BREAKING: New Letter on Dripping Springs Effluent to Austin City Council

March 6 2017:

SBCA and five other organizations sent a March 6th Letter to Austin City Council Members asking them to withdraw from a bad settlement proposal and continue negotiations with a goal of no discharge. Read the press release and February letter to Austin City Council.

We also recently discovered that US Fish and Wildlife also recommends a no discharge option due to effects on endangered species. Press Release Here.

It’s My Park Day! March 4th


Join Save Barton Creek Association on this family friendly adventure as we make final improvements to Goat Cave Karst Preserve. This is a year-long project funded by an Austin Parks Foundation Grant. We will be installing any remaining interpretive signs and benches, defining the educational area around the new kiosk, and creating a trail extension. March 4th at 10am  Register here!

Tools, water, and snacks will be provided, but try and bring your own gloves if you have them.


All volunteers will receive a SBCA water bottle.

Parking Details: You may park on Coastal Drive; Walk into preserve from Davis Lane until you see us!


Recent Aquifer Study Shows New Data for Recharge Water

The new aquifer study “Stream Recharge Water Balance for the Barton Springs Segment of the Edwards Aquifer” was published in December 2016. The study recalculates the amount of contributions of recharge into the aquifer. The new study found the contributions of local rivers and creeks are:

  • Onion Creek: 32.6%
  • Barton Creek: < 10.5%
  • Slaughter Creek: 7.2%
  • Bear Creek: 6.2%
  • Blanco River: 6%
  • Little Bear Creek: 3.9%
  • Williamson Creek: 1%

These percentages only account for 56-67% of total groundwater recharge, 17% of which is stream autogenic recharge. Autogenic recharge means a concentrated flow into large fractures, caves and sinkholes. Upland autogenic recharge accounts for 33-44%.

According to prior tests, upland autogenic recharge only accounted for 15% of recharge. This means that water flowing directly from karst land in the recharge zones is playing a far bigger role in the recharge of Edwards Aquifer than expected.

The karst landscape is largely composed of hole-ridden limestone rock that allow water to easily percolate through the terrain and into the aquifer. Precipitation that falls on the recharge zone flows directly into the aquifer. This study illustrates the importance of proper environmental practices even when the area isn’t directly next to a water body.

SBCA Part of Coalition on CodeNEXT Benchmarks

SBCA helped draft and support “Community Priorities for CodeNEXT” a document written and supported by a diverse stakeholder group including several environmental organizations. SBCA looks forward to reading the draft of CodeNEXT, the City of Austin’s land development code rewrite,  and measuring it by the benchmarks in the document. SBCA is particularly interested that CodeNEXT ” shall reduce climate change, increase resilience, reduce the urban heat island effect, and preserve and restore our natural environment,” and “shall require that new and redevelopment mitigate and reduce flooding, runoff pollution, and downstream erosion.” Save Barton Creek Association will continue to provide feedback to the CodeNEXT process to ensure a healthy environment for all Austinites.

Read the Full Document Here


SBCA Hires New Director in 2017

SBCA would like to share the news that we have officially hired Angela Richter as Executive Director in 2017!

For the past five months, Angela has served as Interim Executive Director and will continue to uphold SBCA’s legacy into the new year.

Come meet Angela at one of our upcoming events or shoot her an e-mail to get involved at

See our calendar of upcoming 2017 events HERE.

Great News! EPA Issues Objection to Dripping Springs’ Draft Permit

We heard from our friends at Protect Our Water this morning. In September, they petitioned the EPA to review the Dripping Springs’ TCEQ wastewater permit. Today, the EPA issued an Interim Objection to the permit. 

EPA’s objection is based on the fact that TCEQ inadequately analyzed the Draft Permit and the pollution is not justified.

EPA states, “[I]t is not clear how this permit conforms to the guidelines and requirements established by the Clean Water Act” 

“EPA cannot discern from the information provided what factors TCEQ considered in its determination of no significant degradation and whether the state’s analysis complied with TCEQ’s antidegradation policy and implementation procedures for Tier 2 review”

“Additional information is needed from [Dripping Springs]/TCEQ to show that these increases in Total P and Total N would not negatively impact the receiving waters”.

