It has been very clear since the formation of the River Foundation that Dianne Wassenich has approached the job of protecting the river is a holistic manner, including land and water conservation, litter prevention, water quality and spring flow protections, recycling and beautification. With an eye on rapidly growing cities in the region and a real threat of aquifer depletion, her early work and efforts resulted in water conservation ordinances not just locally but regionally that afford real protection to the Edwards Aquifer and its watersheds.
Dianne has also been instrumental in encouraging citizens to embrace native planting and restoring areas to more natural states. She has served on the steering committee of the now award winning Habitat Conservation Plan ( HCP) for ten years as the city determined the best way to protect endangered species in the river, stabilize eroding banks, and remove invasive species.
In the early 1980’s, poorly treated wastewater poured into the river, the local fish hatchery drained their tanks directly into the streambed and several entities were ready to pump large quantities of water out of the river. Dianne and members of the River Foundation, armed with research, data and solutions, diligently pressed for higher standards, occasionally going to court. In doing so, she highlighted the special relationship this river has to the community, where people have lived continuously for the last 10 thousand years.
The crystal clear water bubbling out of the aquifer, the abundance of rare and endangered species and the incredible beauty, she reminded us, is not to be taken for granted. Dianne has become the voice of the river, making sure the public and public officials understand how construction, development and even recreation can threaten the health and vitality of the river. Dianne has encouraged and sponsored many other informal groups to take on the responsibility of protecting the river through clean-ups, water quality monitoring, and community discussions about how growth should occur to ensure that the river will be in this condition, if not better, for future residents.
Dianne also led SMRF on its biggest project by securing conservation easements and land in critical aquifer recharge zones around San Marcos. As more development and growth is anticipated in the region, both the clarity and flow of the river is threatened by more impervious cover and heavier run off from storms. Dianne realized that this was the time to secure green spaces and establish parkland to prevent dense development in environmentally sensitive areas. Though Dianne’s efforts, over 600 acres around San Marcos now has conservation easements or is in the process which will help protect our spring flow into the future.
Dianne Wassenich has been the central and often sole spokesman for the San Marcos River and has propelled not just the city of San Marcos but the state to revisit their ideas of unlimited and unregulated water source. As proof of her impact, San Marcos is remarkably river-conscious and issues revolving around the river generate lots of public comment and discussion, a sign of a robust community. The water has never been cleaner, the flow is now protected through pumping restrictions and conservation plans, parklands have replaced flood prone areas, and green spaces help clean storm runoff and allow the aquifer to refill.