The Environmental Sciences Department regularly works on small or short term water quality, pollution investigations or scientific studies (less than 5 years). When studies are completed, a report may be created, published or put on the SARA web site. Often these projects are funded by tax dollars or grants, but they may also be funded through private sources.
In recent history, use of groundwater to sustain rapid development in the basin has resulted in increasing base flows in the San Antonio River resulting from discharged groundwater-based return flows. This trend in increasing flows may continue if population growth in the basin is supported by additional groundwater usage or surface water transfers from outside the basin; however, lower river base flows may also result should water management strategies such as reuse, both direct and indirect, be increased. In any event, there is the potential to change the current physical, biological, and social resources in the lower San Antonio River sub-basin which provides the rationale behind the Texas Instream Flow Program (TIFP) lower San Antonio River sub-basin study.
Instream Flow Study of the Lower San Antonio River and Lower Cibolo Creek
The Texas Department of Health has issued a fish consumption advisory stating that the consumption of fish from Leon Creek may pose a threat to human health due to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). This advisory extends from Old U.S. Highway 90 Bridge downstream to the Loop 410 bridge in South Bexar County. Previous sediment sampling confirms the presence of trace elements, pesticides and PCBs in Lower Leon Creek at and below the former Kelly Air Force Base (AFB). It is unclear if the contaminants originate from the AFB or from the watershed upstream of the AFB. This project will conduct both streambed and suspended sediment sampling and analysis for contaminants with special focus on PCBs to determine if the PCB source is the former AFB.
This project will assess the abundance of Guadalupe Bass Micropterus treculi in the San Antonio River (SAR) watershed and collect, tag and reintroduce the species to a restored reach of the SAR where the species had been extirpated. An assessment of Guadalupe bass in the SAR watershed will be completed to gather genetic and baseline abundance information. Collected adults will be tagged, checked for genetic integrity, and stocked in restored stream reaches. Evaluation of efforts will begin six months after stocking to document movement, reproduction and recruitment. Habitat association data will be collected to help guide future habitat restoration efforts. Overall outcomes expected are including reintroducing the Guadalupe Bass to the Upper SAR, expanding its range and distribution and improving the biotic integrity of the Upper SAR.
Streams within the San Antonio River (SAR) watershed are influenced by nonpoint sources during storm events. The San Antonio River Authority (SARA) is challenged with the task of defining stream water quality within the SAR watershed during storm events. To accomplish this, SARA is incorporating the latest innovative procedures to collect water quality data by implementing permanent long-term automated sampling stations designed to collect water samples under storm water conditions. Automated sampling procedures can collect water quality samples throughout the duration of a storm event, making the collection effort more economically feasible and safer without endangering field personnel during hazardous storm conditions.
The Westside Creeks are a cluster of tributaries to the San Antonio River that flow through some of San Antonio’s oldest Westside neighborhoods – a community with a rich historical and cultural background. A feasibility study is currently being developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and San Antonio River Authority, for the ecological restoration of the Westside Creeks. However, the current sediment and water quality conditions are unknown. The data collected from this project will provide information about the current creek conditions and help to determine if there are concerns about disturbing the stream-bed during potential restoration activities.
The objective of the Lower Leon Creek Use-Attainability Analysis is to conduct monitoring in support of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality efforts to assign the appropriate aquatic life use and dissolved oxygen criterion in Lower Leon Creek; additional dissolved oxygen data on Menger and Picosa creeks will also be collected.
Leon UAA QAPP FY 2016
Three freshwater mussel species under review for federal listing as threatened or endangered have historically been found in the San Antonio River Basin. One species, Golden Orb, has been recently found in numerous locations in the San Antonio River. In an effort to determine mussel densities and species richness for the entire native mussel community in the San Antonio River Basin (SARB), the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) will be conducting reconnaissance surveys and mussel sample collections efforts throughout the basin. Data collected will be distributed to regulatory agencies to assist in decision-making process for at risk candidate species. Sampling locations include San Antonio River, Cibolo Creek, Salado Creek, Lower Leon Creek, Salatrillo and Martinez Creeks, lower Medina River, Medio Creek and West Side Creeks.
Final Cibolo Creek Mussel Report
In Karnes and Wilson counties, the number of new oil and gas production wells has increased substantially since completion of the Phase I report. Few surface water and sediment samples have been collected in the area. The USGS proposes both continued long-term sampling at a subset of currently-sampled stream sites and new focused sampling of additional stream sites within the Lower San Antonio River (LSAR) Basin where oil and gas production is most active. The study will estimate the change in land cover in the central portion of the LSAR Basin due to the conversion of rangeland to well pads sites, new roads, and storage ponds. In addition, streambed-sediment samples will be collected where oil and gas production is most active and be analyzed for polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations.