You can read more here. 



#NoDrippingSewage Rally a Success

On October 28th, SBCA held a #NoDrippingSewage Rally at Barton Springs Pool. The event was a great success that got news coverage, educated people about the issue, and generated over 50 letters to Austin’s mayor and City Council members, and a similar number to TCEQ. Why are we writing to Austin City Council? Because, they have been in negotiations with Dripping Springs. We want to be sure that the result of any negotiation is no direct discharge in Onion Creek.




Speakers on #NoDrippingSewage

Bill Oliver’s new song about #NoDrippingSewage

Ways to Help
1) Attend the TCEQ public meeting on November 10th at 7pm at Dripping Springs Ranch Park, 1042 Event Center Drive in Dripping Springs. The community will be allowed to speak up, giving public comment to TCEQ about its proposed wastewater discharge into Onion Creek.

2) Send your comments to TCEQ BEFORE November 10th.

3) Write a letter to the Austin City Council by following the instructions here.


#NoDrippingSewage Rally This Friday at Barton Springs Pool

#NoDrippingSewage Rally

Friday October 28, 5-7 pm 

Barton Springs Pool (near the statue to the left of the main entrance)

RSVP on Facebook 

The Issue: The City of Dripping Springs has applied for a direct discharge wastewater permit to discharge 995,000 gallons/day of treated sewage into Onion Creek. This water would still contain nitrates and phosphates that cause algae blooms and reduce the oxygen that fish need to survive. Not to mention, other wastewater pollutants like pharmaceuticals.

Why are we gathering at Barton Springs Pool? Onion Creek is the source of 40% of Barton Springs flow!

At the Rally:
– Send a letter to TCEQ
-Send a letter to your Austin or Dripping Spring City Council members
– Costumes and/or signs encouraged
-make a protest sign
-help wrap our toilet paper mummy
-take a photo with a giant commode (aka toilet)
-let your kids play with “algae slime”
-learn more about this issue and how you can help
– get a #nodrippingsewage sticker

For more Information about the issue and to take action by sending your comments to TCEQ and Austin City Council visit

Come to this pre-halloween rally to help us make sure this scary proposition doesn’t happen.


PRESS RELEASE: Coalition of Six Local Environmental Groups Urge City of Austin Not to Allow Treated Sewage Discharge into Onion Creek

On October 11, Save Barton Creek Association and five other environmental organizations sent a letter to the Austin City Council urging them not to allow treated sewage discharge into Onion Creek. Read the press release and letter below.





Coalition of Six Local Environmental Groups Urge City of Austin Not to Allow Treated Sewage Discharge into Onion Creek


The City of Dripping Springs (DS) has applied for a direct discharge wastewater permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to discharge treated sewage into Onion Creek. TCEQ already issued a draft permit which would allow DS to discharge 995,000 gallons per day into the Creek, which supplies 40% of Barton Springs flow.


Six environmental organizations wrote to the Austin City Council on Tuesday urging COA not to settle with DS unless the result was no direct discharge into the Creek. (See letter below.) The Coalition is comprised of Save Barton Creek Association, Clean Water Action, Sierra Club (Austin Regional Group), Save Our Springs Alliance, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, and Protect Our Water (Hays County). Steve Beers, Co-President of Save Barton Creek Association, says, “We’ve reason to believe that the City of Austin is trying to settle with Dripping Springs to allow some degree of sewage discharges into Onion Creek.”


He continues, “Prior City policy has opposed any direct discharge of treated effluent into streams crossing the Barton Springs Zone, because of negative effects to the Springs, Creek, and private wells. We are asking them to persist in opposing all such direct discharges and to keep trying to win a better outcome for our citizens.”


