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.

History

Mission

To bring together an ever-expanding alliance of groups throughout a multi-county region of Central Texas with the long-term objective of preserving open spaces, water supply, water quality and the unique character of the Texas Hill Country.

Purpose

The Hill Country Alliance is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to raise public awareness and build community support around the need to preserve the natural resources and heritage of the Central Texas Hill Country.

2004

The First Meeting

We held our first meeting September 4, 2004. Texas Hill Country residents met to share ideas and learn from each other about development issues in their area. From that day, we decided to begin meeting monthly and to create a website. Through e-mail we drafted paper detailing our positions and began expanding our resources. We established three core goals: 1) To protect water quality and supply, 2) To preserve open space and 3) To promote responsible growth in the Hill Country.

Building Our Alliances

In the last quarter of 2004, we spent time getting to know organizations who shared our concerns about the effects of growth and development in the Hill Country. The following groups pledged support for our efforts: The Hamilton Pool Road Scenic Corridor Coalition, The Guardians of Lick Creek, Citizens in the Bee Creek Valley, Citizens for a Livable Bee Cave, Lakeway First, Save Barton Creek Association, Concerned Citizens of Spicewood, The Friendship Alliance, Citizens Assembly of Blanco County, La Tierra Property Owners Association, Public Citizen Texas Office, The Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition.

2005

Establishing Our Organization

In 2005 we decided to form a non-profit corporation. We raised enough seed money to allow a contracted director to spend 6 months developing HCA into a well-organized, highly credible organization with a business plan and funding opportunities. HCA applied for and achieved its status as a 501c3, a non-profit organization recognized by the federal government, in December 2005.

Our Leadership

HCA’s first board of directors, led by Pam Reese as president, included: Rob Baxter, Don Bosse, Lee Carrell, Karen Ford, Pepper Morris, Nell Penridge, Damian Priour, Pat Sinnot and Ira Yates.

Encouraging Regional Planning

Participants in HCA became involved in many regional planning processes; The Regional Water Quality Plan, The Hamilton Pool Road Regional Plan, The Southwest Travis County Growth Dialog and the Lower Colorado River Authority NPS Stakeholders Group, Envision Central Texas and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO). Through our alliance, they have been able to share ideas about the progress of regional planning in the Hill Country and help pave the way for future efforts.

Educating the Public

Through media attention, public speaking opportunities and community outreach, HCA began raising public awareness of the effects development has on the sensitive environment of the Texas Hill Country.

Our First Bond Initiative

In Travis County’s November 2005 bond election, HCA partnered with the Texas Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land and the Hill Country Conservancy to help the county pass an initiative that included more than $62 million for open space. An HCA Board Member served on the Travis County Bonds Citizens Advisory Committee. The bond package passed Nov. 8, 2005.

Building a New Database and Website

We created a database and integrated it with our website to help coordinate HCA efforts.

Providing Testimony

HCA has and will continue to regularly provide testimony at county commissioner’s courts, river authority board meetings, legislative hearings and any other opportunities to educate key decision makers about concerns in the Texas Hill Country.

Educational Events

Public Seminar – June 9, 2005 at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center HCA hosted and co-sponsored seminars on transfer of development rights, responsible land use, open space bond elections and water quality rules, a key concept in the Regional Water Quality Plan. More than 100 individuals, including landowners, public officials, developers and others from the general public, attended our free June 9, 2005 program.

Participating in Advocacy

Throughout each legislative session we keep our members engaged and informed about bills that effect growth in the Texas Hill Country. During HCA’s first year attending the Texas Legislature, we provided testimony at several committee hearings and tuned in to ACT (the Alliance for Clean Texas, a coalition of grassroots lobbying groups). We also wrote a summary of legislation important to HCA and distributed it to our groups and individuals.

Promoting Conservation Development Standards

Promoting Conservation Development Standards HCA provided input for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center project; to produce a “primer” on conservation development in the Hill Country.

2006

Our Leadership

Karen Ford served as president of HCA in 2006. Our other board members included: Lee Carrell, Colleen Gardner, Roy Mann, Pepper Morris, Nell Penridge, Damian Priour, Pam Reese and Ira Yates. We also created an Advisory Board in 2006, which included: Don Bosse, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, Sky Lewey, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot and Raymond Slade. Creating our “Neighbor to Neighbor” publication as a collaborative project, HCA worked with a coalition of experts to produce an educational publication about the direct discharge permit application for Belterra in Hays County. We hand delivered the piece to the community and posted it on the HCA website for future reference.

Hosting Educational Events

In 2006 HCA hosted events on dark skies, groundwater districts, transportation plans and CAMPO. HCA also partnered with the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods to host a candidate debate for the Texas House District 47 seat.

Promoting the Travis County Greenprint

HCA participated as a stakeholder in the Trust for Public Land Greenprint for Travis County.

Collaborating for County Authority

HCA collaborated with county commissioners, landowners, The Texas Association of Counties, environmental groups and developers to collect information and write recommendations for increased county authority in the Hill Country. The resulting Issues and Actions Report on county tools to plan for growth was published online and distributed throughout the region.

Marketing

HCA worked with EMG Marketing to develop a marketing package that includes a membership brochure, Web card and bumper sticker with the theme: Education-Conservation-Cooperation. A volunteer leader created a marketing plan to help articulate specific tasks to help HCA with our mission.

Creating an Economic Study

Through a partnership with the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, HCA began an economic study of the hill country region. The project moved forward, but not to the degree we had hoped.

2007

Our Leadership

In 2007, Damian Priour served as president of HCA. Other board members included: Lee Carrell, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Colleen Gardner, Roy Mann, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members included; Bob Ayers, Don Bosse, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, David Langford, Sky Lewey, Pepper Morris, Bob Petersen, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Debra Trejo and Terry Tull.

Creating a Technical Advisory Committee

Raymond Slade recruited the “A-Team” of scientists and engineers in the Hill Country to offer advice and work with HCA on special projects.

Hosting Educational Events

HCA co-hosted a conservation development program in Hays County.

Mapping the Hill Country

HCA partnered with Texas State University to create interactive digital maps of the 17-county hill country region.

Legal Research

HCA partnered with citizen groups along the Colorado River corridor to conduct research on LCRA’s jurisdiction.

Outreach

The HCA database of groups and individuals who support HCA grew from 400 to more than 1300 and communications reached more than 7,000 Hill Country residents.

Web site

We further enhanced our Web site in 2007. A proposal for a re-design is in the works to be considered for the 2008 budget, and timely Neighbor to Neighbor news and alerts on local and regional issues and events went out as needed.

More Collaborating for County Authority

HCA informed groups in the Hill Country region about HB 3447, a bill authored by Representative Patrick Rose to give counties in the Hill Country Priority Groundwater Management Area the authority to limit density, set guidelines to deal with incompatible land use and collect development impact fees to help counties pay for the services needed to keep up with growth.

Starting Our Photo Contest

HCA conducted our first Hill Country Photo Contest. We received more than 200 photos, and plan on continuing the contest annually.

Hill Country Calendar

HCA created, produced and sold an educational calendar using winning photo’s from the photo contest.

Hiring on a New Staff Member

We hired Pepper Morris to work on administrative duties, outreach, database maintenance and fundraising.

2008

Our Leadership

Nell Penridge served as President of HCA. Other board members included: Lee Carrell, David Baker, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Colleen Gardner, Sky Lewey, Damian Priour, Pam Reese and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, Bob Ayers, Don Bosse, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, Julie Koppenheffer, Jaynellen Ladd, David Langford, Michael Looney, Roy Mann, Milan Michalec, Pepper Morris, Bob Petersen, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Debra Trejo, Terry Tull.

Research and Support for County Authority

HCA has provided research and support for the Hill Country County Coalition, a group of Hill Country elected officials who are working together to define specific tools that are necessary to help counties keep up with and plan for the pace of growth we are experiencing in the region.

Our Partnership with UT

We have partnered with the UT Law School Environmental Clinic to provide legal research for the Hill Country Coalition. An extensive analysis was developed illustrating how Texas compares to other states regarding various county authority and planning issues.

