SAN ANTONIO - Basketball analyst Charles Barkley once called the San Antonio River a “dirty little creek."
It is a label that San Antonio would like to see go away, as numerous agencies work to clean up the river’s image.
"It looks beautiful to me, but that's not to say it doesn’t have some water quality issues,” said Nancy Stoner.
Stoner is the Environmental Protection Agency’s acting administrator for water, better known as the EPA’s "water chief."
On a visit to San Antonio on Wednesday, she took a stroll along the river’s Mission Reach project along with San Antonio River Authority representatives.
Stoner passed along praise for what she called a forward-thinking Mission Reach project that is improving the San Antonio River’s water quality. The EPA helped to fund the work.
"We have helped to fund this project through some of our grant dollars that go to communities that do this kind of water quality work,” said Stoner.
"The river actually is improving and it's projects like the Mission Reach that are helping to make the river better,” added Suzanne Scott, general manager for the San Antonio River Authority.
Near Roosevelt Park, vegetation along the river looks overgrown and unkempt.
According to Scott, it is all by design. The native plant life serves as a buffer zone for trash, pollution, and tiny organisms you cannot see that get washed into the river after rain storms.
"The main threat to water quality in San Antonio is bacteria,” warned Scott.
Those bacteria are harmful to humans, and while kayaking and canoes are allowed in parts of the river, swimming is not, due to the danger.
The bacteria are often a result of waste left behind by humans that gets washed into the river.
"That's why it is really important that people think about what they can do,” said Stoner.
So while the river may not be crystal clear, the ultimate goal for the San Antonio River Authority is: "It would be wonderful if in the future if we could have swimming back in the river,” remarked Scott.
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