SAN MARCOS, Texas – As the temperatures heat up, people looking to cool off will flock to local rivers and springs. In Hays County at the San Marcos River, visitors may encounter conservationists working around them, trying to preserve the stream’s flow and healthy habitat.
In 2013, the Edwards Aquifer Authority implemented a habitat conservation plan (EAHCP) to create and maintain the habitat for federally protected species that live in the San Marcos River and the Comal Springs System. A portion of the water withdrawal fees paid by utility companies, such as the San Antonio Water System (SAWS), helps support ongoing conservation efforts.
Melanie Howard, habitat conservation plan manager for the City of San Marcos, said the Edwards Aquifer Authority and other agencies use a tremendous amount of resources to maintain a clean river and springs in Hays County.
Overpumping of the Edwards Aquifer can have an impact on their river, Howard said.
“If you decrease the level of the aquifer, it can get to a point where we no longer have springs, or the spring flow gets really low, and then consequently, we begin to lose our river flows,” Howard said.
That could impact the natural habitat and wildlife. Conservation crews are hired to help maintain the river year-round.
“They remove the invasive plants, and they plant the natives that are better habitat for the endangered species, like the San Marcos salamander, the fountain darter, the Comal riffle beetle, and then, of course, we protect Texas wild rice, and we plant that to ensure that we’ll have it in perpetuity,” Howard said.
Texas wild rice is native only to Hays County, through the conservation efforts experts say they’ve seen it thrive.
Bryce Cuda was hired to help maintain vegetation in and around the river. He said it’s a year-round effort.
Cuda's focus has been on reviving the Texas wild rice.
“Vegetation gets caught in the plant, and it shades the plant and it stops up the flow of the river and it will kill the plant,” he said.
The team spends a lot of time cleaning up litter and educating the public about how they can help maintain a healthy water system.
Elaina Middletown leads the team that walks the river and picks up trash.
“I have seen a change in the public attitude, and I’ve seen it get cleaner, too,” she said.
The hope is that word and education will spread.
The conservation plan is set to expire in 2028. In recent years, visitors may have noticed some changes to the river access, and more changes are planned for the future. Click here to learn more.