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Frequently Asked Questions

The Edwards Aquifer is an underground layer of porous limestone that stores water. While the Edwards stretches from Temple to Del Rio, the Barton Springs segment is of most interest to Austinites since the water re-emerges near the heart of downtown at Barton Springs.

Download our aquifer brochure to learn more about aquifers and click here to visit the Edwards Aquifer page.

  1. Read through all of the action items and give yourself points for those you make a habit.
  2. Tally your points
  3. When you reach the goal, YOU WIN!   Fill out, print, and submit your Green Tally Sheet.

 

*Not all browsers respond the same.  In some instances it may be best to download and complete the form.

Canyon Creek Neighborhood

In August 2009 the Canyon Creek Neighborhood in northwest Austin became Austin’s fourth Green Neighborhood. Located in the environmentally-sensitive Northern Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, the neighborhood is both in the Bull and West Bull Creek watersheds. Canyon Creek completed the following projects to qualify for the award:

  • Neighborhood Boy Scouts marked 25 storm drains and are working on an additional 125 more
  • Local church in Canyon Creek marked 150 storm drains
  • Recognized its first Green Garden in their neighborhood
  • Distributed Clean Creek Challenge booklets to 1300 neighbors
  • Invited a water conservation expert to speak at a homeowners' meeting
  • Sponsored a neighborhood tree planting

Map

Copperfield

In July 2007 the Copperfield Neighborhood in northeast Austin became Austin’s first Green Neighborhood. Situated on a beautiful stretch of upper Walnut Creek, Copperfield completed the following projects to qualify for the award:

  • Sponsored a storm drain marking event
  • Distributed Clean Creek Challenge booklets to neighbors
  • Invited water quality education speakers to neighborhood meetings on two occasions
  • Sponsored a Creek Cleanup through Keep Austin Beautiful and collected 1500 lbs. of trash
  • Provided a history of their creek which was prepared by Richard Fry
  • Provided photo documentation of Walnut Creek
  • Sponsored a neighborhood tree planting

Map

Crestview

Crestview, the north central Austin community, is Austin’s fifth Green Neighborhood. With great commitment, Emily Wilson led her neighborhood’s efforts and in the process, accomplished more “green” tasks than any other neighborhood to date. Working with the neighborhood association:

  • Distributed 1800 Green Neighborhood booklets to all residents
  • Sponsored a storm drain marking event and market 90+ storm drain inlets
  • Finished second in the city-wide competition to certify homes as Backyard Habitats -- eight homes have qualified
  • Under the direction of Michelle Holt, 21 neighborhood volunteers participated in the first annual Arroyo Seco Community creek cleanup
  • Working with the City and TreeFolks and coordinated by neighbor, Kathy Hanson Correa, over 50 volunteers planted 98 trees along Morrow/St. Joseph streets
  • Neighbor Susan Burneson researched and wrote a history of Hancock Creek/Arroyo Seco
  • Hedrich Michaelsen and Emily Wilson created a group called "Friends of Brentwood Park" Adopted Brentwood Park (see website) and formally adopted Brentwood Park.
  • Neighbor, Cheryl Goveia of Conscious Gardening, has volunteered to donate time to the Friends of Brentwood Park Project.
  • City of Austin environmental expert, Alice Nance, spoke to Neighborhood Association about the National Wildlife Habitat Challenge.
  • 93 Crestview neighbors have completed the Green Neighbor Challenge!

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Dawson

In March 2011, Dawson certified as a City of Austin Green Neighborhood. Neighborhood residents:

  • Distributing more than 800 Green Neighbor packets
  • Invited a water quality expert to speak at a neighborhood association meeting
  • Marked 18 storm drains (and are currently working on marking more)
  • Sponsored a cleanup of East Bouldin Creek, resulting in the removal of 450 pounds of litter/debris from the waterway
  • Sponsored a neighborhood tree planting

Map

 

Highland Park Baptist Church

In October 2010, Highland Park Baptist Church became the first church in Austin to become certified as a Green Neighborhood. While seeking to recognize how their impacts can be gentler to the earth, members of Highland Park's Earth Covenant Ministry distributed booklets to all their congregants. As a result, over 30% of their households became Green Neighbors.

