Research underway to help track pollutants in the Edwards aquifer

  • December 29, 2018
  • News

Jessica Quintanilla, a hydrologist for the Edwards Aquifer Authority, sloshes back onto shore in her black waterproof boots from the middle of this creek just off Scenic Loop Road, south of Grey Forest.

“Next, we have to set up the peristaltic pump,” she said, as she inserts the white, quarter-inch tube she dragged 15 feet back to shore from her water sensor, before flipping on a generator and starting the pump.

Quintanilla and a Southwest Research Institute scientist start pumping water into plastic containers of various shapes and sizes. They are looking for the last thing most of us want to think about in our drinking water: feces.

With her help, two projects from the University of Texas at San Antonio and SwRI are trying to find out where the pollutants are coming and how they’re getting into the water.

For the first time, the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program is funding research to protect the aquifer. With $10 million, EAPP is currently funding seven projects. The EAPP is funded through a ⅛-cent sales tax voters first approved in 2000, and reauthorized in 2015, with money set aside for research.

“The way you look at fecal contamination is to look at the bacteria in the human gut,” said UTSA Professor Vikram Kapoor, looking on as two of his grad students help Quintanilla.

Read more from Paul Flahive with Texas Public Radio here.