The adopted environmental flow standards developed by the Guadalupe, San Antonio, Mission, and Aransas Rivers and Mission, Copano, Aransas, and San Antonio Bays Basin and Bay Stakeholder Committee (BBASC) relied on limited data about the location, reproduction and recruitment of Rangia clams for the spring months. This study will develop maps of Rangia clam beds in Mission Lake, Guadalupe Bay and parts of Hynes and San Antonio Bay. Rangia clam growth rings will be examined to establish correlations between growth and recruitment with environmental flow conditions.
The goal of this project is to develop methodologies to validate environmental flows adopted by the State. This will be accomplished by first conducting a workshop with an expert panel to develop several theories on how certain chemical and physical parameters as well as biological indicators will respond to the various tiered flow recommendations. These indicators will be identified by the expert panel. Then the selected indicators will be studied at several sites and under several flow regimes to validate the theories and the associated flow recommendations. This information can then be used to refine future environmental flow recommendations.
June 29, 2017 Expert Workshop: Instream Flows Research and Validation Methodology Framework
Trinity River Basin Environmental Flows 2011-2017
The southern San Antonio River Basin has experienced woody plant encroachment from Huisache. It is commonly believed that the change in vegetative land cover has affected streamflow and groundwater recharge. This project will evaluate the potential changes in the hydrologic budget as a result of brush management (specifically Huisache management). Meteorological instrumentation will be installed on two adjacent plots of land with managed grassland and Huisache brushland to measure evapotranspiration and rainfall over a range of hydrologic conditions and the data linked with remotely sensed imagery. After two years, brush management will be implemented to identify the effect on the hydrologic budget.
Past Projects and Studies
A portion of the Upper San Antonio River, Segment 1911, has been identified by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) as impaired due to bacteria levels that exceed the state criteria for contact recreation. Also identified as impaired due to bacteria are Salado Creek, Segment 1910, a tributary of the Upper San Antonio River, and Walzem Creek, Segment 1910A, a tributary of Salado Creek. The urban environment surrounding the Upper San Antonio River has many potential sources of bacteria. The ultimate source of these bacteria is fecal matter originating from warm blooded animals (wildlife, pets, livestock, and humans). Bacteria from these sources can reach the San Antonio River through numerous potential pathways. The objective of this report is to identify and assess potential sources of bacteria, and to evaluate Best Management Practices that can be used to control those sources. BMP Assessment Report Update Data Evaluation Report
In 2001, the 77th Texas Legislature enacted Senate Bill 2 establishing the Texas Instream Flows Program (TIFP). The purpose of this program is to perform scientific studies to determine the timing and flow requirements necessary to maintain a sound ecological environment in Texas Rivers. The State Legislature tasked the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Water Development Board to work with stakeholders to develop instream flow recommendations that will maintain a sound ecological environment for both the instream and riverine habitats. The San Antonio River Authority has been working with the State Agencies on the Lower San Antonio River and Cibolo Creek Instream Flows Program. Technical data collected and evaluated to date, are presented in the report below: Instream Flows Study of the Lower San Antonio River and Lower Cibolo Creek – Interim Progress Report and Instream Flow Recommendations. View Report View Study Design View HWY 77 Information
The draft 2008 TCEQ 303(d) List (March 19, 2008) identified several assessment units in the Lower Leon Creek as being impaired based on the stateâ€™s contact recreation (bacteria) and high aquatic life (dissolved oxygen) use criterion. In response to these conditions, the TCEQ Total Maximum Daily Load Program in partnership with the San Antonio River Authority (SARA)initiated a project to verify depressed dissolved oxygen and develop information necessary to support a bacterial (E. coli) Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) in the Lower Leon Creek, Segment 1906. The specific objectives of the Leon Creek Segment 1906 TMDL for Dissolved Oxygen and Bacteria Impairments, TCEQ contract number 582-8-80193 were to: (1) Collect targeted 24 hour dissolved oxygen data in order to verify the water quality impairment and overall organic loading; (2) Collect targeted bacterial data in order to establish source of impairment and over loading; (3) Conduct modeling and assessment activities required to allocate loading; (4) Provide technical assistance to the TCEQ in the evaluation of actions necessary to achieve the recommended loading allocations, and; (5) Document, compile, and summarize technical analyses in reports to the TCEQ. There were two phases to this project; Phase I addressed dissolved oxygen deficiencies in Leon Creek, Phase II addressed excessive bacteria concentrations. View Report
Citizens in the lower portion of the San Antonio River Watershed have expressed concerns about bacteria levels in the San Antonio River and asked that the San Antonio River Authority address their concerns. Many felt that the City of San Antonio was the principle source of the bacterial concerns on the lower San Antonio River (Segment 1901). However, since water quality data showed that the stream standard for contact recreation was generally being met at sites on the San Antonio River from I-37 in Bexar County to FM 791 in Karnes County , it was likely that the concerns identified in the lower portion of the River had other sources. Therefore, this study was designed to concentrate its limited resources on Segment 1901. Segment 1901 encompasses the area from the confluence with the Guadalupe River in Refugio and Victoria Counties to a point approximately 600 meters downstream of the FM 791 bridge near Falls City , Texas in Karnes County . Limited fecal coliform bacteria data has identified several areas where the State stream standard for contact recreation has occasionally not been met in this segment, and the segment has been placed on the Texas 2002 Clean Water Act Section 303(d) List of impaired water bodies. This study was designed to collect and analyze surface water samples from the lower San Antonio River in order to identify reaches that may, or may not, be meeting the State stream standard for contact recreation, and attempt to identify the source(s) of bacterial contamination. View Report