TCEQ has already gotten 870 public comments, an unusually high number, from concerned citizens. Currently, TCEQ is taking additional comments from the public leading up to a November 10 public hearing in Dripping Springs. The coalition is trying to activate Austin residents since the water in Onion Creek flows into Austin and recharges the aquifer that feeds into Barton Springs.


David Foster, State Director of Clean Water Action explains, “Sewage discharge into Onion Creek is a huge threat to Barton Springs. This is one of the most pressing threats facing the aquifer today. If a settlement is reached that allows direct discharge into Onion Creek it will mean a new paradigm in development in Hays County where developments expect to be allowed to pollute the Creek  ”


The threat from this pollution is not just recreational. Sarah Faust of Protect Our Water explains,
“The segment of Onion Creek immediately downstream of the proposed discharge is pristine and very beautiful. A direct discharge would forever alter the water quality of the creek and the wildlife habitat it provides. This is also a drinking water issue for area residents. There is much more groundwater science that needs to be done, but recent studies show strong evidence that Onion Creek recharges the Trinity Aquifer immediately downstream of the proposed wastewater discharge point. There are over a hundred domestic water wells, in addition to the main wells of the Dripping Springs Water Supply Corp., that are in the potential flow path and threatened to be adversely affected by pollutants from the proposed discharge of wastewater effluent.”


Opposition to the wastewater discharge goes beyond the groups that signed the letter to COA. The Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District have also spoken out against the plan. Save Barton Creek Association is asking City of Austin residents to write to their City Council members and TCEQ at  There will also be a Rally for Onion Creek on Friday, October 28th at 5 pm at Barton Springs Pool.


Contact: Angela Richter, Interim Director, Save Barton Creek Association






Full Letter to City Council below.




October 11, 2016


To: City of Austin City Council, Mayor Steve Adler, Interim City Manager Elaine Hart


Re: Negotiations Regarding Dripping Springs Direct Discharge Permit into Onion Creek


Save Barton Creek Association and all the undersigned organizations are deeply concerned about the negotiations between the City of Austin (COA) and the City of Dripping Springs (DS) regarding Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) draft permit to allow 995,000 gallons of treated effluent to be dumped into Onion Creek, the source of 40 percent of the water flow at Barton Springs.


We appreciate that COA’s intention in negotiations with DS is to lessen water quality impact. However, we ask that the City not settle with DS for anything less than zero direct discharge. Responsible land application of all effluent is feasible. Land application may include beneficial reuse which has additional water conservation benefit.


If a settlement agreement is reached between COA and DS that allows more discharge than the amount permitted for the community of Belterra, it will set a new precedent whereby other development in Hays County will likely also try to discharge effluent directly into our creeks.


Allowing any discharge into Onion Creek is likely to cause a domino effect whereby the aggregate impacts will significantly degrade water quality in Onion Creek, Barton Springs Pool, and Lady Bird Lake– potentially to hazardous levels for recreation, drinking water, and ecosystems. This will undermine the tireless work we have all done since before the original SOS ordinance to protect water quality in Barton Springs and in all of our watersheds.


Settling with DS does not adhere to the City’s multiple previous resolutions opposing any direct discharge in the recharge zone and contributing zone.[1] Rather than settle for something weaker than no direct discharge, we ask that the City of Austin be a party to a contested case hearing on DS’s TCEQ permit. This will allow more time for negotiations to really achieve what is best for our springs, aquatic environments, and citizens.


We strongly urge you to only enter into negotiations with Dripping Springs if the result is 0% direct discharge.  We also urge you to pursue a contested case hearing. Finally, please issue any proposed settlement in draft form first, allowing time for citizen comment on this important issue.




Steve Beers

Board Co-president

Save Barton Creek Association


David Foster

State Director

Clean Water Action


Roy Waley

Conservation Chair

Sierra Club, Austin Regional Group


Bill Bunch

Executive Director

Save Our Springs Alliance


Annalisa Peace

Executive Director

Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance


Richard Beggs, Wesley Pitts, Jeff Shaw

Board of Directors

Protect Our Water (Hays County)




SBCA Issues Resolution on Proposed Wastewater Discharge Application by City of Dripping Springs

As of this month, Save Barton Creek Association has issued a resolution on The City of Dripping Springs’ application to discharge wastewater into Onion Creek.

