Barton Springs Pool closed due to cloudy water

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Photo courtesy Dave Madden.

Barton Springs Pool was closed Wednesday due to an unusually low level of transparency.

Someone with the watershed protection department spoke with us on Thursday.

He says he's talked to people that have been with the city for more than 20 years, and they've never seen anything like this before. Thain T. Maurer Environmental Compliance Specialist Senior with the Watershed protection department says, "It looked fairly similar to milk coming out underneath the diving board along the fissure and to my left. It was bubbling up and diffusing out to the rest of the pool."

An extremely unusual sight at Barton Springs Pool.

Barton Springs Pool is three acres, and fed from underground springs. Its year-round temperature of 68 degrees attracts plenty of swimmers. But on December 18th, something out of the ordinary happened.

Jodi Jay | Division Manager, Aquatics & Nature Based Programs - City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department says, “The first time we noticed it was Tuesday night but it was a small event and we didn't take too much note of it until it happened on Wednesday at about noon. Basically we feel that sediment is getting into the water into the aquifer from the recharge zone."

What's usually crystal turquoise waters, became murky and milky waters. And what stands out even more is, experts can't find evidence to explain why this has happened three times in one week.

"Today we had an event where some cloudy turbid water came into the pool more of a brownish muddy color it, lasted a much shorter time and already started to clear up. We have decided to close the pool until it's safe for swimmers,” Mauer says.

Mauer says Barton Springs sits at the bottom of a very large funnel where water comes out. It travels miles south and west where water down on the ground can get into the aquifer. So he's had staff from three different departments drive around, and look for any possible sources of sediment going into a direct channel into the aquifer. So far, they haven't found anything but say they're working on it.

"We're trying to make sure the water is safe for the salamanders ducks and swimmers. It's rare to have a natural swimming pool but it takes in water from many square miles so there are potential sources of contamination that we monitor pretty closely because of that.”

Mauer adds, “The ducks seem to be fine with it. Salamanders since they're an endangered species we've been monitoring them. They were acting normally none were acting stressed."