New report on bacteria in Texas waterways

A group of people were below the Barton Creek spillway Thursday trying to beat the heat.

Emily Cates, who brought her dog Bobby Sue, was mindful of the warning sign at the water's edge. "I love bringing my dog here, but it’s definitely a concern ... a lot of dogs around bringing stuff in, tracking stuff in from the side,” said Cates.

A new report on water quality was released to give people an idea of just what they may be swimming with. It's a collection of random water quality tests made last year across the state.

Results show that 63% of beaches in Texas, when tested, had bacteria levels exceeding state standards. Sites in Corpus Christi Bay topped the list. 43% of inland waterways also failed.

Activist like Luke Metzger of Environment Texas, consider the report, a call to action "We all should be able to expect that creeks like this one and our beaches are clean and safe to swim in,” said Metzger.

Of the 76 sites in Austin that were tested, 46 failed.

Most come as no surprise like; Waller Creek, Walnut Creek and Blun creek.

West Bouldin creek was among those that failed multiple test. "These creeks and stream are really some of the fabric that knit together our community, and when they're polluted .. when they're not safe to enjoy, that's a real problem for our neighborhood, it’s not an abstract thing,” said David Todd with a community group called South River City Citizens.

Barton Springs Pool was closed Thursday for regular cleaning.  The creek feeds this location and was tested more than a dozen times. It passed each one. The pool has been closed at times due to contamination, but that typically happens after a major rain event.

Investments in upstream mitigation projects are credited with helping manage water quality in Barton Creek.  A similar strategy may help others.  

Another idea is urging developers to include what's called water gardens - like those at the new oracle campus. They filter run off.

It was also suggested the beach watch website could be a model for one that posts reports on inland waterways. "It will help people, (who might say) Oh I didn't know, we need to avoid going to that waterway, or, wait, what, this creek in my neighborhood has high levels of fecal bacteria, I need to call my elected officials to ask them to do something about that,” said Metzger.

There is a recommendation for sewage operators. Instead of discharging into creeks and rivers, they are encouraged to reuse wastewater; for things like landscaping. "The City of Dripping Springs says it’s going to 100% reuse it wastewater, and sell it to developments and actually make money off of that as a resource,” said Angela Richter with save Barton Creek Association.

The report also targets dog owners. Contamination at some sites can be linked to fecal matter form pets.  The group of environmental activist say being a responsible pet owner is an easy first step in keeping swimming areas safe. To read the report in it's entirety, click here.