Mapping the Hill Country

We completed an interactive GIS based website containing over 70 layers of GIS data for the 17 county region. This tool is offered free of charge to organizations throughout the region, county governments, landowners and the general public. HCA developed mapping capabilities to create custom maps illustrating watersheds, groundwater districts, development plats, springs, etc. A plethora of data is available.

Educational Events

We hosted and co-hosted numerous educational events including the Texas Water Issues Symposia Series put on by a partnership of Schreiner University, Texas Tech University, Texas Public Radio, and the Hill Country Alliance.

20 Year Scenario Presentation

We created the 20 Year Scenario Presentation; a look at what this region will likely become if trends continue in the same path, which will soon be accompanied by a State of the Hill Country report to be released the first quarter of 2009.

Hill Country Calendar

We conducted our 2nd annual Hill Country Photo Contest and published the 2009 Calendar which has quickly become a popular resource on Hill Country issues as well as a beautiful calendar to share.

New staff member

Shannon Chambers joined the HCA staff in November bringing new energy and her own passion for the Hill Country region.

2009

Our Leadership

Ira Yates served as President of HCA. Other board members included: Lee Carrell, David Baker, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Colleen Gardner, Sky Lewey, Damian Priour, Pam Reese, Nell Penridge, Milan Michalec, and Chris Hale. Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, Bob Ayers, Bill Barker, Don Bosse, Dave Collins, Julie Dill, Bebe Fenstermaker, John Hogge, Marcy Holloway, Susan Hughes, Julie Koppenheffer, David Langford, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Pepper Morris, Bob Petersen, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Debra Trejo, and Terry Tull.

Mapping the Hill Country

We launched our online mapping tool which brings HCA’s valuable data sets and GIS capabilities to the public. The Technical Advisory Committee completed groundwater and surface water vulnerability maps of the region, creating an extremely valuable tool for planners, developers and landowners to see what areas are more fragile than others and why.

2050 Vision Tools

HCA created alternative future maps of the 17 county Hill Country Alliance area contrasting the affects of status quo development as compared to quality growth development principles that incorporate water quality protection to the year 2050. The project was developed using readily available datasets that are standard across the study area to give an overview of two scenarios of how future development might occur within the study area.

Hill Country View

72 ninety second radio briefs titled “Hill Country View” were written and produced. Texas Public Radio out of Kerrville regularly aired these programs during the morning and evening commute.

Educational Programs and Partnerships

HCA continued the Texas Water Issues Symposium partnership with Texas Tech University, Schreiner University and Texas Public Radio. The series brings water resource issues to the people with expert panelists. We average 120 live attendees in addition to the wide radio audience and viewers of the website. HCA co-hosted a conservation development symposium at the Wildflower Center in the spring of 2009 with the Congress of New Urbanism.

Regional Outreach

HCA presented to numerous groups throughout the region including Chambers of Commerce, master naturalists, neighborhood activists, groundwater districts, UT LAMP, Lyons Clubs etc. We also exhibited at many events such as the Lavender Fest in Blanco, Roundup in Fredericksburg, Earth Day at Aquarina in San Marcos, and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Celebration in Wimberley.

New Website, More effective Newsletters

A new design was created in early 2009. The site has grown rich with content organized by issue. The Neighbor to Neighbor News expanded with an average of 3 newsletters a month. These succinct timely email newsletters highlight current news and events related to the HCA mission. The database of subscribers grew from 1732 in the end of 2008 to 2464.

Calendar/Photo Contest

The photo contest was expanded with over 400 entries. The third annual Calendar was redesigned and we printed a second series of Hill Country postcards, at no cost, to use for marketing and gifts.

County Authority research support and advocacy

HCA continued to assist the Hill Country County Coalition, a work group of county commissioners and judges as they convene meetings and build consensus about legislation to improve county planning tools in the Hill Country. We created resources to educate elected officials and citizens about HB 3265 to enhance county authority and delivered the “State of the Hill Country” resource packet to Hill Country legislators which included maps, the 2030 report, Regional Water Quality Protection Plan summary and Cost of Community Services studies.

Issue Development

As timely issues surface, HCA staff works with volunteers, advisors and the TAC to unite stakeholders for sustainable solutions to difficult issues such as transmission lines through scenic lands, direct discharge permits in fragile streams, the desired future conditions process mandated by the legislature, transportation planning.

2010

Our Leadership

Carolyn Chipman-Evans serves as President of HCA. Other board members include: David Baker, Karen Ford, Chris Hale, Sky Lewey, Milan Michalec, Bill Neiman, Nell Penridge, Dr. Leo Tynan, and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members include: Tom Arsuffi, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Dave Collins, Brian Davis, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Colleen Gardner, Susan Hughes, James Kimmel, David Langford, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Mike Mecke, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, Bob Petersen, Damian Priour, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Deborah Trejo, and Terry Tull.

Strategic Plan

Carolyn Chipman Evans and Advisory Board member Mike Morton lead HCA through a process that resulted in a concise, thoughtful, achievable strategic plan.

Hill Country County Coalition and the County Authority Issue

Four County to County sessions were held in 2010 resulting in more coordination between Hill Country county elected officials. In addition, representatives from HCCC travelled to Austin to give testimony before the House Interim Committee on County Affairs. HCA supplied resource materials and prepared written testimony for Chairman Coleman, which is evident in the Interim Report recommendations for expanded County tools including infrastructure fees and incompatible land-use buffers. After the November election, HCA visited newly elected officials to encourage participation.

County Focus Groups completed

HCA was successful conducting focus groups in 10 rural Hill Country counties. Each one was unique and gave us new insight about specific needs in different parts of the Hill Country region. The focus groups provided not only valuable feedback about issues and programs, but also introduced us to new leaders and created relationships with opinion leaders. More focus groups are being scheduled for 2011.

Hill Country View Radio Show

Twenty-six new shows were produced bring our total to 98 segments of the Hill Country View, a 90 second radio feature packed with information about caring for the natural resources and cultural heritage of the Hill Country. We expanded air time to include 3 radio stations. All of the segments are now accessible on the HCA website in the resource section as well as broken out by issue and posted on related issue pages. We also developed a marketing one-sheet for promoting the Hill Country View to new stations.

Website

The website has again been re-designed and all of the content has been refreshed and updated. Issues have been re-organized. All new mapping resources have been added. We continue to receive praise that this is a comprehensive and always current valuable regional tool.

Texas Water Symposium

HCA served as the lead organization along with partners; Schreiner University, Texas Tech University and Texas Public Radio to host 4 educational programs about water resources in the Hill Country that were taped and aired on TPR. Topics included legislative action, energy/water nexus, river clean-up programs, conservation and planning. Each program is archived and available for listening.

Farm and Range Forum

HCA partnered with Texas Wildlife, AgriLife, Green Spaces Alliances and others to bring back the forum. This event was held in Fredericksburg. The focus of the forum is to bring together rural landowners with the urban conservationist, explore ways to keep rural landowners on the land and enlighten urban dwellers of the value of rural land stewards.

Rainwater Revival

HCA partnered with Hays County and served as the lead NGO to organize this first annual one day festival/educational event all about rainwater harvesting.

Conservation Development Symposium

HCA was invited as a new partner with APA and the City of San Antonio to co-host a Randall Arendt event at Pearl Brewery in San Antonio. The event drew about 150 participants representing public and private stakeholders to come together to learn about conservation development design.

National Conservation Initiative

We network with national leaders in large landscape conservation planning and mega-region infrastructure planning and were invited to participate in a national practitioner’s network of leaders in regional conservation, as the only representative from Texas.

Neighbor to Neighbor Newsletter

Newsletters are distributed 3- 4 times a month featuring the latest news, events and resources on all things related to growth, development, water, conservation and other issues in the Texas Hill Country.

Photo Contest and Calendar

Over 550 photographs were entered in the 4th annual photo contest. Another spectacular HCA Calendar was produced and delivered to leaders, elected officials and decision makers throughout the region.

HCA Endowment Created

An endowment fund was established at the Austin Community Foundation with an initial $45,000 investment.