Working within the church and with the larger community, Highland Park is:

  • Offering single-stream recycling throughout the facility as well as one-stop recycling for batteries, cell phones, eye glasses, ink cartridges, and Styrofoam
  • Participating in Lady Bird Lake cleanups
  • Converting to energy efficient lighting
  • Participating in Green Choice, Austin Energy's renewable energy program
  • Working with their scout troop on native landscaping projects which will satisfy the requirements of a Community Wildlife Habitat
  • Hosting local environmental speakers on topics such as Zero Waste and Community Wildlife Habitat

 

Highland Park West Balcones Area Neighborhood Association

Kyle Oberman and Grant McClure, Co-Presidents of the McCallum Environmental Club, took the lead in certifying their neighborhood, Highland Park West, as a Green Neighborhood. Working with the Balcones Area Neighborhood Association, they:

  • Distributing 1800 Green Neighbor booklets to the neighborhood
  • Invited a Water Conservation specialist to present to their neighborhood association
  • Installed a Scoop the Poop box for pet waste cleanup
  • Put together a photo documentation of their creek
  • Worked with NeighborWoods to assess the need for trees in the area

Kyle accomplished this while simultaneosly serving as Student Council President at McCallum!

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Jester Homeowners Association

In February 2008 the Jester Neighborhood in northwest Austin became Austin’s second Green Neighborhood. Located in the environmentally-sensitive Northern Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, the neighborhood sits along a tributary to the beautiful Bull Creek. Jester completed the following projects to qualify for the award:

  • Sponsored a storm drain marking event
  • Recognized two Green Gardens in their neighborhood
  • Distributed Clean Creek Challenge booklets to neighbors
  • Invited water quality education speakers to neighborhood meetings on two occasions
  • Feature rainwater harvesting sites in several neighborhood yards
  • Sponsored a neighborhood tree planting

Additional Green Initiatives

  • Registered 173 yards as certified wildlife habitats
  • Neighborhood residents own a combined 76 Hybrid vehicles
  • Neighborhood residents own 5 Plug In Electric Vehicles (PEVs)
  • Installed solar panels in 29 neighborhood homes using the Austin Energy rebate program
  • First Place Winner in the 2008 Wildlife Austin Neighborhood Challenge
  • First Place Winner in the 2012 Wildlife Austin Neighborhood Challenge
  • Rescued Plants; Vaught Ranch

Map

The Tribe of Green Bohemians San Augustine Drive

Think you need a neighborhood association to become a Green Neighborhood? Well, the first Green Neighborhood in 78733 has proven otherwise. The 24-home street just above Lake Austin, is the first to qualify based on the number of neighbors participating. The self-proclaimed, Tribe of the Green Bohemians, has achieved this status by:

  • Distributing booklets to all homes on the street, and
  • Getting 30% of the neighbors to apply for the Green Neighbor award

Map

 

Who Can Participate?

  • Anyone! This volunteer program is great for groups or individuals.
  • Volunteers ages 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

Austin Invasive Plants Management

The National Invasive Species Council, established by Executive Order 13112 in 1999, defines invasive species as species that are: “…nonnative (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”

A “non-native” (or “alien”, “exotic” or “nonindigenous”) species is one that has been introduced by human action, intentionally or accidentally, into an ecosystem in which it did not previously occur. Introductions occur along a variety of pathways, or vectors, such as through commercial trade of a species or by accidental means. Invasive species can be plants, animals and other organisms (e.g., fungi).

An invasive species grows, reproduces and spreads rapidly, establishes over large areas and persists. In general, species that become invasive succeed due to favorable environmental conditions and an ability to grow and reproduce rapidly where resource availability is high (Daehler 2003). As invasive species spread and dominate ecosystems, they decrease biodiversity by displacing native plants and animals (Texas Invasives.org).

Thus, the definition of invasive used here has two components: 1) nonnative status and 2) the ability or potential to cause harm. It is important to note that not all nonnative species are considered invasive because many do not, or are not likely to, cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health (Williamson 1996). Many non-native species support human livelihoods or a preferred quality of life. Examples include most crops and a number of exotic ornamentals (IASC 2006). Conversely, in some situations native species can cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Examples include the economic impact of mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa) spreading through a Texas rangeland, Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei) altering the hydrology of the Hill Country or a painful rash caused by poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) growing along Lady Bird Lake. While these species can cause problems, and do require management, they are not considered invasive because they are native to these particular ecosystems.

