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When we arrived at Barton Springs at 8:30 this New Year’s Day morning it was 29 degrees.

The front gate parking lot was full.  Seriously. 

Before we could set up the Save Our Springs welcome tent, with free coffee and donuts, our maps and water education materials, and our traditional Polar Bear t-shirts, the t-shirt line was already six people deep.

It never let up.  Before we packed up that afternoon, we had enjoyed the magic of Barton Springs welcoming the new year with a few thousands friends, neighbors, and potential friends. 

Unlike some years, when it’s warm and sunny, it was a true winter splash.  It felt like a fairy tale. It’s hard to describe the sense of community, good will, and pure joy of starting the new year at Barton Springs. 

We are all so blessed by the beautiful waters of Barton Springs, San Marcos Springs, Comal Springs, and the hundreds of other smaller springs of Central Texas.  

The challenge of keeping these springs clean and flowing grows every day, as our region’s population continues to grow.  With a changing climate, central Texas could see an even greater influx of newcomers fleeing rising seas and larger storms along the Gulf Coast.

Please make a generous donation today to SOS to support the science, law, and public education advocacy that we need to save our springs from these growing threats.         

We need your help because SOS Alliance is the only organization in Central Texas with experienced attorneys and educators working every day to protect the life source of our entire region – the Edwards Aquifer and its Great Springs.

Just this year we stepped up to take on both local and regional threats to our springs, parks, and watersheds where no one else was willing to lead.   Here in Austin:

*SOS led the charge to kill a proposal to build a private soccer stadium on public park land at the confluence of Barton Creek and Lady Bird Lake.

*We didn’t stop there. We also joined with East Austin parks advocates to keep that stadium proposal out of Roy Guerrero Park and off the banks of the Colorado River.

*SOS joined with Zilker neighbors and others to keep the Parks Department from paving a parking lot in Zilker Park on the shores of Lady Bird Lake.

*SOS joined with other environmental and neighborhood groups to convince the Austin City Council to abandon the proposed 1500-page, misguided CodeNext overhaul to the city’s land development code. As drafted, the proposal would have allowed business as usual sprawl development in the suburbs while adding density in central Austin in ways that would have increased flooding and the urban heat island.

With the support of volunteer scientists, educators, and others from universities, government agencies and the private sector, we were expecting 1000 high school students (over 22 local high schools) and their teachers at this fall’s Barton Springs University day of outdoor learning. Unfortunately, the rain gods had other ideas and the event was postponed, rescheduled and postponed again. We are working with Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. to reschedule to next spring.

As more people move to the Austin area, we are challenged to educate newcomers about the importance and vulnerability of our local home waters. Equally as important, we need to re-engage longtime citizens and inspire our young people to become the next generation of leaders that protect Barton Springs and our local natural wonders. We need your help now more than ever to expand Barton Springs University and our other educational programs.  By living and giving locally, together we can be the change that is necessary to protect our home, community, and planet.

Also this year, SOS led the legal challenge against the City of Dripping Springs’ proposal to discharge almost 1 million gallons of treated sewage into Onion Creek. Onion Creek is the largest source of recharge waters for Barton Springs; sewage dumped in the creek would flow downstream, into both drinking water wells and the aquifer.  

Among a long list of other pollutants, the proposed discharge would increase phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations in Onion Creek by more than 30 times (3000%) during critical low-flow, summer conditions. Phosphorus and nitrogen are the primary ingredients in fertilizer. By fertilizing the water, the discharge would literally ruin Onion Creek and make existing algae problems at Barton Springs much worse.

Today there are no approved discharges of municipal wastewater into the waters that feed Barton Springs – and with your help we are committed to keeping it that way.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, is likely to approve the requested permit next year. But our scientists—including two Texas State University aquatic biologists who volunteered their time—and lawyers have made a strong case that a permit approval would violate both state and federal Clean Water Act standards. We are committed to challenging any such permit in the courts and in the community.

The City of Blanco is now seeking a similar permit to discharge wastewater into the Blanco River. We are working now to defeat this proposal before it ever reaches a formal hearing. The Blanco is a primary source of recharge for Barton Springs during drought conditions; it must be protected just like Onion Creek and Barton Creek. And others are in line to convert our pristine Hill Country streams into cheap sewage disposal for new development.

Also this year, working in partnership with the San Marcos River Foundation, we helped secure over 500 acres of Edwards Aquifer recharge zone on the west side of San Marcos. This land fits within San Marcos’ comprehensive plan for a conservation and recreation loop around the City. Our close partnership with the River Foundation will continue into 2019 and beyond.

Finally, our supporters and 84% of Austin voters approved $72 million in city bonds to buy land and conservation easements in the Barton Springs watershed for water quality protection and flood prevention. SOS was part of a larger coalition of conservation groups who convinced the City Council to include these funds in the November bond package. This measure passed by the widest margin of all of the city bond proposals, showing the overwhelming voter support for preserving critical watershed protection lands.

We need a lot more than $72 million to permanently protect enough of the Barton Springs watershed from development, but it’s an important step in the right direction at a critical time.

With your support we will work to assure that these voter-approved funds are spent wisely, assuring effective protection for Barton Springs, and where possible used to leverage other public and private dollars.

But we cannot do this work without you. Please include Save Our Springs Alliance in your end-of-year charitable giving. Without your support we simply cannot do what is necessary to keep up with the explosive growth that threatens the future of our life sustaining home waters.

And please join us at Barton Springs on New Years Day. Bring the whole family, and invite your friends and colleagues. You won’t believe how wonderful it is until you’ve tried it.

Thank you for your consideration. And thank you for being part of the Save Our Springs community. It really does take a community to save a community spring. Please donate today!

Sincerely,

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Bill Bunch                                                                                       Pat Brodnax

P.S. Please make your donation here.   All donations are matched 50% by the Kirk Mitchell Environmental Law Fund.