Issue Outreach

HCA was a leader in the dissemination of information and a united voice for critical regional issues including; the construction of transmission lines to bring wind energy through the Hill Country (CREZ), the desired future conditions process for regional groundwater conservation districts (GMA 9 – DFC), Tri-County Groundwater Conservation District proposal by the TCEQ, multiple habitat conservation planning programs (HCP’s), Sunset Review of TCEQ and conservation initiatives.

2011

Our Leadership

Sky Lewey served as President of HCA. Other board members included: David Baker, Karen Ford, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Milan Michalec, Bill Neiman, Ann Newman, Dr. Leo Tynan, and Ira Yates. Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, John Ashworth, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Connie Booth, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Jim Dahlglish, Brian Davis, Rick Ertel, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Colleen Gardner, Mayor Brent Hinckley, Susan Hughes, Jan Kennady, James Kimmel, David K. Langford, Tim Lehmberg, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Mike Mecke, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, James Murr, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Sharon Seligman, Pat Sinnot, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Paul Sumrall, Deborah Trejo, Terry Tull, Carolyn Vogel, and Ken Whalen.

The HCA Network

The HCA network grew significantly in 2011 both in numbers and in diversity. HCA leadership has grown to include rural ranchers, the former President of The Wildlife Association, two County Elected officials, 3 mayor/former mayors from Hill Country towns, economic development professionals, landowners, rural Agri-life experts. The HCA database grew to more than 4,000 subscribers.

Website

The HCA website received re-design making it more streamlined and aesthetically pleasing. We continue to receive praise that this is a comprehensive and always current valuable regional tool.

GIS Mapping Tool

HCA completed a complete reconstruction of our GIS interactive mapping tool. The new format is user friendly for the general public and valuable to the water resource planning expert. Illustrations include hydrology, watersheds and topography in an interactive format. Vulnerability layers have been added to demonstrate areas where groundwater is more susceptible to degradation.

Development of Hill Country Groundwater Websites

Google Hill Country Groundwater and you will find one or several HCA pages. We have become the "go to" resource for groundwater news, data, maps and experts. HCA’s newsletters go out three to four times a month driving traffic to additional resources from HCA and also our many partnering organizations. In addition, HCA has developed extensive web resources for water conservation, rainwater harvesting, the drought, water quality, groundwater planning and watershed protection.

Hill Country Groundwater Primer

HCA created and distributed more than 28,000 Hill Country Groundwater four page color primer. This publication was distributed during spring 2011 GCD elections to educate voters. We also provided this resource to all Hill Country legislators and it was displayed in many of their Capitol offices. 23,000 pieces distributed as newspaper inserts in Hays, Kendall and Bandera Counties.

Photo Contest and Calendar

Over 400 photographs were entered in the 5th annual HCA Photo Contest. Another spectacular HCA Calendar was produced and delivered to leaders, elected officials and decision makers throughout the region.

Development of “I’m for the Hill Country” campaign

HCA has created a new campaign strategy coined “I’m for the Hill Country” to gain broader acceptance for the message of conservative groundwater planning, water conservation, public engagement in groundwater planning, and in general HCA positions relating to better planning for land use and water resource protection. The new “I’m for the Hill Country” logo has been placed on decals, the HCA website, HCA’s social media outlets and on all HCA outreach communications.

Hill Country County Coalition and the County Authority issue

Two more County to County sessions were held to convene County Judges and Commissioners. In addition, the initiation of the Hill Country County Caucus with Representative Jason Isaac resulted in the first ever legislative cause of all House and Senate members representing our 17 county region. The most recent session, of the coalition attracted 33 county elected officials representing 11 counties as well as Representative Isaac, Representative Miller, Senator Wentworth and staff from Hilderbran and Fraser’s offices.

County Focus Groups

HCA continued to conduct focus groups with the help of Peggy Sechrist who was hired as part-time outreach contractor. Peggy hosted focus in Gillespie, Kerr, Medina and Kendall counties. Each one was unique and gave us new insight about specific needs in different parts of the Hill Country region. We learned that our mission for educational outreach is considered to be most valuable and that rural landowners want HCA to strive to incentivize education and advocate for conservation practices. Scenic beauty, water policy, heritage ranch land protection, property taxes and development pressure continue to be most frequent issues raised. These focus groups also help HCA identify opinion leaders in the community and build trusting relationships.

Education and Collaboration during Groundwater Rights Legislation Debate

HCA was successful getting guest commentaries published in the Austin American Statesman and also the San Antonio Express News to urge caution with SB 332, what was known during the session as the “vested rights bill”. Our SB 332 resource page is very thorough and used frequently by the media and public. Though difficult to measure, we believe we had a strong impact on what resulted in a compromise.

Coordinating Regional Support for the Hays County DFC Protest

HCA brought David Baker of the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association together with David Langford, former TWA CEO, rural landowner and Milan Michalec, local GCD director together to help provide understanding of why the DFC process needs further clarification and modification. A 30-ft drawdown will not sustain water supplies for future generations. This technical issue can be best summed up by saying we are currently pumping more than is being recharged. In addition, HCA created an informative resource page on this issue and a guest commentary was published in the Austin American Statesman in November of 2011.

Regional Water Catchment Watershed) Planning Assessment Project

Understanding that water planning must begin to follow natural watershed boundaries rather than political lines, HCA began building new resources and tools to help generate more collaboration between watershed planning projects and also to move these programs from reactive to proactive efforts. Currently most of these watershed programs are done as a result of a threatened or impaired water system. The Pedernales watershed was identified as a focus area collaboration.

Creation of the short film, "I'm for the Hill Country"

HCA created an 8 minute mini-documentary to build awareness about the major regional issues; water resource protection, land stewardship and conservation. This film has received high praise and is currently being requested by many entities for viewing.

Rainwater Harvesting Outreach

HCA hosted the second annual Rainwater Revival event in Dripping Springs. A new tour of homes was added giving participants a close-up look at rainwater harvesting in action. Plans are already underway to bring the event to Boerne on October 27th 2012.

PEC Night Skies Policy

Because of HCA’s influence, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative adopted the following policy in August 2011:

  1. Area Lighting in the Texas Hill Country
  2. WHEREAS, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc. (“the Cooperative”) recognizes the Texas Hill Country for its diverse ecosystems, ethics for land stewardship, rich cultural heritage, and breathtaking scenic beauty; and
  3. WHEREAS, the influx of people into the region over the years and accompanying light trespass from area lighting fixtures has been steadily on the rise, and these factors have impacted the natural environment and the quality of life of the people of this region; and
  4. WHEREAS, the Cooperative is committed to protecting the beauty of the night skies
  5. NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE
  6. COOPERATIVE, that the Cooperative shall promote outdoor lighting fixtures and practices that follow up-to-date guidelines for efficient, non-intrusive lighting and work with its partners to educate and encourage landowners, businesses, residential communities, and public entities to join in this commitment; and
  7. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Chief Executive Officer or his designee is authorized to take such actions as needed to implement this resolution

2012

Our Leadership

Sky Lewey served her second term as President of HCA. Other board members included: David Baker, Karen Ford, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Milan J. Michalec, Bill Neiman, Ann Newman, Dr. Leo Tynan, Paul Sumrall and Ira Yates.

Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, John Ashworth, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Debbie Brient, Connie Booth, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Cristi Clement, Bryan Davis, Rick Ertel, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Liz Stool Friedman, Colleen Gardner, Mayor Brent Hinckley, Susan Hughes, Commissioner Jan Kennady, James Kimmel, David K. Langford, Tim Lehmberg, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Tom Mason, Stan Meador, Mike Mecke, Judge Garry Merritt, Myfe Moore, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, James Murr, Jill Nokes, Jake Patoski, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Sharon Seligman, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Michele Thompson, Deborah Trejo, Terry Tull, Carolyn Vogel, Bob Webster and Ken Whalen.

The HCA Network

Our database grew to 5300 supporters, friends and subscribers and increased and 490 Facebook and Twitter followers.