Book 1 - Invasive Species Management Plan
Book 2 - Field Resources, Invasive Species Management Plan This is a working document that can be used to plan restoration activities that involve invasive plant management. It has basic information about different types of controls and field methods and includes a review of the most common invasive species in the Austin area, broken down by Woody Plants, Grasses, Herbaceous Plants and Aquatic Plants. Some of these reviews are fairly robust, while others are pretty sparse. We intend to update these annually, so would appreciate any feedback and “field stories” that would improve this guidance document. Please email feedback to John Clement
Book 3 -  Appendices, Invasive Species Management Plan (coming soon)
Central Texas Invasive Plants Field Guide

The Austin City Council passed a resolution on April 8, 2010 directing the City Manager to develop an Invasive Species Management Plan to guide efforts to minimize the harmful environmental and economic impacts of invasive plant species on city-managed properties. Subsequent to that resolution an agreement with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center led to creation of a working group with representatives from several City departments, Austin Parks Foundation, Keep Austin Beautiful, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Austin Invasive Species Coalition. Over the course of ten consensus-based meetings, the Working Group developed strategic five-year goals based on a central framework of prevention, early detection-rapid response and long-term control at prioritized sites. The plan also includes recommendations for implementation including staffing, funding sources, centralized mapping and monitoring, and education and outreach. To improve the plan’s success, the working group has developed a preliminary list of priority invasive species and an invasive species resource manual with identification fact sheets and best management practices to control priority species.

The City of Austin Invasive Species Management Plan was developed in collaboration with multiple non-profits and departments.

Austin Energy
Austin Invasive Species Coalition – represented by American Youthworks Environmental Corps
Austin Parks Foundation
Austin Water Utility
Keep Austin Beautiful
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Parks and Recreation Department
Planning and Development Review
Texas Parks & Wildlife
Watershed Protection Department

Only licensed pesticide applicators who are City of Austin staff or contractors may use pesticides on City property.

When a species ends up in a new ecosystem, it is considered "introduced". Often, invasive species are spread by humans who do not realize that these plants, animals and insects are highly destructive.

This may happen, for example, when people plant garden ornamentals, range forage plants for cattle, or plants used for erosion control and habitat enhancement for wildlife. This can also occur when animals and insects are introduced to be used to control other organisms (particularly in agriculture).

Other species are introduced accidentally on imported nursery stock, fruits, and in ship ballast waters, on vehicles, in packing materials and shipping containers, through human-built canals, and from human travel. Dumping aquarium exotic fish and unwanted exotics into the water or wild are other common ways invasive species spread.

Austin Lakes Index

All three lakes are manmade reservoirs, Lady Bird and Lake Austin are flow-through reservoirs on the Colorado River, and Lake Long is a cooling reservoir for the Decker Creek Power Station.

Lady Bird 471 surface acres, 5 miles long Created in 1960 as an impoundment of the Colorado River with the completion of Longhorn Dam Originally named Town Lake, renamed Lady Bird Lake in 2007 to honor Lady Bird Johnson Operation and flow Flow-through reservoir (little storage capacity), typically has two ‘seasons’

  •  Mar-Oct has higher flows, more river-like as LCRA passes water through to downstream rice farmers
  • Oct- Mar has lower flows, more lake-like as water is stored in Lake Travis for use during irrigation season

Beginning in 2012, the flows became less variable, as LCRA has restricted irrigation releases during the historic drought.

Reservoir uses

Lady Bird used to be a source of public drinking water and also was a cooling reservoir for the now-decommissioned Holly Power Plant (Future:  Holly Shores project) Currently, the lake is primarily used for non-motorized recreation (canoeing, kayaking, competitive rowing, paddleboarding) as well as providing refuge for a wide variety of birds and urban wildlife. It is also a great spot for fishing, whether from the shore or on the water (gas motors  on your boat! Check out TPWD’s web for more details Lady Bird’s Hike and Bike Trail.

Lady Bird's Hike and Bike Trail is an important recreational ‘get away’ for both Austinites and visitors.

Lake Austin

1600 surface acres 21 miles long Created in 1940 as an impoundment of the Colorado River with the completion of Tom Miller Dam Operation and flow Flow-through reservoir with little storage capacity, typically has two ‘seasons’:

  • Mar-Oct has higher flows, more river-like as LCRA passes water through to downstream rice farmers 
  • Oct- Mar has lower flows, more lake-like as water is stored in Lake Travis for use during irrigation season In 2012, the flows became less variable, as LCRA has restricted irrigation releases during the historic drought.

