Details


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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