The significant amount of interest in participation on HCA issue based projects lead to the creation of Issue Teams. About one hundred volunteer leaders found their place on one or more of several teams including Water Policy, Night Sky, Land Conservation, Rainwater Harvesting, Land Stewardship, County Authority, Young Leaders (Team Future), Pedernales and Low Impact Development. These teams tackle timely issues; create educational events and resources; and provide comments on local, regional and state policy decisions.

Website and Newsletter

The HCA website continues to evolve, Google “Hill Country Groundwater” you will likely find one or several HCA pages. We have become the “go to” resource for groundwater news, data, maps and experts. HCA’s newsletters go out three to four times a month driving traffic to additional resources from HCA and also our many partnering organizations. In addition, HCA has developed extensive web resources for night sky protection, land conservation, rainwater harvesting, the drought, water quality, groundwater planning and watershed protection and low impact development strategies.

Rainwater

Our Rainwater Team hosted the 3th Annual “Rainwater Revival. In 2012 we moved to Boerne where we experienced a terrific turnout estimated at 900 attendees. The program was well received and enjoyed wonderful media coverage. Attendees were treated to educational sessions and exhibits all designed to make rainwater harvesting a more widely used water strategy in this region. We also raised funds to award another round of grants to area schools for rainwater harvesting and native landscaping projects. Four grants of $900 each were given to: Bandera High School, Dripping Springs Middle School, Hill Country Montessori and Utopia ISD.

Night Skies

Our Night Sky Team created an entire menu of programs aimed at reducing light pollution. We hosted a series of “Better Lights for Starry Nights” workshops, with participation by the McDonald Observatory, Texas Parks and Wildlife and local partners. The “Night Sky Coop” was launched, where landowners take a voluntary pledge to end light trespass from their land and a new chamber of commerce recognition program was created where businesses are acknowledged for being night sky friendly. We coordinated and funded the retrofitting of lights in the City of Junction, Kimble County, Texas Tech in Junction and the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area with support from The Coypu Foundation.

Water Planning

Our Water Team grew to include more regional experts. They are coordinating involvement in all regional water planning processes including Groundwater Management Areas 7, 9 and 10, Regional Water Planning Groups J, K and L as well as the Environment Flows, Bay Basin planning groups. The team hired a part-time coordinator, Charlie Flatten, a graduate student at Texas State University

Pedernales Team

We created a team which includes representatives from TPWD, LCRA, all land trusts working along the river, Bamberger Ranch, Westcave, Travis County and others. The purpose is to share information and collaborate more effectively on many projects such as landowner workshops, mapping and watershed planning.

Issue Papers

We published a new series of Issue papers branded “I’m for the Hill Country.” The issue paper library was built to include: Hill Country Groundwater, Healthy Riparian Lands, Groundwater/Surface Water connection, working with Land Trusts and Conservation Easements, Native Landscaping, Lighting for Night Skies, Myths and Truths of Groundwater Conservation Districts, Population Growth and Rural County Land Development. These papers are designed to provide general information to the public and elected decision makers.

Conservation Finance Feasibility Study

We partnered with the Trust for Public Land and the Texas Land Trust council to create a Conservation Finance Feasibility Study for our fastest growing counties. This report inspires public funding initiatives to conserve more land. The report reveals that minimal public investments can yield significant funding for conservation easements (local purchase of development rights programs).

Photo Contest and Calendar

We continued our tradition of hosting a Hill Country photo contest and publishing our beautiful Hill Country Calendar.

“Hill Country View”

We built our radio program to now include over 150 “Hill Country View” segments which air on Texas Public Radio. And, we produced two movie shorts to compliment the Hill Country View.

Hill Country Summit

We gathered over 70 diverse regional thinkers and leaders to strategize about water policy, land conservation, watershed initiatives, night skies, county authority and figuring out new ways to involve our next generation. It was amazing to experience TPWD, Texas Wildlife Association, land trusts, landowners, scientists, elected officials, historians, activists working together to help HCA plan for the Hill Country’s future.

Development Plan

We completed a financial development plan in 2012 which includes strategies to strengthen the long term financial health of HCA and we accomplished the first strategy in that plan, to add a new development director. HCA welcomes Amanda Longtain to our team.

Preserved-Land Inventory

We began work on a unique preserved-land inventory metric in order to facilitate goal setting and measuring conservation results region-wide.

2013

Our Leadership

Milan J. Michalec took the helm as served as President of HCA. Other board members included: David Baker, Karen Ford, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Sky Lewey, Bill Neiman, Ann Newman, Dr. Leo Tynan, Paul Sumrall and Ira Yates. We also added four new board members: Kimberley Cardenas, Karen Huber, Sharlene Leurig and Garry Merritt.

Advisory Board members included: Tom Arsuffi, John Ashworth, Bob Ayres, Bill Barker, Debbie Brient, Connie Booth, Don Bosse, Tyson Broad, Lee Carrell, Cristi Clement, Bryan Davis, Rick Ertel, Judge Richard Evans, Bebe Fenstermaker, Liz Stool Friedman, Colleen Gardner, Mayor Brent Hinckley, Susan Hughes, Commissioner Jan Kennady, James Kimmel, David K. Langford, Tim Lehmberg, Susan Allen Lynch, Roy Mann, Tom Mason, Stan Meador, Mike Mecke, Judge Garry Merritt, Myfe Moore, Pepper Morris, Mike Morton, James Murr, Jill Nokes, Jake Patoski, Nell Penridge, Pam Reese, Mary Sanger, Sharon Seligman, Raymond Slade, Herb Smith, Michele Thompson, Deborah Trejo, Terry Tull, Carolyn Vogel, Bob Webster and Ken Whalen.

Water Supply:

The Water Team, led by Milan J. Michalec of the Cow Creek GCD, grew to include 27 water experts this year, and contracted with a dedicated water team coordinator. This team stays actively engaged in all water planning processes and current issues, with the coordinator attending and reporting on many of the key water planning meetings affecting the Hill Country region. The team submitted numerous position papers and comments regarding the State Water Plan, groundwater management, river basins and infrastructure decisions. A core goal of this team is to advocate for the long-term health of Hill Country springs through proper groundwater management. HCA collaborated with partner organizations, such as the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, to propose a regional Groundwater Conservation District concept to the TCEQ The proposed GCD would cross county lines and provide much-needed groundwater management in Western Travis, Northern Hays and Western Comal Counties. The team actively supported Bat Conservation International to prevent the development of sensitive lands near Bracken Cave. They also worked closely with the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District to promote conservative and holistic groundwater management of the Hill Country Trinity Aquifer. The Water Team co-produced two Texas Water Symposium programs—one focused on healthy springs and one examined the fine line between protecting private property rights and effectively protecting our shared water supply. Members of the Regional Water Quality Protection Planning Group were re-convened with facilitation and support from HCA for the “Next Wave” to give involved jurisdictions the opportunity to share successes and challenges since the program was completed in 2005. The Team collaborated with and supported the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District in the publication of Water: Yours, Mine and Ours, a public resource about Hill Country hydrology, stewardship and conservation. Water Team members also contributed to the writing of issue papers and web content for wide distribution on key issues, including: Groundwater/Surface Water Integration, Hill Country Groundwater Supply, GCD Myths and Truths, Healthy Riparian Areas, Population Growth, Native Landscaping, The Day Case–what it does and doesn’t do, and County Tools for Reasonable Development Rules.

The Pedernales and Healthy Water Catchment Areas:

HCA convened our “Pedernales Team” to allow partners such as land trusts, landowners, LCRA, TPWD, and others a chance to compare notes and collaborate on projects throughout the basin. Through a partnership with TPWD, a new staff position was created and Katherine Romans, HCA Project Manager, was hired in October. Katherine isexpanding HCA’s landowner outreach and healthy watershed program. A review and assessment of all conservation plans, maps and programs on the Pedernales basin has been assembled to help identify the most needed tools to advance conservation practices. So far, HCA has partnered in four land stewardship educational events in the basin. Through illustrations, such as maps and educational materials, HCA is delivering the message that where once we saw “watersheds” we now can see “water catchments;” natural boundaries to capture, cleanse and store our water supply. These are more logical boundaries for managing water resources than the political jurisdictional boundaries we use today such as county lines.