Under contract to the National Park Service, biologists of the San Antonio River Authority Environmental Services Department conducted a series of fish collections at representative sites along watercourses in or adjacent to the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park properties in Bexar and Wilson counties, Texas . Fishes were collected from October 2003 to September 2004 at five sites along the San Antonio River and at three tributary sites utilizing electro-fishing and seining techniques. Fish community composition, habitat and water quality were evaluated. The survey collected 27 species totaling 4912 individuals. Non-native species collected during this survey made up 37% of all species collected and 36% of all individuals collected. The survey was able to document 69% of the fishes previously collected from the Upper San Antonio River and collected four species (Notropis Buchanani, Notropis texanus, Notropis amabilis, Tilapia zilli) not previously listed by the San Antonio River Authority. No darter species or species of management concerns were collected. The San Antonio River Authority developed an inventory of fishes collected from streams within or adjacent to San Antonio Missions National Historical Park properties as a project deliverable to the National Park Service. View Report
From 2002 through 2009, faculty and students from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at Texas A&M University conducted field, laboratory, and modeling studies to investigate the diet, behavior, and habitat of the whooping crane (Grus americana) at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Texas. During this period the research team also conducted complementary studies of environmental conditions in San Antonio Bay. The project was called the San Antonio Guadalupe Estuarine System (SAGES) project, and was funded primarily by the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority and the San Antonio River Authority, with additional support provided by the San Antonio Water System and the Texas Water Development Board. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided in-kind support through lodging, the use of boating facilities, and other logistics. View Report
In August 2003 the Texas Department of Health (TDH) issued a fish consumption advisory for a reach of the lower Leon Creek (Segment 1906) bounded by Texas State Highway 90 (upstream) and S.W. Military Drive (downstream). This advisory was established after samples from several fish species collected in 2002 were found to have elevated levels of PCBs in the edible portion of fish tissue. Previous tissue analyses (whole fish) had detected the presence of PCBs in several species of fish in this reach.There has been very little fish-tissue, sediment, and water quality sampling for PCB’s in the San Antonio River Basin. However, due to the findings by the TDH on Leon Creek, a follow up survey of PCBs in the aquatic environment is desirable. The survey would provide current information as to the extent of PCB contamination in Leon Creek. The survey would sample fish-tissue and sediments in Leon Creek and analyze for concentrations of PCB. As SARA’s contribution to the PCB Study, SARA has contracted with the US Geological Survey to conduct a sediment characterization survey. This study is to determine the occurrence and distribution of selected inorganic and organic hydrophobic (sediment bound) constituents in the watersheds in the San Antonio area. The River Authority’s share of the cost will be $111,500.
The San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) staff has expressed to the State Agencies preference to be engaged in the lower San Antonio River stream flow study as an active partner. The Environmental Services Department (ESD) Instream Flows Planning Project provides a budget for engaging a consultant to conduct instream flows study according to the States methodology, and to make instream flow recommendation to River Authority Staff. Project activities will also include planning, document and data review/comment, correspondence, attendance at meetings and keeping River Authority management and the Board of Directors informed.
The Texas Instream Flow Program (TIFP), jointly administered by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Texas Water Development Board, has initiated a study of instream flows necessary to support a sound ecological environment in the Lower San Antonio River. The TIFP seeks to incorporate stakeholder input, insight, and concerns while conducting this study. With the assistance of the San Antonio River Authority, initial stakeholder meetings were held in February 2005. Additional stakeholder input and assistance is required at this time in order to develop a study design for the basin. The TIFP will be holding stakeholder update meetings and study workgroup meetings in the San Antonio River Basin from July 2008 to June 2009. The assistance of the San Antonio River Authority is sought in order to develop the stakeholder process in this sub-basin and provide administrative and organizational support for these meetings. Click here for more information
In response to the current statewide interest in using fish community composition as a tool to determine instream flows, ESD Biologists will re-evaluate the River Authority fish community data and conduct a statistical analysis in order to update, recalibrate and verify the San Antonio basin fish community metrics. This project provides funding for the River Authority ESD staff to research and analyze the fish community data base to develop up to date, applicable and accurate metrics. Project activities will include documentation and data review, data analysis, interagency coordination, correspondence, report preparation, attendance at meetings, and keeping the River Authority management and the Board of Directors informed.
