Teresa Johnson

Water Forward Plan Goes to Council

On Thursday, November 29th, the Water Forward Plan, Austin’s Water Supply Plan for the next 100 years goes to City Council for a vote. See SBCA’s letter to City Council below about the content of the plan.

 

November 27, 2018

Re: Water Forward Plan

To: Mayor Adler and Austin City Council

Save Barton Creek Association (SBCA) appreciates the work that went into the Water Forward Plan and is supportive of the direction the plan. We support the plan’s tenets of diversifying water supply without water importation, reducing water demand, and meeting non-potable water needs with new decentralized sources of non-potable water. We hope that the plan is adopted, but also hope that the following amendments can be made to the plan before adoption.

While some of these points may seem minor, they could have a significant impact on the policies that come from the plan’s implementation.

We recommend that:

1) Ordinance strategies including “Alternative Water Ordinance,” “Duel Plumbing Ordinance,” and “Lot Scale Wastewater Reuse” be extended to entire master planned developments including PUDs and other special districts. We should not only be using building size as a threshold for these development requirements, but also communities, because these strategies can often work well within a district and because implementation of these policies in large buildings and districts will capture more development while minimizing the impact on affordability.

2) Bring the landscape transformation ordinance into the 5 year timeline and include commercial landscapes in the ordinance scope. Changing the development regulations around landscapes to reduce water use is a low-hanging fruit that other cities are doing now. Currently, Austin requires commercial landscapes have a permanent irrigation system in most cases. Our code requirements on commercial landscapes should be re-evaluated at the same time residential landscape regulations are considered.

3) As part of the Aquifer Storage and Recovery(ASR) Feasibility Study process, include a comprehensive study of potential ASR locations that looks within and without Austin Water’s service area with the goal of identifying the closest feasible ASR location. SBCA is supportive of ASR as a water supply strategy for Austin and understands that the Carrizo-Wilcox has been identified as a likely location in the Water Forward Plan. We want to ensure due diligence in determining if there is an environmentally superior option to the Carizzo-Wilcox that requires less length of pipe and consequently energy and carbon footprint to transport water over distance.

4) Alternative Water ordinances should be applicable to all buildings and developments of a certain threshold without exception. Please remove references to an “either-or” dynamic between on-site collection of alternative water and use of the City’s purple-pipe. There is an existing exemption to city’s air-conditioning(AC) condensate policy that does not insist buildings adjacent to the Utility’s purple-pipe system collect AC condensate. We’d like to see this exception removed and certainly not replicated for the other alternative water ordinances. There will still be uses for the city’s purple pipe water, especially for industry, parks, and campuses. Additional non-potable capacity (in purple pipe or harvested from a building or development) could be used in neighboring developments, potentially as part of an incentive program.

5) All ordinances that include requirements for new development should undertaken in the next 5 years. They should also be considered together through a coordinated stakeholder process in order to prevent potential confusion, conflicting policies, or unintended consequences.

6) We support the plan’s recommendation to continue the Water Forward Task Force. The role of the Taskforce should include oversight over implementation of the plan including future public processes, the creation of performance measures for the plan and Austin Water (for example, utility-side water loss control), and any subsequent reevaluation of the “living” plan.

 

Thank you for your consideration,

Angela Richter

Executive Director

Save Barton Creek Association

Annual Party is November 19th

It’s that time of year again. SBCA is busy preparing for our annual membership party on Monday November 19th at 6:00 pm at Zilker Clubhouse and holding our membership drive. The party has music, BBQ, and a bar. We encourage you to renew your membership online before the party.  Membership donations start at $25. Inspired by our work and want to make a larger contribution? We encourage you to sponsor the party for $250 or greater.

Sponsors who donate by November 9th will be listed in our annual report and will be thanked at the party.

We hope to see you at there and thanks for your continued support!

Sincerely,
Angela

Angela Richter
Executive Director

Oak Hill Parkway Presents Danger to Aquifer, Creek, and Springs

 

The Oak Hill Parkway project, centered on highways 290 and 71 at the Y, presents serious concerns for the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer. SBCA has been busy elevating this issue by presenting this letter to Austin City Council and communicating with numerous other entities about the project. We aim to get the project changed in ways that minimize the environmental harm.

The current proposal is an overbuilt project that proposes 74 acres of new impervious cover in the recharge and contributing zones of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer, and runs alongside (and impacts) Williamson Creek. Furthermore, the project proposes 2.65 miles or 1,968,000 cu yards of excavation over and adjacent to environmentally sensitive features. It would also take trees and mature riparian habitats.

For more on Save Barton Creek Association’s concerns and proposed changes to the project, see our letter. 

There is still time for multiple entities to work together to improve this project.

Come learn more at our Creek Crew Happy Hour on November 12th at 6:30 pm at Baker Street Pub. 

 

 

Hill Country Conservancy Celebrates Puryear Ranch Conservation Easement

 

Image Credit: Hill Country Conservancy

 

 

On Saturday, September 22 the Hill Country Conservancy celebrated the acquisition of their new conservation easement holding, the Puryear Ranch. Puryear Ranch lies in the Texas Hill Country of southwestern Travis County. It is located within the contributing zone of the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer, specifically containing over a mile of Rocky Creek which is a major tributary to Barton Creek. Preservation of the Puryear Ranch in an undeveloped state will help protect the quantity and quality of recharge to both the Upper Trinity Aquifer and Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer. Both of these aquifers are important for ecological, recreational, and water-supply uses and are described as “tributary aquifers,” ultimately contributing important flows to the Colorado River.

 

The City of Austin’s Water Quality Protection Lands also serve to protect the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer. Join the Wildlands Conservation Division for the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the WQPL program on Saturday, October 6. Learn more and register for the event here.

20th Anniversary Celebration of the Water Quality Protection Lands

On Saturday, October 6 the City of Austin’s Wildland Conservation Division is hosting their 20th anniversary celebration from 10 AM to 3 PM in Driftwood, TX. Highlights include guided hikes, tacos, live music, and a family-friendly cave simulator. Additionally, come see the premiere of the documentary film A Wild Idea about the Water Quality Protection Lands.

Learn more and RSVP here.

Fecal Bacteria Pollution in 60% of Austin Waterways

Yuck! Environment Texas recently put out a report on bacteria pollution in Texas waterways. They found that  60 percent of testing sites at Austin waterways had unsafe bacteria at least once in 2017. Luckily Barton Creek and Barton Springs were not among the affected waterways–yet. Other Austin waterways like Shoal and Waller Creek were affected.

It is clear that the protections we’ve worked for in the Barton Springs Zone are working. However, a clear Barton Springs can’t be taken for granted. Urban run-off, leaky sewage pipes, and sewage spills can all cause bacteria pollution.

“Sewage plants that pipe treated effluent directly into our creeks and rivers pose a significant risk to our waterways,” said Angela Richter, Executive Director of Save Barton Creek Association. “When operation of the plant fails, and Texas has a bad record of plant failures, bacteria like e-coli can enter local creeks.”

Read full press release and report here.

New Education Program Coordinator

Help us welcome Teresa Johnson to the SBCA team! Teresa earned her Master’s in Environmental Management & Sustainability from St. Edward’s University and a BS in Natural Resources Conservation from the University of Massachusetts. She has previous experience leading environmental education programming. Teresa is passionate about fostering a connection to the environment in others and believes empowering local communities is essential to sustainable conservation.