Zebra mussels pose risk to Barton Springs Pool

The invasive species of zebra mussels has now been found in Lake Austin.

Downstream, in Lady Bird Lake, zebra mussel larvae have been found. Both along with Lake Travis are on a watch-list by Texas Parks and Wildlife, which has been mapping out areas where zebra mussels have been detected. "We really don’t know how the Zebra Mussel infestation is going to play out in Lake Austin.” said Monica McGarrity.

McGarrity leads the TPW Aquatic Invasive Species team.

"We've certainly not lost these lakes, the status of the population in the lakes and how, whether, it becomes a booming population, like we see in Lake Belton or whether it’s something a bit more manageable, kind of a smaller degree of infestation, remains to be seen, there are a lot of scientist studying that and only time will tell,” said McGarrity.

The most immediate threat posed by zebra mussels are to hydroelectric power plants and to water intake systems. There is no way to totally remove an infestation but a possible way to manage the problem may involve more water level drops by LCRA. 

That would provide extra days to scrape off the shells.

The discovery also means Barton Springs Pool is at risk of becoming infected.

The thought of the limestone flooring and edges getting encrusted with zebra mussels is a pretty frightening thought for those who use the pool.

"Cause this is definitely my number one place in Austin and so it would definitely be a loss of the crown jewel of the Austin swimming experience,” said Trevor Heise.

Contamination typically comes from boats which are not properly drained and cleaned after being used in bodies of water that are infected. Larvae can also live for days in water left inside kayaks, floats and canoes. Boat anchors, even a muddy swim shoe, can cause a transfer.

"But if you have multiple introductions over time, if people are complacent and don’t clean drain and dry their gear than yes we could have Zebra Mussels spread to new areas that way,” said McGarrity.

A full study of Lake Austin is being planned to map out every zebra mussel hot zone. The survey would stretch from Mansfield Dam, past the Pennybacker Bridge, all the way to Tom Miller Dam.