Land Conservation:

One way all of the Hill Country Land Trusts collaborate is through the HCA Land Conservation Team, chaired by Carolyn Chipman Evans of the Cibolo Conservancy and Carolyn Vogel of Conservation Connection. They have assembled data to create an “All Conserved Lands” inventory including public lands, parks, and easements. Only 3.6 percent of our 17 county/11 million acre region is currently held in permanent conservation. The inventory map they created will provide a way to measure success as the conservation movement grows in the Hill Country. We finalized a Conservation Finance Feasibility Study with the Trust for Public Land and the Texas Land Trust Council. The study area includes our seven highest growth counties and demonstrates how public referendums can help fund land conservation. We regularly distribute our issue paper “Working with Land Trusts” to educate the public about easements and what land trusts do. A new version of the paper is now being vetted to better illustrate exactly where each land trust works and highlighting their unique area of conservation interest.We worked particularly closely with the Hill Country Land Trust on outreach events such as the Round-up and Green Energy Fair, Lavender Fest, various landownergatherings, and numerous Night Sky events.

Protecting the Night Sky:

Our Night Sky Team, led by Bill Neiman of Native American Seed, is the largest issue team, with 31 regional leaders engaged in regular communication about reducing light pollution in the Hill Country. The Team hosted 13 Night Sky educational programs throughout our 17 counties, and with substantial media attention, the attendance reached more than 100 citizens at some of the events. Around two thousand copies of the second edition Night Sky issue paper have been distributed.In Junction, HCA support resulted in more than 101 city lights being retrofitted to more night-sky-friendly fixtures. The result is clearly visible as one drives through the town at night.Our Night Sky Co-op, a volunteer pledge to eliminate sky glow from businesses, ranches and homes, sits at 150 members, and growing.

Rainwater Harvest:

The fourth annual Rainwater Revival was a huge success in Boerne with 550 attendees, ten educational seminars, and about fifty exhibits. This signature event is designed to encourage rainwater harvesting as viable water supply solution for the Texas Hill Country and is led by HCA board member Karen Ford. With funds from the 2012 art barrel auction, HCA provided $1,000 grants to three Hill Country schools for rainwater and rain garden projects. The Rainwater Team consists of 17 experts and advocates who are active in legislative and rule-making processes to make rainwater harvesting more accessible and feasible for homeowners and developers.

Outreach and Education:

HCA hosted two “Interpretive Guide” training classes, graduating 24 students with newly honed skills of speaking from the heart, dynamic storytelling, and ways to more effectively connect with audiences about the importance of protecting Hill Country resources.Four new video products were developed that feature land stewardship for water, working with groundwater conservation districts, rainwater harvesting, and the why and how of native plant landscapes. All are available on the HCA YouTube channel, with more than 3,000 views so far. Additional maps have been added to our resource library and are available for sharing. Throughout the year HCA distributed 19 press releases to our list of Hill Country media partners promoting timely issues and events. We met our electronic media goals to expand our database to 6,000 supporters and friends and 1,000 individuals in our social media network. Our popular, annual photo contest produced another spectacular HCA Calendar for 2014, which our board members and staff hand-deliver to all Texas legislators and Hill Country county officials during an HCA day at the Capitol in December. The robust HCA website consistently provides current news and information about regional issues and events and serves as a resource library for all to share. Our Neighbor to Neighbor newsletter is distributed to our 6,000-strong friends list about three times a month in an email format that is visually pleasing and easy to read.

The HCA Leadership Summit:

More than 100 HCA leaders gathered north of Fredericksburg at our second annual Summit to learn and share ideas about the work we do at HCA. This year’s featured keynote speaker was Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune. Other speakers included TWA President Greg Simons; new HCA board members Garry Merritt and Sharlene Leurig; writer/historian Scott Zesch; and a preview of the filmed water story of the San Marcos River, Yakona.This Summit has turned out to be one of HCA’s most successful and gratifying collaborative events where our leaders can find inspiration in the works and passions of other like-minded Hill Country citizens.HCA made great strides in carrying out our mission in2013.



The Latest News

Rock Crushing Operation Planned for Blanco County- Public Encouraged to Comment

This Friday, April 17th will be the final day for the public to make comments regarding a sand and gravel operation currently seeking a permit to operate along the banks of the Pedernales River. The facility would be permitted to produce more than 500,000 tons of rock, sand and gravel and would be located roughly 1,000 feet from the Pedernales River- one of the Hill Country's most pristine river systems. Stakeholders concerned about the dust, particulate matter, runoff, noise and traffic that this operation may generate are encouraged to register a comment with the TCEQ by visiting this webpage and entering 130211 as the Permit Number. For more information, including a map of the site and details about an informational gathering scheduled for April 30th in Johnson City, click here.

Interpretive Guide training set for May - Only 5 spots left!

HCA is offering an Interpretive Guide training class May 4–7 in San Antonio. This program will help you connect the minds and hearts of your audience to the beauty of nature and the mysteries of history. The more hearts we touch, the more minds we inspire, the better the future for our Hill Country. Learn more.

Implementing the Cypress Creek Watershed Protection Plan

The Cypress Creek Watershed Protection Plan has been accepted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and is currently available for public review and comment through April 30, 2015. This is one of only a handful of approved watershed protection plans in Texas, and the first with a groundwater component. The plan is designed to keep Cypress Creek clean, clear and flowing. Read more

Researchers, Water Providers Launch Conservation Effort

With a third of Texans still facing drought conditions, a coalition of Texas universities and water providers has launched an $8 million effort to curb water use in cities. Read more from the Texas Tribune. Are you curious about municipal water use in the Hill Country? It varies a lot. Check out this HCA illustration.

Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan Program Public Meeting

A public meeting and Workshop of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan Stakeholder and Science Committees will be held on April 22, 2015 8:30 am – 5 pm. This Workshop in an opportunity to learn about and discuss the issues, and give formal comment on the National Academy of Sciences Report 1. Learn more

Bandera County water education opportunities

The Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District has announced a series of educational programs for 2015. Mark your calendar for these wonderful opportunities to learn about Rainwater Harvesting, Riparian Health, Native Vegetation and more. Details

AgriLife Landowner's Management Workshop, April 20 in San Antonio

AgriLife will be holding a Landowner's Management Workshop April 20 in San Antonio. “This workshop is intended to provide landowners helpful tips to combat weeds and or brush on their properties that are now emerging with the warmer weather and through the summer months. The program also will provide methods to combat the feral hogs.” Learn more

Funds for school rainwater projects

Now is the time for your school to apply for a grant through HCA's Rainwater Revival School Grant Program. The program is in its 5th year and has awarded grants to 14 Hill Country Schools for rainwater harvesting projects and water conservation education. The application process is simple. Deadline is May 1st. Find out more and apply

Legislation would limit public's ability to challenge pollution permits

Have you ever thought about what you would do if a developer proposed dumping 350,000 gallons per day of wastewater into a dry creek on your property? Or if your neighbor decided to open a mining operation, cement plant or landfill? The contested case hearing process is one of the few tools landowners in that situation can use to challenge pollution permits - and the legislature is taking up several bills that would limit Texans' ability to use it. Learn more

Colorful Blooms Decorate Texas State Parks

Texas State Parks have gone Technicolor this spring; rolling waves of bright blue, deep red and rich yellow blanket Texas’ hills and plains. Texas is blessed with more than 5,000 species of wildflowers and this spring has seen a proliferation of wildflower populations. Read more from TPWD. And while you’re out, don’t forget your camera! The HCA photo contest runs through May 31.

California drought in the news

It seems that everywhere we turn, there is news of the historic drought currently gripping California. Could the current water shortage mark the end of California's booming growth? Or is it simply another obstacle to overcome - a "resource management issue," as some put it. Others are looking at how California can encourage water-saving behavior changes - to reduce water use by 25% below 2013 levels - without rationing at the household level. And as the drought and below average snow pack this year signal tougher times ahead, farmers are drilling groundwater wells at a frantic pace. What will that mean for future of California's aquifers? And perhaps the biggest question of them all - what lessons can Texans learn from California's situation?