There has been only limited research relating specific levels of nutrient loadings to desired use, water quality or aquatic ecosystem impacts. However, there are methods available that can analyze ambient water quality data and point source discharge information to provide opportunities for developing nutrient criteria. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has developed a plan to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements to adopt numeric nutrient water quality standards. The River Authority ESD shall conduct a data collection effort to provide information that will contribute nitrogen and phosphorous Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) discharge information to the analysis and development of nutrient criteria. The objective of this data collection effort is to generate a data base of nutrient concentrations discharged from selected Wastewater Treatment Plants within the San Antonio River Basin. The data will be compiled into a data base that will compliment the existing River Authority water quality data base and support a continuous simulation water quality modeling analysis. Wastewater Treatment Plant discharge sampling, laboratory analysis, data management, and quality assurance/quality control activities will be conducted. The data will be made available to EPA, TCEQ, United States Geological Survey, or other agencies, and public stakeholders that may be involved with nutrient criteria development.
Specified reaches of the Upper San Antonio (segment 1911) and Salado Creek (segment 1910) have been identified on the TCEQ 303 (d) list as not meeting state stream standards due to elevated levels of coliform bacteria. The TCEQ Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) effort has determined the bacterial load reductions that will be required in order to meet compliance with state surface water quality standards. The Environmental Protection Agency requires that an Implementation Plan (IP) be developed to address the water quality impairments identified in the TMDL. The TCEQ has partnered with the San Antonio River Authority to develop an IP for the Upper San Antonio River and Salado Creek watersheds. The IP will identify best management practices to abate or control nonpoint sources of bacteria and develop a timeline for implementation. The IP development project will include information, input and planning from the Bexar Regional Watershed Management (BRWM) program partners, area stakeholders and the public. This project will produce a document that will serve as a guide towards abatement control of nonpoint source pollution of coliform bacteria in the Upper San Antonio River and Salado Creek watersheds. Data, plans, information, and input from the BRWM partners, stakeholders and the public will form the basis for the IP. The IP will compliment the TCEQ TMDL effort by establishing the framework needed for implementation through public outreach, awareness, and input efforts, as well as collaboration with partners and stakeholders. The project will set short and long term goals for pollutant reduction in the watershed.
(The following has been cited from Executed Agreement #153XXF7001) The primary object of this project is for the SARA Environmental Services Division to perform representative monitoring and reporting of storm event discharges. These measures will assist in characterizing the quality of storm water discharges from the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System. Monitoring will be performed on Ingram Road at Leon Creek Tributary during representative storm event discharges. Monitoring frequency: (1/season). Seasonal monitoring periods: December – March (dry); April – June (wet); July – August (dry); September – November (wet). The following parameters will be analyzed: Biochemical Oxygen Demand, Chemical Oxygen Demand, Oil and Grease, Total Suspended Solids, Total Dissolved Solids, Total Nitrogen, Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen, Total Nitrate, Total Ammonia, Total Phosphorus, Dissolved Phosphorus, Total Cadmium, Total Chromium, Total Copper, Total Cyanide, Total Lead, Total Nickel, Total Zinc, Fecal Coliform, Enterococci, pH, Hardness, Temperature, and Diazinon. The anticipated total project cost is $27,360.00 per year. This entire project is being funded by the Texas Department of Transportation.
The draft 2008 TCEQ 303(d) List (March 19, 2008) identifies several assessment units in the Lower Leon Creek as being impaired based on the state’s contact recreation (bacteria) and high aquatic life (dissolved oxygen) use criterion. In response to these conditions, the TCEQ Total Maximum Daily Load Program in partnership with the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) have initiated a project to verify depressed dissolved oxygen and develop information necessary to support a bacterial (E. coli) Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) in the Lower Leon Creek, Segment 1906. The specific objectives of the Leon Creek Segment 1906 TMDL for Dissolved Oxygen and Bacteria Impairments
, TCEQ contract number 582-8-80193 are to: (1) Collect targeted 24 hour dissolved oxygen data in order to verify the water quality impairment and overall organic loading; (2) Collect targeted bacterial data in order to establish source of impairment and over loading; (3) Conduct modeling and assessment activities required to allocate loading; (4) Provide technical assistance to the TCEQ in the evaluation of actions necessary to achieve the recommended loading allocations, and; (5) Document, compile, and summarize technical analyses in reports to the TCEQ. There are two phases to this project; Phase I addresses dissolved oxygen deficiencies in Leon Creek, Phase II addresses excessive bacteria concentrations. Both phases will be conducted simultaneously. Upper_San_Antonio_River_Watershed_Protection_Plan_Revision_Project