Texas State University–San Marcos River Systems Institute Cypress Creek Project
A Word from Our Director Andrew Sansom, River Systems Institute In this Issue... What’s Next for Cypress Creek Project A Local Perspective: Martha Knies Citizens Can Make a Difference Wimberley Wastewater Project Picking Up After Your Pet Children and Nature: The Wimberley Outdoor Educators Science Corner: Water Quality and Storm Runoff Groundwater and Cypress Creek Cypress Creek Citizens Working to Protect Their Watershed About the River Systems Institute Volume 2, Number 1, Spring 2009 The preparation of this publication is financed through grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
This third edition of our Cypress Creek Newsletter is marked by some good news and some bad news. The good news is that more and more citizens in the Cypress Creek Watershed are concerned about the Creek, eager to learn more about it, and ready to do something to preserve it. Additionally, at the moment, though the drought is taking its toll, the Creek is still in pretty good condition. The bad news is that pumping in the watershed is definitely having an effect on water flows into the creek from Jacob’s Well, due to budget constraints we may lose an important gauging instrument in the Well itself and inadequate wastewater treatment threatens water quality in the Creek. To bring interested citizens up to date on these issues and others, we held our first public meeting in November and it was well attended. Thanks to all who made it out. Since the meeting we have launched new research initiatives on fauna living within the Jacob’s Well cavern complex and surface water / groundwater interactions in Cypress Creek, the Blanco, and the aquifer. The City of Wimberley is urgently seeking funding for a new wastewater treatment system. We are now working to put a steering committee together for the project and welcome suggestions from each of you as to community leaders
you would like to see helping guide the process going forward. As the drought deepens, these issues are sure to become more up close and personal for each and every one of us. Our commitment to you is to share with you everything we know as we learn it and to be good listeners as we struggle together to find a way to make sure the lovely stream that is the heart of our community is there for our children. d
Cypress Creek Project The goal of the Cypress Creek Project is to ensure that the longterm integrity and sustainability of the Cypress Creek watershed (located in Hays County, Texas) is preserved and that water quality standards are maintained for present and future generations. The project consists of two phases. Phase One (2008-2010) seeks to define the current state of the watershed, gather input from community stakeholders, and develop a science-based tool for local decision makers. Knowledge gained from this three year project will create opportunities to develop a watershed management plan. Phase Two (2010-2012) will involve the development and implementation of a watershed management plan. A watershed management plan approaches water quality and watershed issues by recommending strategies that address more than one watershed and community concern. The River Systems Institute, through strong Cypress Creek community partnerships, is facilitating this project. The project is paid for by grants from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency Region VI. River Systems Institute, Texas State University, and numerous project partners are providing substantial funds to achieve project success.
What’s Next for Cypress Creek?
By Jason Pinchback, Texas Stream Team
he last several months have been especially eventful for the watershed. Hays County officials are considering rule changes for lot sizes and well spacing, Wimberley’s Women League of Voters meeting brought attention to the health of the creek, and citizens have expressed the need to provide improved authority for the Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District. With these and many other pressing issues as a backdrop for things to come, citizens are turning towards regional water and wastewater solutions. At this pivotal time, the community has a wonderful opportunity to consider new land and water policies before on-the-ground infrastructure is built. For example, the Cypress Creek Project estimates this watershed has 5-9% impervious cover. Impervious cover directly influences flood frequencies and impact; amount of land loss and creek scouring due to erosion; and base flows just to name a few. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests that impervious cover levels ranging 10-20% require extremely complicated and costly mitigation solutions. Levels above the 20% range bring fundamental changes in watershed functions. We hope to hear more from you to keep the Cypress Creek clean, clear, and flowing. d
A Local Perspective
By Kristina Tower, Cypress Creek Project Since moving to Wimberley in 1989, Martha Knies has played an active role in preserving the community and participated in Keep Wimberley Beautiful, served on City Council, and helped with acquiring the Cypress Creek nature trail. Her efforts can been seen with the beautiful plant barrels that line the square, various landscaping projects around the city, and public access to one of the city’s best assets - Cypress Creek. I met Martha at this hidden jewel, as she and fellow Wimberley Outdoor Educators prepared to teach high school students about water quality parameters, geology, botany, and ecosystems of the Cypress Creek Preserve. Her passion for the Creek and education is evident as she led me along the serene trail, occasionally stopping to point out the native plants. Martha believes the trail is important to Wimberley because it offers greenspace and public access to its unique water source. Prior to Cypress Creek Trail and