EAPP funding up for renewal

On May 9, San Antonio voters will have the opportunity to renew funding for the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program and Greenway Trails. To date, the EAPP has conserved over 133,000 acres over the Edwards Aquifer in Bexar, Medina and Uvalde counties. More than 1200 acres have been acquired to construct 46 miles of linear greenways, with 40 additional miles in design or under construction. A fundraiser to support passage of the initiative will be held at Freetail Brewing on April 28. Attendees will get to sample a new brew called Edwards Artesian Ale. Details and RSVP

A possible interim water supply for Buda

“Analysis shows that a 1,000,000-gallon-per-day supply can be diverted to Buda between 2017 and 2023. This diversion would meet the interim needs of Buda and eliminate its need to use the EP groundwater. Costs would have to be worked out among the contracting parties.” Read more from the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD).

One year of water left in California?

California has mandated a 25% cut in water use one month after an LA Times op-ed by NASA scientist Jay Famiglietti kicked off with: “California has about one year of water left.” But, what did that headline actually mean? “One of the key points of the op-ed was that, since we will be relying more heavily on groundwater this year (perhaps an unprecedented 85% to 90% statewide), that we need to be extremely mindful to use it sparingly — all the more important as we consider the great potential for an even drier future in California with even more prolonged drought.” Check out this Famigleitti interview posted on Mashable.com.

Judge rules in favor of Hill Country landowner threatened by developer

Landowners Pat and Terrell Graham have won a small victory in their fight to prevent a neighboring developer from being allowed to dump 350,000 gallons of wastewater onto their property. A judge recently ruled in favor of the Grahams, recommending TCEQ deny the developers its permit. Read more from The Examiner. Meanwhile, lawmakers are proposing changes that will make it more difficult for landowners, like the Terrells, to challenge wastewater parmitting. More from the Texas Observer.

“Stars-in-the-Park” Returns April 10

What's the difference between a Blue Moon and a Comanche Moon? When is the best time this summer to see the International Space Station pass over Blanco? Have you ever seen a galaxy or a nebula with your own two eyes? Do you know that two different comets will be visible to the naked eye this year, in June and in October? These and many other intriguing questions will be answered in an educational and fun-filled evening as Blanco State Park hosts its semi-annual Stars-in-the-Park event on Friday, April 10th. Learn more from Blanco County News.

Save Oak Hill: Actions and Solutions

Save Oak Hill will be holding their second public meeting, "Save Oak Hill: Actions and Solutions," Thursday, April 16 at the Hampton Branch of the Austin Public Library on Convict Hill From 6:30-8pm. Anyone with concerns about TxDOT's plan to build an elevated toll-road through Oak Hill is encouraged to attend. Details

Short-term water, long-term consequences for Hill Country

The Vista Ridge water project in San Antonio threatens to follow a dangerous precedent: draining water from one region to another in a way that will only increase exurban sprawl in the Hill Country. If this solution seems familiar it should: It’s the California model that has led to that state having one year of water left. Read HCA's Op-ed published in the Austin American Statesman.

Hays County Water Fight Tumbles Into Committee

A volley of legislation launched by state Rep. Jason Isaac to stop a controversial groundwater project in Hays County came under harsh scrutiny by his fellow lawmakers on Wednesday. The Republican of Dripping Springs wants to stop Houston-based Electro Purification from pumping up to 5 million gallons of water a day from wells in his district and selling it to Austin's fast-growing Hill Country suburbs. Read more from the Texas Tribune.

After the Fire Along the Llano

After the 2011 wildfires in the Llano Water Catchment, landowners have worked collaboratively to help restore the land. April 18th, the public has a unique opportunity to revisit and learn from these sites. Learn more about this event and discover more useful Llano River information from the South Llano Watershed Alliance. Help spread the word to Llano River landowners to subscribe for regular updates. Read the latest SLWA newsletter.

Rainwater Revival Calls for Grant Applications from Hill Country Schools

As Texas Hill Country residents and businesses look for ways to conserve water, the Hill Country Alliance’s Rainwater Revival grants lend a helping hand to schools throughout the 17-county region. The HCA is now taking applications through May 1 from schools that want to implement or enhance rainwater collection and water conservation programs on their campuses. Learn more

Census estimates hint at mega-region between San Antonio and Austin

The population boom along the Interstate 35 corridor shows San Antonio and Austin could eventually grow together into a mega, metro region, the state demographer said after studying new census data. Hays and Comal counties — both of which hug I-35 and are wedged between San Antonio and Austin — were the fifth and ninth fastest-growing counties in the U.S. from July 2013 to July 2014, according to census estimates released Thursday. Read more from the San Antonio Express-News.

International Children & Nature Conference Brings Thought Leaders to Austin

The Children & Nature Network 2015 Conference at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort on April 7-9 has attracted more than 500 leaders from around the world representing the conservation, health, education, technology and built- environment communities. Attendees will explore innovative ways to encourage families, schools, churches, non-profits and businesses to support getting kids active and into nature. More from TPWD.

Buying Development Rights Preserves Watersheds

Protecting watersheds and aquifer recharge areas should be a priority for the House Natural Resources Committee, writes Andrew Sansom, executive director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. Purchasing development rights from private landowners in critical watersheds, he says, is a proven way to protect rural and agricultural land for the benefit of the state's natural resources. Read more from Trib+Water.

Report: Smart Lawn Watering Could Save Big

Even Texans with the greenest of lawns water them too much, many landscape experts say. And if everyone would turn on the sprinklers only twice a week — still probably more than necessary — the water savings would be significant, according to a report from the Sierra Club released Tuesday. Read more from the Texas Tribune.

TESPA files suit to stop Electro Purification in Hays County District Court

This case could lead to the review and potentially overturn the 'rule of capture'. “We hope to bring the common law of Texas into accord with the laws promoting groundwater conservation as passed by the Legislature and as mandated by the Texas Constitution." Read more from TESPA and get involved.

Will new pipeline spur Hill Country boom?

What is being sold to San Antonio as water security for the future could temporarily fuel Hill Country growth and once that supply is needed in San Antonio, then what? “The Hill Country is a beautiful area with limited surface water, limited groundwater and no big city to spread rates across,” Puente said. “We would answer the desperate call.” Read the full story in the Austin American Statesman.

It’s time to revisit Amy Hardberger’s critical eye on the SA pipeline

“The Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District, which has regulatory authority over the Vista Ridge water, determined that about 50,000 acre-feet of water could be safely permitted. Given that the groundwater district has already granted permits for more than 100,000 acre-feet, it is uncertain how the city can rely on this water for 30 years…San Antonio needs to develop new water resources, but the projects must be affordable and dependable, come rain or shine.” And if this supply is not dependable for San Antonio, how can we consider spurring a Hill Country boom with an unreliable resource? Learn more

A new effort has been launched in Oak Hill

“Save Oak Hill is a coalition of neighbors seeking to establish public greenspaces in Oak Hill to honor and preserve the rich history and unique natural features of the place we call home.” With a major TxDot project on the horizon, this Oak Hill community organization hopes protect their sense of place and environmental significance. Learn more and get involved www.saveoakhill.org.

Despite Central Texas growth, less water drawn from Colorado by cities

Despite Central Texas growth, less water drawn from Colorado by cities. “More people are moving to Central Texas daily, but the region has used less and less precious river water in each of the last several years.” The more we save, the less we need to import. Read the story in the Austin American Statesman.

District Targeted in Water Conflict

As outrage has mounted this year over the Electro Purification well field being built in Hays County, officials from Buda and the planned Anthem subdivision — two customers of the project — have dutifully showed up to town halls and round tables, subjecting themselves to the jeers of their neighbors. But missing from every public meeting has been the most critical player in making the project a reality: the Goforth Special Utility District, a Niederwald-area water provider that has the largest contract with Houston-based Electro Purification’s venture in Hays County. Read full article by the Austin American Statesman.

