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2011-04-21

Trained volunteers to track Medina River water quality

By Robert Brischetto Special to the Courier

The Medina River Protection Fund has initiated an ongoing effort for regular testing of the quality of water at different spots on the Medina River in Bandera County.

The Bandera Stream Team is working with the River Systems Institute at Texas State University to report monthly tests on four sites along the Medina River within Bandera County.

Personnel with the River Systems Institute of Texas State University trained 12 Bandera County residents as certified water quality monitors - Leanne Beauxbeannes, John Bilderback, Peter Bonenberger, Marianne Bonenberger, Bob Brischetto, Derek Draper, Chelsea Draper, Darla Hinton, Nicole Mebane, Karen Schenck, Rob Platt and Kelsey Wethor.

A grassroots effort, the Texas Stream initiative engages volunteer monitors in effective strategies for protecting water resources and resolving water quality problems originating at the community level.

The stream teams monitor the water environment in more than 100 sites throughout the state with regular reports by more than 1,000 trained volunteers.

It is funded through an Environmental Protection Agency Nonpoint Source Pollution grant under section 319 of the Federal Clean Water Act.

The focus of the Bandera Stream Team is on the Upper Medina River Basin, which stretches from the northwest corner of Bandera County to Medina Lake and the Diversion Dam, just across the Medina County line.

The Bandera Stream Team is concerned with some 50 miles of the Medina River from its origin to Diversion Lake.

Testing by the team concerns both point and non-point sources of pollution.

A point source is from a single, identifiable source of pollution, such as the discharge from the city's wastewater treatment plan.

However, since point sources are regulated under the Federal Clean Water Act and Texas state law, the stream team will more often be concerned with non-point sources of pollution, which can originate from many different locations and are generally carried off the land by stormwater runoff.

Some common non-point sources of pollution include:

• Sediment from croplands, construction sites and streambank erosion;

• Nutrients from fertilized farmlands, lawns and gardens, livestock operations, septic systems and land waste applications.

Excessive nutrients in waterways contribute to an increase in plant and bacteria growth, resulting in oxygen depletion and killing fish.

• Bacteria from livestock seepage from septic systems improperly maintained, leaking sewer lines, wildlife and urban runoff.

• Manmade chemicals, such as pesticides from roadways, croplands, lawns and gardens; and toxic materials, such as oil, engine degreasers and antifreeze from automobiles and boats.

These toxins can wash from city streets or illegal dumping.

• Surface trash, such as plastic bags or containers and cigarette butts that are washed into water bodies.

Analysis of sources of pollution is done by observing trends and correlations over an extended period of time.

The Bandera Stream Team conducts monthly tests to track the biological community of the Medina River over time.

The team members measure water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, total dissolved solids, water clarity and E.coli.

They also gather additional environmental information during monitoring, such as algae cover, water color, flow level, water surface conditions, water odor, weather conditions and rainfall accumulation.

As declines in water quality are detected, team members will work with the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District to identify and address the sources and severity of the pollution.


Pictured: Derek Draper and Nicole Mebane test water on the Medina River at Bandera City Park.