Biologists worry ongoing drought could impact endangered species

Less water and less flow in the river also means less space for the critters living underwater.

Biologists are on high alert as the ongoing drought dries up the rivers some animals call home.

Fortunately, the San Antonio area has federal safeguards in place to make sure those creatures don’t die off in an extreme drought.

Caetano Rochelle paddleboards at the San Marcos River daily and he’s noticed the drought take its toll.

“Well, for the first time ever, my paddleboard roughed up the rocks,” Rochelle said.

Less water and less flow in the river also means less space for the critters living underwater.

“So as the water retreats, essentially the animals retreat with them,” said Chad Furl, with the Edwards Aquifer Authority Habitat Conservation.

The Edwards Aquifer Authority Refugia Program breeds and houses endangered species in San Marcos — just in case the species dies off in a catastrophic event, like a severe drought.

“This drought is affecting endangered species, but not to catastrophic levels,” said biologist Braden West.

Biologists aren’t worried about the Texas blind salamander for now because it hides in the Edwards Aquifer.

Scientists are concerned about the fountain darter, known for hiding and darting around.

When water flow is low like it is now, water temperature can rise and algae can grow, ultimately affecting the plants that fountain darters call home.

“These changing conditions can really impact fountain darters because it’s reducing available habitat, it’s reducing the types of plants that they associate with and potentially reducing things like food and oxygen availability,” said biologist Katie Bockrateh.

The Texas wild rice is exclusive to the San Marcos River, but now it has less space to spread its long, green tentacles.

Because water levels are so low, it’s a lot easier for more people to stand in the river. But if you’re tubing, swimming or standing, be sure not to pull on or step on any of this Texas wild rice.

“If you’re running through it, you’re basically running through their house,” Rochelle said.

About the Authors:

Camelia Juarez is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2022. Camelia comes from a station in Lubbock, Texas. Now, she is back in her hometown. She received her degree from Texas State University. In her free time, Camelia enjoys thrifting, roller-skating and spending time with family and friends.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.