Blue Hole, the public had limited access to its pristine waters. With public access Martha hopes citizens will not only enjoy, but also maintain the Creek while becoming more aware of what affects it. Due to the current drought, the Creek’s discharge has significantly decreased and it is now more susceptible to pressures from population growth, runoff, and leakage from deteriorating septic tanks. To protect and preserve Wimberley’s natural treasures, Martha recommends: implementing an efficient system of waste water treatment; public awareness of water conservation measures; xeriscaping; planting native plant species; and community clean ups. Through the combined efforts of the community “we must sustain what we have in a healthy manner that will preserve our natural assets and resources for future generations.” d
Cypress Creek Project Partners Strong community ties and partnerships are the backbone of the Cypress Creek Project and will ensure our long term success. Where possible, the River Systems Institute will use existing partnerships to build on their networks, information, and efforts. We gratefully acknowledge the support and dedication of our partners: • City of Woodcreek • County of Hays • Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority • Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District • The Nature Conservancy of Texas • Texas Clean Rivers Program • Texas Commission on Environmental Quality • Texas State University – San Marcos • Texas Stream Team • Texas Water Development Board • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency • Village of Wimberley • Watershed Science Lab, Texas State University – San Marcos • Wimberley Valley Watershed Association
Citizens Can Make a Difference By Mary Waters, River Systems Institute
At our public meeting in November, we shared our scientific findings about the Cypress Creek watershed, groundwater, and informal survey results. Many of these findings confirmed what most of you knew already – Cypress Creek is healthy, but there are signs that it might not be in the future. Several people at the meeting wanted to discuss the actions they could take now to preserve the health of the creek. I have focused on that topic for this article, and it will be the first in a series of articles, each one with more detail on the issues outlined below. • Volunteer monitoring, where citizens collect water quality information that can signal variations in the health of the watershed • Well-informed citizens that understand their role in a water system are important to the water resource’s condition • Regulatory requirements that can help protect the creek including, Best Management Practices (BMPs), development requirements, and impervious cover limits • A group of citizens in Michigan formed the Mud Busters specifically focused on erosion - this method could be applied to the Cypress Creek Watershed • Land preservation agreements, including wildlife and agricultural land designation • Landscaping practices, including native plantings, careful fertilizer and pesticide selection, and watering practices • Proper pet waste disposal • Riparian management such as buffer zones • Impervious cover reduction on private land Look for full articles on each of the above topics and others in subsequent newsletters. If you have any suggestions or ideas to contribute, feel free to contact Mary Waters by email at waters@ txstate.edu. d
Wimberley Wastewater Project:
“Charting the Course for a Community’s Future” By Nicholas A. Lochman, Texas Stream Team As far back as 25 years ago, the City of Wimberley has had problems figuring out what to do with its wastewater. On Jan. 28th, 2009, the city held a public forum at the Wimberley Community Center to allow the public to hear what the City of Wimberley is currently working on and provide a platform for citizens to voice their concerns and opinions. Opening the meeting was City Mayor, Tom Haley. Mayor Haley began by stressing the importance of the project and describing the level of citizen support needed to complete the project. At this early stage, the estimated cost is $14 million and the city will be expected to cover a sizable portion in order to attract additional funding from the state. The mayor raised hopes when he introduced Terri Brubeck, a representative for Governor Rick Perry, who stayed the entire time and took detailed notes. City Manager Don Ferguson used a power point presentation to illustrate a wastewater system as a solution to the City’s problem. In 2007 fees were collected from potential customers, so the GBRA could begin composing a Preliminary Engineering Report*. The report discusses the initial decisions that need be made and puts the project into three phases: phase I is the construction of a plant at the northeast corner of Blue Hole or a site along Winter’s Mill Parkway. Phases II and III will expand the system to include all of Wimberley. d *The presentation is on the city’s website. The file “Wastewater Project Update 1.28.09” is near the bottom of the page.
