Hill Country conference brings communities together for sustainable water solutions

More than 70 participants representing 15 cities in the Hill Country region attended the conference.

City of Boerne water tower. (Christopher Shadrock, City of Boerne)

BOERNE, Texas – A recent conference in Boerne brought local leaders and officials together to learn about sustainable water practices and conservation efforts in the Hill Country.

The conference was organized in partnership between the City of Boerne, the Cibolo Center for Conservation and the Hill Country Alliance, a non-profit that aims to protect the Hill Country’s unique resources and heritage.

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“Representatives of local governments and other entities are stewards of our communities’ most vital resource: water,” Boerne City Manager Ben Thatcher said.

More than 70 participants representing 15 cities in the Hill Country region attended the conference.

“It is our collective responsibility to craft innovative, forward-thinking solutions that not only meet our immediate needs but also safeguard the future for generations to come,” Thatcher said.

Local leaders and elected officials meet at the 2023 One Water Conference in Boerne, held at the Cibolo Center for Conservation. (Courtesy of Hill Country Alliance)

According to a press release, the Texas Hill Country is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. Yet, despite recent rains, the Hill Country remains in extreme drought.

“These dual pressures of growth and drought call for innovative solutions to managing our limited, precious water supplies,” Marisa Burno, a Water Program Manager at the Hill Country Alliance said.

Solutions to this issue, Bruno says, come from the “One Water” approach to water management.

Jenna Walker, a Director of Watershed Services at the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State, worked to define the approach.

The approach considers all water — from rainwater, stormwater and drinking water — as a supply to potentially be managed collectively.

Further, the approach considers the combined benefits to economies, communities and the environment when managing water resources.

Recently, Fredericksburg passed a resolution to adopt One Water strategies and to consider them when developing local and private development projects.

Boerne and Kendall County, according to a press release, have each made policy decisions to preserve and protect their respective aquifers.

These solutions, on the One Water approach, include a low-impact development ordinance focused on filtering stormwater and a stream setbacks policy to protect ecosystem services courtesy of a healthy streamside.

Another way to reduce pressure on water supplies is by integrating water conservation efforts and reuse into building design.

Sharlene Leurig, the CEO of Texas Water Trade, says that “buildings have the potential to collect large amounts of water through the capture of A/C condensate and rainwater.” The water can then be reused for non-potable needs such as toilet flushing and irrigation.

The Blue Hole Primary School in Wimberley used 50% less potable water than a neighboring elementary school. According to Wimberley Mayor Gina Fulkerson, the school is the first One Water school in the Hill Country.

In New Braunfels, several groups, including the Guadalupe River Authority, are working on an initiative called “One Water New Braunfels.” Their goal is to make sure integrated water management is considered in every one of the city’s planning decisions.

For more information about the Hill Country Alliance and the One Water approach, click here.

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About the Author:

Mason Hickok is a digital producer trainee at KSAT. He graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a communication degree and a minor in film studies. He also spent two years working at The Paisano, the independent student newspaper at UTSA. Outside of the newsroom, he enjoys the outdoors, walking his dogs and listening to podcasts.