why has water quality degraded in the edwards aquifer

Degradation of aquifer water quality can lead to detrimental effects on species that rely on the aquifer for habitat. In the case of the Edwards Aquifer, various threatened and endangered species rely on that habitat for survival. For example, the endangered San Marcos Gambusia (Gambusia georgei) is recorded as extremely sensitive to habitat alteration; changes in water turbidity or temperature in particular. Managing the changes in water quality is critical to the stewardship of these threatened and endangered species. Edwards is a karst aquifer, with a great deal of limestone, which is highly soluble rock. A karst aquifer has many fissures and conduits, resulting in rapid groundwater flow and great interconnectivity between surface and groundwater. For Edwards, this means relatively fast recharge time; the aquifer is very sensitive to precipitation. Changes in precipitation show the rapid response of the aquifer's water level. The figures at the bottom display precipitation and groundwater level changes over the years; note the rapid response time of the aquifer to the changes in precipitation.

Explore the, with data layers for Groundwater and Surface Water Quality and Quantity, Critical Habitat for the Karst Threatened and Endangered Species, Precipitation data and more.
The Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan or HCP, which is managed by the in partnership with the cities of New Braunfels, San Marcos and San Antonio; the ; ; Texas Parks and Wildlife; and the has made progress in promoting water conservation in the Edwards region, improving habitat for the endangered species and restricting water use to preserve flows at the Comal and San Marcos springs. I take this opportunity to raise an issue with management of the springs that seems to be as yet unaddressed by the implementation of the HCP that of preserving water quality. The, or GEAA, monitors developments within the Edwards Aquifer Recharge and Contributing zones. We are concerned about development and land-use patterns within this region and their potential impact on water quality.

In 2009, GEAA requested funding from the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program, or EARIP, for dye tracing studies needed to predict impacts of land use on spring flows at the Comal and San Marcos springs. Such studies are needed to identify land areas that communicate surface storm water runoff, and subsurface contaminants such as sewage, that could be communicated directly to the springs. Funding for these studies was not granted; the impact of human activity on water quality is a component of the HCP that has been largely ignored. A subcommittee report submitted to the EARIP in 2010 strongly recommended, All entities regulating any aspect of development over the portions of the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer. are strongly urged to implement, consistent with their authority, responsible limits on impervious cover. High levels of impervious cover result in degradation of water quality in surface water and in groundwater.

Accordingly, the EARIP should approach these entities at the earliest opportunity to explore their willingness to consider taking these actions and to encourage them to do so. Land that may provide water directly to the springs is being developed at a rapid pace. Several high-density projects with the potential to pollute the springs are moving forward, including Wortham Oaks in Bexar County, Crescent Hills in Comal County, and the Veramendi project directly above Comal Springs in New Braunfels. San Marcos also has many very large developments underway located on the riverbanks or in the Recharge Zone, as well as in the watershed of Spring Lake and the head of the San Marcos River. One major sewage spill from any of these residential developments might result in closing down the springs. Barton Springs has been closed to the public a number of times since the 1980s due to unsafe levels of fecal coli form bacteria in its waters. Contaminants can travel very quickly within the Edwards.

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