Picking Up After Your Pet
Children and Nature
There are an estimated 42,000,000 household dogs in the United States. These pets can produce a substantial amount of waste. The city of Seattle, WA (population 582,454), for example, found that its dogs and cats produced as much waste as a city of 50,000 people! However, it does not take much pet waste to have major water quality implications. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 2-3 days of droppings from 100 dogs in a 20 square mile drainage area could contribute enough bacteria to make local waterways unsafe for swimming.
In the fall of 2008, the Wimberley Outdoor Educators set a goal to expose every child in the WISD to the natural outdoor locations available in the Wimberley area.
By Heidi Moltz, Texas Stream Team
By Jackie Mattice, Wimberley Outdoor Educators
Water quality problems arise when pet waste is transported to local waterways by rainfall. The effects on water quality can include reduction in dissolved oxygen necessary for aquatic life, an increase in weed and algae growth from excessive nutrients, overall deterioration of aquatic ecosystem integrity, and increased health risks associated with swimming and other forms of contact recreation. Disease causing organisms and parasites found in pet waste can include: Campylobacteriosis, a bacteria causing gastrointestinal illness in humans; Cryptosporidium, a protozoan parasite causing gastrointestinal illness in humans; and Toxocariasis, roundworms that may be transmitted from dogs to humans. These negative effects can be prevented by responsible pet owners employing simple prevention techniques including: • Pick up after your pet. (1) You can bury small amounts waste at approximately 1’ depth in your yard, allowing it to decompose slowly. Keep buried pet waste away from your garden and compost pile. (2) Another option is to flush the waste down the toilet. The waste will then be treated by your septic system or community sewage treatment plant. • Encourage your community to establish pet waste stations in parks, trails, and dog spaces. d
Currently 3rd graders go to the Patsy Glenn Bird Refuge, 4th graders go to Jacob’s Well through a Texas Stream Team outreach program, 6th graders will go to Blue Hole, and High School Biology students go to Cypress Creek Nature Path. During the field trip students circulate through science oriented activities to enhance their understanding of the environment. As of this writing, we are getting ready for our February field trip to Cypress Creek Nature Trail with the High School Biology students from Wimberley High School. 2008 was our first year to lead the field trip and it was such a success that all the Biology students will be attending this year. There will be five learning stations. One station will be a discussion of the creek, the physical conditions that determine which organisms will be there, and a walk along the creek to demonstrate the riffle area versus the deeper portions of the creek. Another station will test some of the physical parameters that can be measured using the Texas Stream Team kit. The ecology station compares and contrasts the stream ecosystem with the riparian forest ecosystem found on the trail. The cliff station examines the geology of the area evident at the bluffs as well as the fossils found in the surrounding Cretaceous limestone. At the plant station the students will use plant keys to identify common plants found in the area. This organization is open to all interested people in conjunction with Texas Master Naturalist program, Keep Wimberley Beautiful, and Texas Stream Team. d
Science Corner - Water Quality and Storm Runoff By Adrian Vogl, Texas State University – San Marcos
Volunteer monitoring of water quality in the Cypress Creek has greatly increased our knowledge of the types and potential sources of nonpoint source pollution within the watershed. Unfortunately, storms rarely coincide with our regular volunteer monitoring, so we rarely see the impacts of heavy storm runoff in our data. Storm water is the term used to describe water that originates during precipitation events, and is of concern for two main reasons: one relating to the volume and timing of runoff water (flood risk and environmental flows), and the other relating to potential contaminants that have built up on the landscape and that could be carried by storm runoff. A “first flush” effect has been noted in some highly urbanized areas where higher concentrations of pollutants are observed during the early minutes of a storm as compared to the remainder of the storm. Taking monthly water quality measurements under ambient conditions (low to mediumh ig h f lows) i s useful for providing a baseline of water quality for the creek. But in order to understand the f ull impacts of nonpoint source pollution and the general hydrologic response of the watershed during storm events, researchers with the Cypress Creek Project will be sampling storm water runoff at various locations along the creek. The goals of this sampling will be to understand what percentage of rainfall ends up in the creek during storm events, how quickly it gets there, what kinds of pollutants are picked up by surface runoff, and how water quality changes throughout the duration of the storm. d
