Scientists researching aquifer take KSAT caving

EAA explores caves to understand how aquifer works

SAN ANTONIO – Parts of Bexar County sit on what can best be described as a virtual spider web. Caves, holes, and corridors are common, all of which were once or currently make up the aquifer. 

The Edwards Aquifer Authority is constantly monitoring its namesake.

Recently, the EAA invited KSAT along with them into a cave near Helotes. They asked that its exact location not be revealed to ensure preservation of the cave.

The EAA's Geary Shindel, an expert caver, guided the tour of the cave, bringing along members of the Bexar Grotto, a local spelunking group.  

Upon entering the cave, a snake could be seen resting on a ledge. Cave systems, according to Shindel, are home to many different species.

"See how the soil here is dark-colored and you see there's a little bit of dark staining up on the rock," said Shindel. "It's probably a bat roost."

Going into caves across the county provides vital information when it comes to understanding how the aquifer works, because they once were part of the aquifer system.

"We're, in essence, in the old paleo part, the old part of the aquifer, so this hasn't been active in maybe more than a million years," said Shindel.

Still, unbelievably, not much has changed in the cave, which makes it ideal for research.

"The cave allows us to look at what the fabric of the aquifer looks like, so they're important for us to have a better understanding for how water moves through these systems," said Shindel.

The cave near Helotes is one of the longest caves in the county. It goes back about one mile and drops off about 150 feet and is still being actively explored.

Farther into the cave, only the light from helmets illuminated a pitch-black environment. There are spots that involved squeezing between rocks and fitting through spaces with barely enough room to crawl. 

It is a process that does not faze the experts, who navigate caves often, and continue to take more risks in the name of science.

"Cavers have gotten, let's say, thinner and more aggressive," said Shindel.

This means there is still much more to learn and more to explore about what lies beneath and how the aquifer reacts to situations, like Tuesday night's heavy rain.

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