Report: Canyon Lake’s Still Clean
It’s not something you want to think about when you’re out on Canyon Lake or floating down the Guadalupe River, but bacteria levels on Texas beaches and waterways — also known as water-contaminated fecal material — are on the rise.
Many of the waterways where Texans love to play are sometimes too polluted for people to go swimming, tubing, or wading safely, according to an analysis of water-testing data from Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) gathered in a new report called Swim At Your Own Risk by Environment Texas.
Luke Metzger, executive director of the non-profit, citizen-based advocacy group, told MyCanyonLake.com that so far water samples from Canyon Lake and the Guadalupe River do not exceed bacteria levels deemed safe by state law.
However, rapid growth along the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio could soon change all that.
“I think we’re seeing the most contamination in some of the most-urbanized areas like Austin, Houston and San Antonio,” he said. “I think in less-urban areas like New Braunfels it’s not surprising that you would have fewer exceedances. (But) the more pavement you’ve got, the more runoff pollution that you’re going to have generally without controls in place.”
There were zero exceedances for fecal bacteria in Canyon Lake and only one exceedance on the Guadalupe River (out of eight testing points) near Spring Branch. However, numbers weren’t so good in New Braunfels, with three exceedances on Dry Comal Creek (out of eight testing points) and one at Alligator Creek near FM 1101.
Click here to see more raw data.
Swimming in water contaminated by fecal bacteria can lead to gastrointestinal illness as well as respiratory disease, ear and eye infections, and skin rashes.
Canyon Lake residents can do their bit to keep waterways clean by incorporating rain gardens or rainwater harvesting systems into their homes and property, but Metzger said ultimate responsibility lies with state and local government.
“We’re encouraging policies that either incentivize or require new developments to use things like rain gardens, permeable pavement and green roofs, all of which can help capture the rain under natural conditions and absorb it on site rather than rushing off pavement and picking up various pollutants that then wind up in our creeks,” he said.
To keep Texas’ water safe, policymakers must take steps to test water quality at more locations, and test more frequently; post testing results and warnings more publicly; and prevent pollution at the
source, whether from urban runoff, sewage systems, or agricultural runoff, according to the report.
Environment Texas promotes a “one water” approach or integrated watermanagement that views all forms of water –drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, reclaimed water and natural water — as being different aspects of a single resource that should be managed in a comprehensive way.