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Expanding BCRAGD data collection programs

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCRAGD Communications

Staff and board members with the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater Conservation District (BCRAGD) work tirelessly to conserve and protect the quality of surface waters and groundwater in the county. The district's staff reaches out to other agencies to form partnerships and stretch its scientific data collecting abilities.
According to Morgen Ayers, community outreach specialist, and Kayla Rohrbach, watershed protection coordinator, these partnerships extend the district's capabilities and influence while forming positive relationships with those agencies.
BCRAGD currently partners with San Antonio River Authority (SARA) and Nueces River Authority (NRA) for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) statewide Clean Rivers Program. They also collaborate with Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA), the independent school districts of Bandera County and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), among others.
The local district has been cooperating with SARA on the Clean Rivers Program since 2012, and joined up with NRA in 2016. SARA and BCRAGD regularly observe and measure water quality along the Medina River. The Nueces River Authority partnership does the same along the Sabinal and Seco Creek watersheds in the west end of the county.
“We have a small portion of the Guadalupe River basin, too,” said Ayers, “and we hope to add working with the Upper Guadalupe River Authority (UGRA) and the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority (GBRA) in the future.”
BCRAGD General Manager Dave Mauk is excited about the district's chance to collect data jointly with the NRA. “This partnership will allow us to fill the data gap along the Sabinal and Seco Creek portions of Bandera County,” said Mauk.
All the samples collected from the watersheds are sent to labs at SARA and the Lower Colorado River Authority. From there, the information is submitted to TCEQ where it is compiled into reports available to the public through the TCEQ Clean Rivers Program website.
The CRP is tasked to look at water quality through out the state. The local district takes in-situ measurements at several sites along the rivers. “We look at various markers, such as temperature, water flow, turbidity (clarity) and more,” said Rohrbach. “Our portion of the basin is comprised of the headwaters, representing the most upstream of the larger sample areas, which stretches all the way to the coast.”
TCEQ reviews all collected data, looking for possible problem areas so that remediation can be started as soon as possible.
“During the drought, we had a site where we reported no fish,” said Ayers. TCEQ was going to designate the site as “impaired,” but “we were able to explain to them that there were no fish simply because that part of the river had gone dry,” Ayers said.
SARA had nothing but praise in their annual report for the assistance BCRAGD has provided for their portion of the Clean Rivers Program.
Sites at the Mayan Ranch and English Crossing are regularly checked for aquatic life monitoring. This spring, BCRAGD presented a plaque to the Mayan in recognition of the guest ranch's support of the district's environmental stewardship efforts.
Aquatic life monitoring involves taking six cross sections of the river at one site to observe species and numbers of fish, vegetation in the stream and on the bank, depth and flow of the stream, shade and dissolved oxygen, as well as a number of other factors.
The district's surface water team includes Rohrbach, aquatic ecologist Levi Sparks and aquatic biologist Drusilla Meier.
Mauk said. “By 2017, we'll have CRP testing sites at Medina Lake to ensure that the quality of the lake waters remain high.”
In future articles, the district will share information about their cooperative programs with AgriLife Extension Service and the school districts; studies about the control of the invasive giant reed and water thief, Arundo donax; and the establishment of an early flood warning system in a grant program with the USGS.