Reservoir uses

Current uses include generation of hydroelectric power at upper (Mansfield) and lower (Tom Miller) dams, conveyance of flood and irrigation water, multiple public and private drinking water intakes, including two owned by City of Austin (Ullrich and Davis Water Treatment Plants). Several parks and public boat ramps provide public access, check this link for more information.

Important recreation destination for water sports and sport fishing, with trophy sized large mouth bass. For more information on fishing Lake Austin, check TPWD’s webpage.

Lake Walter E. Long 1,269 surface acres Created in 1967 as a cooling reservoir for Decker Creek Power Station, it impounds Decker Creek. City of Austin owns the lake and entire shoreline Public access (park and boat ramp) on the southeast shore, click here for more details  Insert link to PARD Lake Long site: http://www.austintexas.gov/page/lake-walter-e-long

Important recreational resource, Walter E. Long Park (link) with healthy sport fish communities. . For more information about fishing at Lake Long, check TPWD’s webpage.

Operations and flow: Up to 680 million gallons of water per day is pulled in from the Colorado River to the southwestern arm of the reservoir and used as cooling water for the power plant.  This warmer water is discharged into the northeast arm, losing heat as it flows through the reservoir, back to the southwest area. The lake level is maintained by pumping water from the Colorado River at an average rate of 16,156 acre feet/year.  Austin Energy then releases 500 gallons per day to maintain flow through the lake and in Decker Creek downstream of the lake.  Lake water quality: This river water is high in nutrients, and this combines with the warm water from the power plant to limit the lake’s water quality, regardless of the healthy riparian zone provided by the preserve and parkland along its shores. The increased nutrients, warmer water temps and longer retention time often leave the lake vulnerable to algal blooms through out the year.  

There are six categories of data collected and used to calculate sub index scores:

  1. Water Quality

Collected at the surface and bottom of the lake

  • Nutrients (Nitrate-N, Ammonia-N, and Orthophosphorus)

Collected only at the surface

  • Total Suspended Solids
  • E coli bacteria

Collected along a depth profile

  • Conductivity
  • pH, temperature and dissolved oxygen are also collected but are not part of scoring

2. Sediment Quality
Sediment Chemistry

  • Sampled at the deepest point of each lake near the lower dam.
  • Shows the accumulation of material from the lake’s watershed
  • Metals, PAHs, pesticides and herbicides

3. Habitat Quality-
Visual assessment based on EMAP protocol

  • Riparian zone plant density, community structure, and width
  • Shoreline characteristics
  • Aquatic cover and substrate characteristics

4. Aquatic Life
Benthic Macroinvertebrate Community

  • 7 metrics assessing: Diversity, Pollution Tolerance, and Community Structure
  • Evaluates lake health beyond single ‘snapshot’ of water chemistry sample

5. Vegetation
Surveys performed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

  • 3 metrics assessing: Percent coverage, Diversity, and Community Structure, including invasive species cover
  • Total acreage of all plant species

6. Eutrophication
Phytoplankton community

      • 3 metrics assessing: Phytoplankton abundance, Pollution Tolerance, and Community Structure
      • Evaluates lake health and nutrient loading beyond single ‘snapshot’ of water chemistry sample

A more complete description of the parameters and methods are provided in the Lake Index Methodology.

Where on each lake is data collected?
For all lakes:
Sediment is collected from the substrate at the bottom of the lake near the downstream dam on each lake
Habitat data are collected at 10 evenly spaced sites throughout the lake
Benthic macroinvertebrates (Aquatic Life score) are collected in shallow water at 3,5, and 6 of the 10 habitat sites on Lady Bird Lake, Lake Austin, and Lake Long respectively.
Vegetation scores are based on TPWD surveys that map all the aquatic plants in each lake
Water quality and phytoplankton (Eutrophication score) samples are collected at the surface and bottom at 3 sites on each lake:
Lady Bird Lake
Near Longhorn Dam in the Basin
Downstream of 1st Street
Downstream of Redbud Isle
Lake Austin
Near Tom Miller Dam
Emma Long Metropolitan (City) Park
Low Water bridge
Lake Long
SW arm
NE arm
Near the dam

A general summary of current scores on each lake can be accessed at the Watershed Fact Sheets for Lady Bird Lake, Lake Austin, and Lake Long.

Raw data collected from each lake can be found on DataMart.