The City of Dripping Springs wants to dump almost a million gallons per day of treated sewage into Onion Creek! This water would still contain nitrates and phosphates that cause algae blooms and reduce the oxygen that fish need to survive. Also, this creek supplies more than 40% of Barton Springs flow. SBCA, together with Clean Water Action, and others are asking the city to pursue a permit for land application instead. Land application is more environmentally sound and cost effective, making the city’s current sewage disposal plan both unnecessary and unreasonable.

TAKE ACTION: Please tell the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that you oppose this sewage disposal plan and its polluting effects on Onion Creek and Barton Springs.

Take Action for Onion Creek Now


“WHEREAS the Save Barton Creek Association is a citizens organization formed in 1979 and devoted to the protection and preservation of Barton Creek, Barton Springs, and all of the watersheds that contribute to the Barton Springs Aquifer, including Onion Creek, which provides about 45% of the total recharge; and

WHEREAS, the Barton Springs Aquifer is the sole or primary source of drinking water for more than 50,000 people living in Travis, Hays, and Caldwell Counties, as well as an important economic and recreational resource and the only known habitat of two endangered species, the Barton Springs salamander and the Austin blind salamander; and

WHEREAS, Onion Creek in Hays County is currently a pristine Hill Country creek with low nutrient levels, and the Barton Springs Aquifer is a karst aquifer that is especially vulnerable to pollutants from the surface because water flows rapidly through large underground conduits that do not attenuate the constituents; and

WHEREAS, the City of Dripping Springs has applied to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for a permit to discharge up to 995,000 gallons a day of treated municipal sewage directly into Onion Creek in the contributing zone only a few miles upstream from the Barton Springs recharge zone; and

WHEREAS, scientific analysis and modeling show that such a discharge of effluent into Onion Creek as proposed would greatly increase the nutrient loading of the Creek, causing algae blooms for many miles downstream from the discharge point that would deplete the dissolved oxygen and degrade the quality of the water, including the water recharging the Barton Springs Aquifer; and

WHEREAS, a recent study of the interaction between surface water and groundwater along Onion Creek by the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, and an independent geologist shows that Onion Creek also recharges the Trinity Aquifer, the source of Dripping Springs Water Supply Company’s public water supply wells, in the vicinity of the proposed discharge point, suggesting that the drinking water could be contaminated by the effluent; and

WHEREAS, the volume of the proposed permit is more than ten times the amount of Dripping Springs’ current wastewater production, indicating that the application is sized to serve expected future growth and the capacity will not be utilized for many years, while the permit would set a precedent for additional direct discharges into Hill Country streams that are unable to assimilate the pollutant loads; and

WHEREAS, the outcome of a petition for rule-making recently granted by the TCEQ would provide a way for Dripping Springs to get credit in a Texas Land Application Permit (TLAP) for dedicated reuse of its treated wastewater, a saving that could make discharge unnecessary; and WHEREAS, the TCEQ has designated the use of the affected segment of Onion Creek as “Aquifer Protection,” a designation that would be absolutely contradicted if the permit were issued as proposed;

THEREFORE, it is resolved by the board of directors of the Save Baton Creek Association that

(1) the Save Barton Creek Association opposes approval of the currently submitted direct discharge permit application (WQ0014488003) of the City of Dripping Springs,

(2) in the alternative, the Save Barton Creek Association asks the TCEQ and the City of Dripping Springs to delay action on such permit application until after the rulemaking process to implement wastewater reuse is concluded; and

(3) the Save Barton Creek Association requests party status to oppose any draft effluent discharge permit proposed for streams crossing the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge and contributing zones.”



Again, please show your support for our cause by telling the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that you oppose this sewage disposal plan and its polluting effects on both Onion Creek and Barton Springs.