Here's What's Really Ruining Austin (and It's Not SXSW)

These days, Austin is trouble year-round. What's ruining Old Waterloo for the people who live there and love it are the people who live there and love it. There's just too many of them—and no plan for handling them all. Read more from Citylab.com.

Austin Water reports on water-related legislation

As Central Texas continues to face its worst drought on record, state legislators are considering several bills this session that could affect water supplies in Austin and throughout the state. Read more from Austin Monitor.

Hill Country Land Trust Conserves Sandy Ranch in Blanco County

The Hill Country Land Trust (HCLT), a non-profit land conservation group headquartered in Fredericksburg, Texas, recently worked with a landowner to conserve a 201 acre ranch in Blanco County, bringing the total of HCLT conserved acres in the Hill Country to just over 5,900 by the end of 2014. The property, located near the historic community of Sandy north of Johnson City, has been used for grazing and farming since the 1800s. The owners’ intent is to maintain the property as native rangeland for wildlife and livestock. Learn more

TESPA Announces Water Defense Plans at March 21 Meeting

The latest developments in the fight to protect our groundwater in Hays County go public at the TESPA Water Meeting on March 21 in Wimberley. "I am excited about this public meeting," said TESPA co-founder and local resident Jim Blackburn. "We on the TESPA team will present the surprising results of our legal research and discuss moving forward to stop the Electro Purification water development plan. I hope everyone who cares about the future health and prosperity of our area will join us." Details

Texas suburbs are growing faster than cities

Counties are growing at extremely high rates, in part because of the lack of land use planning ability outside of our cities. This trend has tremendous costs to tax-payers for basic infrastructure needs such as roads, water and schools. “Hays County, just south of Austin, is projected to be the fastest-growing county, by percentage, in all of Texas by 2050” Read more from the Austin Business Journal. Learn more about County Planning authority here.

The Southwest Water Wars

An old-fashioned, Western-style water war has erupted. Across Texas and the Southwest, the scene is repeated in the face of a triple threat: booming population, looming drought and the worsening effects of climate change. Read more from the New York Times.

Isaac Jumping Into Hays County Water Fight

With a high-profile groundwater fight raging in his district, state Rep. Jason Isaac is launching a volley of legislation to stop plans to pump huge amounts of water from underneath Hays County. Read more from the Texas Tribune. Representative Isaac issued his own media release yesterday. Read “Rep. Isaac and Sen. Campbell File Water Legislation Aiming to Protect Trinity Aquifer.” here.

Creating Vibrant Green Cities: Lessons from Seoul South Korea and San Marcos

Join us for a panel discussion with Thomas Hardy, Ph.D., and Matthew Lewis, the City of Austin’s Assistant Director of Planning and Development Review, on the lessons learned from two great green infrastructure projects located an ocean apart. This next event in the Imagine Austin Speaker Series will take place April 1 at the Dougherty Arts Center here.

Victory in Comal County

The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) praised the Comal County Commissioners court this week and announced the denial of the Meyers Ranch “Water Quality Improvement District” would have translated to 1,500 homes on 700 acres over the Edwards Recharge Zone. Read more from GEAA.

Hunt School builds Rainwater Harvesting model with funds from Rainwater Revival Grant

6th and 7th grade students from Hunt School are learning all about water conservation and rainwater harvesting thanks to a grant from HCA's Rainwater Revival and the generous help of the Hunt Garden Club. Read more from the West Kerr Current.

Utility agency pursues water rights

"With the Feb. 24 approval of Bee Cave City Council and Hays County Commissioners Court, West Travis County Public Utility Agency lobbyists are working to find a sponsor in the Texas Legislature for a bill that would define the specific water and wastewater powers the agency has." Read more from Community Impact.

HCA's 2015 Photo Contest has begun!

What is your vision of the Hill Country that future generations will inherit? The Hill Country Alliance (HCA) asks this question as it calls for photographs for its 2016 calendar. The annual HCA photo contest opens on March 1 and runs through May 31. Winners receive cash prizes and their photos will appear in the popular HCA calendar and in the organization’s various educational products. Entering the contest is easy through the HCA website. Learn more

"Food, Health and the Environment: Why Eating Right Can Save You and the Earth"

Join HCA at this first of many educational programs at the Hill Country Science Mill: Ecologist G. David Tilman presents, "Food, Health and the Environment: Why Eating Right Can Save You and the Earth." Dr. Tilman's research focuses on how to provide secure, sufficient and equitable food to all people of all nations while preserving biodiversity and minimizing agricultural impacts on water quality and climate change. March 29th at 4:30 pm at the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City. Details

Central Texas Drought Is Worst on Record

Competition for water prompts a quest for new sources. “The rule of capture is coming to the forefront again,” Venessa Puig-Williams explained. “People in Hays County are seeing that, though the rule purports to uphold property rights, it doesn’t really protect them. Large-scale pumping could dry up nearby groundwater sources.” Read more from Circle of Blue.

CAMPO Public Input Opportunities

The CAMPO Transportation Policy Board (TPB) is taking public comment on the draft 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, amendments to the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan and the FY's 2015-2018 Transportation Improvement Program. The TPB will hold a public hearing on March 9, and CAMPO will host a series of public meetings before the comment period ends on April 2, 2015. These meetings provide opportunities for the public to comment on the draft 2040 Plan, and on the proposed amendments. Learn more

Texas Wildlife Association to host three-day Women of the Land workshop

This workshop will cover basic skills from chainsaw operation to prescribed fire basics, geared towards female land managers. Interested in building your understanding of some of these important ranch management skills? This could be the workshop for you. Signup deadline is March 13th and space is limited. Details and Registration

Partnership created to establish the Center for Private Land Stewardship

The Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources (IRNR) recently joined with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and the East Foundation to form the Center for Private Land Stewardship. The center will be the hub of education for private landowners and the public, according to a Noble Foundation news release. Learn more from Texas Water Resources Institute here.

On the Road: A Symposium on Water

The Texas Tribune and Texas State University will be hosting a day long symposium on water, March 10 from 8:00 am to 2:45 pm. Topics include life after Proposition 6, the battle over groundwater, strategies for conservation and the poor quality of water along the Texas-Mexico border. Learn more and register for free.

Joe Beal, politically connected engineer, back in the water game

Former LCRA General Manager and groundwater developer, Joe Beal is back in the news with plans to transport water from Bastrop and Lee counties to Travis and Williamson Counties. "It was Beal’s empire-building effort at the river authority in the early 2000s that sent water pipelines shooting into the Hill Country, accelerating suburbia in areas around Dripping Springs" Read more from Statesman.com

Pollinator PowWow Draws Hundreds from Texas and Beyond

Icy roads and freezing rain couldn’t stop more than 200 people from making their way to the second annual Pollinator PowWow in Austin last weekend. The all-day gathering of pollinator advocates and native plant evangelists gathered at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Saturday for a full day of education, enlightenment and wisdom sharing. Read more from Texas Butterfly Ranch here.

Springs: The Canary in a Coal Mine for Groundwater

"Over the past 15 years, I have studied more than 1,000 springs, closely examining the relationship between springs and the health of the aquifer. I have discovered that springs are of inestimable value to plants and wildlife in landscapes where they occur and have also learned that springs continue to be as important to populations today as they were thousands of years ago. We have also found that in many ways, springs are the canary in the coal mine for groundwater sources." Read more from the National Geographic.

Group Formed to Protect Trinity, Edwards Aquifers and Springs

The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) today announced its formation as a Texas non-­‐profit corporation created to protect these aquifers and their associated springs. In the process, TESPA seeks to bring clarity to the groundwater property rights associated with owning land over the Trinity and Edwards Aquifers and associated springs. Learn more

Texas Wildlife Association to host three-day Women of the Land workshop

This workshop will cover basic skills from chainsaw operation to prescribed fire basics, geared towards female land managers. Interested in building your understanding of some of these important ranch management skills? This could be the workshop for you. Signup deadline is March 13th and space is limited. Details and Registration

Bennett Trust Land Stewardship Conference, April 23 in Kerrville

The second Bennett Trust educational program will take place April 23-24, 2015 at the Inn of the Hills Resort and Conference Center, Kerrville. This first-of-its-kind conference, “Protecting the Legacy of the Edwards Plateau,” will bring the best and wisest, accomplished stewards, visionaries, and legacy-leavers together as educators. Details

The Changing Science of Brush Control for Water Yield

While it was once widely assumed that heavy brush like cedar was keeping rainwater from recharging our streams and groundwater systems, science seems to indicate that it's not quite that simple. When done with care and an eye toward restoration, brush control can be beneficial to ecosystem health. Just be realistic about the likelihood that it will fill your stream or stock pond. Read more from Texas Wildlife Magazine.

