SMRF has worked hard to become a leader in water and land conservation, by offering educational opportunities and fostering community engagement in order to best protect the San Marcos River. The River Foundation sponsors one of the largest citizen science water quality monitoring groups in the state that serves as an early warning system to potential problems and acts as a clearinghouse for the public and policy makers. SMRF addresses questions and observations regarding the river, its springs and unique species, and provides scientific information and best management practices to ensure a healthy river and sustainable flow.
By advocating for thoughtful, science-based public policy and planning which mitigates impacts to the river, we have been able to witness a number of remarkable achievements which have raised awareness and improved the health and beauty of this ecologically significant river.
SMRF’s early years focused building community support for the protection of the river and identifying areas with poor water quality. Starting with community-wide river clean ups and volunteer water quality monitors, SMRF broadened its scope and challenged the City of San Marcos’s wastewater discharge permit in the 1980’s. Arguing that the city could and should treat effluent to a higher standard to clean up heavily polluted waters downstream, SMRF prevailed and other entities voluntarily followed suit and adopted similar standards. Wastewater discharge issues continue to be a concern and SMRF is currently working on four proposed wastewater permits to ensure that the effluent discharged into nearby creeks is treated to the highest standards possible to minimize damage to the river ecosystem and local water supplies.
The early 2000’s, Central Texas began to see a significant rise in its population. Concerns about over-pumping, future droughts, and expanded growth into Edwards Aquifer recharge areas led SMRF to redirect its attention to the overall issues of sustainable water use and conservation. In a landmark action that was supported by a wide variety of stakeholders extending as far as the Texas coast, SMRF applied to TCEQ for water rights to ensure adequate and healthy flows in the river. This resulted in the Texas Legislature passing SB3, creating a process for Texans to pursue and direct scientific studies to better understand and determine how much water Texas rivers should be allowed to have, how much should go to bays and estuaries, and how much water is needed to maintain a healthy eco-system in Texas rivers.
Working with a wide array of stakeholders with an interest in Texas future water needs has been a key strategy for SMRF in its efforts to protect the long-term health and flow of the San Marcos River. SMRF has served for decades on various stakeholder groups, steering committees and regional boards studying, directing and developing water policy in Central Texas. The River Foundation participated in the first EPA approved watershed plan in Texas in 2006, the Plum Creek Watershed Protection Plan, and is heavily involved in the Upper San Marcos Watershed Initiative. Both are ongoing in their effort to set up voluntary ways to improve water quality and assist cities and counties in applying for grants to deal with water quality problems. SMRF also has served for 15 years on the steering committee of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan — an award-winning cooperative agreement for the entire aquifer region of eight counties to keep the San Marcos and Comal springs flowing during drought and ensure the survival of the river’s endangered species. As a member of the Hays County Habitat Conservation Plan Stakeholder Committee, SMRF helped to establish a rolling mitigation land bank to protect golden-cheek warblers, and recharge zone land over the Trinity and Edwards Aquifers.
SMRF has served on Region L Water Planning Board for six years and was appointed to the Bay Basin Stakeholder process for the Guadalupe and San Antonio River basin and bays, to represent the Public interest and address the water planning processes. Since 1985, SMRF has engaged in both long and short-term projects with many other Texas organizations including Texas Stream Team, Hill Country Alliance, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, Save Our Springs, Comal County Conservation Alliance, Texas Master Naturalists, the Great Springs Alliance, the Wimberley Valley Watershed Alliance, Keep San Marcos Beautiful, Texas State University, and The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment. SMRF recruits and provides volunteers for projects and studies done by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, such as wild rice and fish surveys, habitat restoration projects, dye and flow models, and studies to determine the impact of heavy recreational traffic on the eco-system.
To become better stewards in the conservation process, SMRF has become a Land Trust and is in the accreditation process with the National Land Trust Alliance. We also joined the Texas Land Trust Council in 2019 which will further our mission and partnerships.
It remains our mission to protect as much recharge land as reasonably possible to ensure that the San Marcos Springs continue to flow for future generations. We will continue to work with the City of San Marcos and The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance to open more areas to public recreation and extend educational opportunities in the natural areas.