Groundwater and Cypress Creek By Douglas A. Wierman, P.G., Vice President HTGCD The long-term protection of water flow in Cypress Creek, and prediction of how current and future natural and human impacts might affect the system, requires a firm understanding of the science of the watershed. During 2007 and 2008, the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District undertook a study of the hydrogeology of Cypress Creek and Jacob’s Well. The study has provided valuable information regarding the hydrology of Cypress Creek, the origin of groundwater at Jacob’s Well, and the geologic setting of the watershed. One important conclusion of the study is: the majority of the base flow in Cypress Creek originates from Jacob’s Well. The key to maintaining the flow of water in Cypress Creek lies in understanding and protecting the base f low of Ja cob’s Well. The base f low from Jacob’s Well is provided by artesian groundwater discharge, from the karst features in the Cow Creek formation of the Middle Trinity Aquifer, approximately 140 feet below the mouth of the well. Recharge to the Cow Creek formation occurs
primarily from precipitation in upgradient areas of the Middle Trinity Aquifer, to the northwest in western Hays County and eastern Blanco County. Management of groundwater pumpage, from the Cow Creek formation, upgradient of Jacob’s Well, will aid to maintain base flow from Jacob’s Well and in Cypress Creek. Although natural drought and wet conditions have the greatest impact on the flow from Jacob’s Well; current groundwater pumping, in the vicinity of the well, has reduced the flow in Jacob’s Well too. If pumping is significantly increased upgradient of Jacob’s Well, there will be a detrimental impact to the flow in Cypress Creek. The Cypress Creek/Jacob’s Well Hydrogeologic Report can be found at http://www.haysgroundwater.org/index. php?module=page&p=Aquifer%20Science. d
Cypress Creek Citizens Working to Protect Their Water Resources By Kathleen Callahan, Texas Stream Team
Central Texas is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. This urbanization and land development may have implications for the regionâ€™s water resources. Last year, citizens in Cypress Creek and the surrounding communities interested in ensuring the exceptional water quality in this ever-changing environment attended a Texas Stream Team water quality monitor certification class.
Contact Information Learn more about the Cypress Creek Project: www.cypresscreekproject.org To Subscribe to this Newsletter:
River Systems Institute 601 University Drive San Marcos, TX 78666 Phone: 512-245-9200 Fax: 512-245-7371 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.rivers.texas.edu
Water quality monitors perform hands-on testing to measure air and water temperature, water pH level, and water clarity using kits provided by Texas Stream Team, The Nature Conservancy-Blanco River Project, and Guadalupe Blanco River Authority. These core parameters help gauge the health of a water resource. Once the data are collected, monitors pass it along to Texas Stream Team to compile with other monitor data and use for education, research, problem identification, local decision-making and planning, and ambient water quality screening efforts. Local officials, stakeholders, and community members can then use the information to make decisions that protect our water. To date, at least 18 volunteer monitors have collected over 75 sample measurements across 17 monitoring locations in Cypress Creek, Lone Man Creek, and the Blanco River. Three volunteers - Jackie Mattice, Ginger Geist, and LaRay Geist - have even become Certified Trainers, allowing them to train others and ensure continued volunteer monitoring efforts in the Cypress Creek region. Texas Stream Team would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of these volunteer monitors! If you are interested in getting involved with local water quality monitoring efforts, please contact Texas Stream Team at toll free 1.877.506.1401 or email@example.com. d
About the River Systems Institute The River Systems Institute at Texas State University - San Marcos has a mission to develop and promote programs and techniques for ensuring sustainable water resources for human needs, ecosystem health, and economic development. Headquartered at the Texas Rivers Center, the Institute overlooks San Marcos Springs and Spring Lake, the headwaters of the crystal clear San Marcos River. The Institute develops and promotes holistic approaches to the management of river systems. It is dedicated to studying, preserving, and interpreting the remarkable aquatic system that surrounds it as well as systems across the state, the nation, and the world. The Institute provides opportunities for faculty and students from a range of disciplines to engage in scientific research and to address major water management issues in Texas and beyond. In addition to its own programs, the Institute oversees Aquarena Center and Texas Stream Team. d