Pioneers Youth Leadership Students Receive $24,000 in Scholarships and Cash Awards

Ten high school students in Pioneers Youth Leadership were awarded $24,000 in scholarships and cash awards last week at the Capital Farm Credit Rural Youth Entrepreneurship Competition at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. “Participating in this competition has given me confidence that I can successfully start and run a business in my hometown,” said Steeley Smith. “I was able to learn so much about the positive impacts of rainwater collection through my research,” said Jessica Dong of Knippa. Learn more

TPWD profiles state's least wanted water-hungry invasive species

A recent article in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine profiles some of the biggest problem species invading Texas lakes and waterways, and finds that the damage they are inflicting could cost Texans billions of dollars - and millions of gallons of water - each year. "It's a war, and you are involved." Read more from TPW Magazine.

Get Your Birding On

Learn the basics of birding at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. “Birding is good for you physically, mentally and spiritually. You get outside, you use your brain, and it’s about something bigger than you,” says Patsy Inglet of San Antonio. The veteran birder and certified Master Naturalist teaches Introduction to Birding workshops with her birdster husband Tom Inglet. Their next class at the center is 9 a.m. to noon March 28. Learn more

Environment Texas looks at the best and worst project in the State Water Plan

Environment Texas Research and Policy Center has launched a new website - www.OurTexasWater.org highlighting some of the best and worst projects in the State Water Plan. The website features an interactive map where Texans can find projects in their communities that get either a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down for their impact to our rivers, aquifers and natural resources. The website currently gives a thumbs down to the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir in northeast Texas, pumping of the Carrizo Wilcox Aquifer in Bastrop County and a Val Verde County water project which could threaten the Devils River.

Provide Water Supply Tools to Counties

“With supplies depleted by drought, the population growing daily and few large water projects in our immediate future, new development must minimize their water demands to protect the lakes, aquifers, and rivers. The counties surrounding the rapidly growing major cities will play a huge role in how we wisely use or diminish our water supplies and in the end determine the State’s economic attractiveness to the nation.” Read more from Tom Hegemier, chair of the Central Texas Land Water Sustainability Forum.

PEC Board votes in support of groundwater legislation

“Well drillers are locating these gaps in water district jurisdictions and exploiting them for pure profit,” said PEC District 6 Director Larry Landaker, who sponsored the resolution. “What is happening in Hays County through the misuse of the rule of capture is tantamount to the theft of water by one community to serve another. … That volume of water could … create a serious economic impact to the Hill Country communities we serve. Economic impact to the Hill Country is economic impact to PEC.” Read more from PEC.

Stay informed about EP Wells in the Hill Country Trinity Aquifer

As the story of unregulated groundwater in Hays County unfolds, there are two websites worth paying attention to for current information about citizen involvement. Citizen’s Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) and Save Our Wells.

A Tribute to what has been lost to the Pilot Truck Stop in Junction

Many hill country people have been following the Flying J story in Junction; a poster child for ongoing threats to Hill Country rivers due to a lack of rules and oversight. View this video, read final testimony to the City of Junction here.

Friends of Enchanted Rock to host star festival this Saturday, Feb 21

Come on out to Enchanted Rock this weekend to celebrate the stars! The first Enchanted Rock Star Festival will be February 21 at the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Fredericksburg. According to Melissa Mial, event spokesperson, the purpose of the inaugural event is to celebrate Enchanted Rock’s designation as an International Dark Sky Park and Wildlife’s Dark Sky Initiative and increase awareness of the benefits of dark sky friendly lighting. Learn more

We need smart growth

Op-ed by Ron Walton: “I am not against growth but know the importance of being able to provide the infrastructure to support it. Unfortunately, I see a growing tendency however for growth in the area at all cost which, especially in the Hill Country (my specialty as a Hydro-geologist with background in water wells, septics, and geomorphology) I think does a disservice to all current residents like myself who came here recently.” Read more

Drought conditions worsen along Highland Lakes

Preliminary 2014 data shows the drought gripping the Highland Lakes is now the most severe drought the region has experienced since construction of the lakes began in the 1930s. As a direct result of the prolonged record-dry conditions and record-low inflows from the streams and tributaries feeding the Highland Lakes, the “firm yield,” or inventory of water LCRA can provide reliably every year, has been decreased by about 100,000 acre-feet, to 500,000 acre-feet per year. (An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons.) Further reductions in firm yield are possible as the drought continues. Read more

Book explores Central Texas County Courthouses

“As built artifacts, the county courthouses of central Texas tell a compelling story of a particular part of the country over a specific period of time. But more than a mere index of a building type, this project seeks to describe how county courthouses and the squares in which they sit relate to the larger communities that surround them.” Read more from TPR. HCA likes to imagine Hill Country courthouses with native landscaping and rainwater harvesting.

Net Blue Initiative Will Help Communities Pursue Water-Neutral Growth

“Communities need to reevaluate traditional planning approaches if they are to support increasing population and economic expansion in the coming years – particularly in areas with high growth and stressed water supplies,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Read more from the Alliance for Water Efficiency report, "Water Demand Offset Programs Offer a Path to Sustainable Community Development" here.

New Commitment to Bring Back the Monarch

This week the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced what many have noticed for the past 20 years- monarch butterfly numbers are on a precipitous decline. Over the past 25 years an estimated 970 million monarchs have disappeared, largely due to loss of habitat. The Texas Hill Country is an important part of the monarch migration route, and USFWS has prioritized the entire I-35 corridor for reestablishing butterfly habitat. That means planting native milkweed and other pollinator-friendly plants. Read more about the efforts to bring monarchs back from the Washington Post

Dripping Springs residents strategize how to stop proposed concrete plant

A plan to build a concrete batch plant northwest of Dripping Springs has created an uproar among some residents. The plant, which would be operated as Dripping Wet Concrete

Upcoming Events


April

April 18 in Leander - Baker Sanctuary Open House - Details

April 18 in Junction - Oasis Pipeline Wildfire Recovery Workshop - Details

April 20 in San Antonio - AgriLife Landowner's Management Workshop - Details

April 21 in Johnson City - Join us for Rainwater 101 - Learn the basics of setting up your own rainwater harvesting system - Details

April 21 in Buchanan Dam - Town Hall Water Meeting, hosted by Central Texas Water Coalition and Lake Buchanan Conservation Corp - Details

April 22 in Jourdanton - Agri-Land Workshop - Presentations by HCA's Sky Jones Lewey, Rainwater Harvesting Expert John Kight and more - Details

April 23-24 in Kerrville - The second annual Bennett Land Stewardship: “Keys to Hill Country Living" - Details

April 24-26 in Fredericksburg - 5th Annual Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival - Details

April 24-27 in Marble Falls - 15th Annual Balcones Songbird Festival - Details

April 27 in San Antonio - SA2020 Comp Plan - Details

April 27 in Kerrville - Texas Master Naturalist April Meeting, Topic: Feral Hog Program - Free and open to the public - Details

April 30 in Johnson City - TCEQ informal public meeting on the Chanas Aggregates Rock Crushing Operation Details

May

May 9 in Bandera - Bandera Water Workshop Series: "Aquaponic Potential" Details

May 12 in Bandera - Bandera Water Workshop Series: "Residential H2O Conservation" Details

May 29 in San Marcos - Addressing Conflict with deer in our communities, hosted by TPWD, TWA and TSU - Details



See more upcoming events


2015 Photo Contest

Runs March 1 - May 31
Enter Now!


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



Hill Country View
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Maps

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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