Lady Bird Lake

Lake Long

Lake Austin

DataMart

Austin's Reservoir Resource

The Austin reservoirs are in a constant state of flux. Natural and anthropogenic forces influencing the chemical, biological, and physical characteristics of Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake include: altered flow regimes dictated by water availability, increased development, and introductions and control of species. Each reservoir is cherished for their aesthetic, recreational, commercial, and municipal benefits. In order to balance the needs of such different users while sustaining an ecologically desirable ecosystem, it is essential to understand the relationship between water chemistry and biological structure of the reservoirs.

One of the most important aspects of reservoir ecosystems influenced by the chemical and biological composition of the system is the flow of energy from primary producers to top consumers. Knowledge of the components of the food web (sources; e.g., aquatic vegetation, phytoplankton) supporting species of interest (consumers; e.g., largemouth bass) is necessary in order to make predictions of potential shifts in community structure that may result from environmental changes and for the implementation of adaptive management strategies ensuring sustainability of desired biological communities. This project aims to collect water and a myriad of potential sources and terminal consumers for measurement of 13C and 15N isotopic signatures.

Stable isotopes are a widely used tool for tracing the flow of nutrients and energy through aquatic ecosystems (Middelburg 2014). Data derived in this study should elucidate the linkages (i.e., source-consumer) and complexity (e.g., trophic levels, number of resources utilized) of the food web, as well as the importance of internal relative to external energy and nutrient inputs to the reservoirs of Austin. Mixing models will be developed to give frequency distributions (i.e., relative contributions) of lower trophic level components in a consumer’s diet (Phillips and Gregg 2003; Phillips et al. 2005). This study will serve to not only describe in quantified detail the current food web structure of the reservoirs, heretofore unknown, but will also serve as a baseline for comparison as the structure of the reservoir’s change under as yet unknown pressures or public desires (e.g., increased vegetation in Lake Austin; increased flows reducing vegetation in Lady Bird Lake).

A fish bing measured as part of a study.

Plants in aquatic systems are often overlooked as critical components of healthy ecosystems. Aquatic and riparian plants can provide valuable invertebrate, fish and wildlife food and cover, improve water clarity and quality, reduce shoreline erosion and sediment re-suspension, and help prevent spread of nuisance exotic plants. These qualities contribute significantly to ecosystem health and function, which in turn improves the value of the lake as a natural resource.

Inland water bodies in the U.S. include reservoirs, large and small lakes, permanently inundated wetlands, ponds, and riverine systems. Waterbodies exhibiting poor ecosystem health often exist in one of three conditions interrelated to aquatic plants: 1) they completely lack native aquatic plants, 2) they support native plant communities that are insufficient to provide system-wide benefits, or 3) they are infested with nuisance species that cause both environmental and water project use problems.

Because larger aquatic systems (generally greater than 100 acres) are logistically difficult to apply full-scale plantings, ERDC has developed an approach for accelerating the natural process of aquatic plant establishment and spread by utilizing founder colonies. Founder colonies are typically comprised of moderately small (usually less than one acre) plantings made at strategic locations within the waterbody. The principle function of a founder colony is to overcome one of the major impediments to aquatic vegetation establishment: availability of propagules for natural spread. Continual provision of propagules (seeds, fragments, etc.) from founder colonies ensures that they are present when conditions are suitable for natural spread to other areas of a lake. Once established, founder colonies spread in two manners, including vegetative growth from the founder colony itself (e.g., along stolons or rhizomes) and formation of new colonies from fragments, seeds, etc. In addition to supplying propagules, founder colonies provide immediate small-scale (up to 25 acres benefit from each acre of founder colony) habitat improvement in large and intermediate systems. In addition to protecting plants, the structure of enclosures themselves serve as refugia for aquatic organisms such as small fish in waterbodies prone to periodic disturbances (drought, floods, etc.) even when they do not support plants.

Founder Colony.  Plants in cags is a technique used to establish plant growth.

Founder Colony.  Plants in cags is a technique used to establish plant growth.

Founder Colony.  Plants in cags is a technique used to establish plant growth.

Founder Colony.  Plants in cags is a technique used to establish plant growth.

Coir (coconut husk fiber) is a material used in the erosion control industry in stabilizing stream banks, slopes and overland flow. Although appealing in its low cost, durability and ability to biodegrade, it is not clear if this approach would be successful in a high energy and hydraulically complex environment such as the shoreline of Lake Austin; a long, narrow impoundment of the Colorado River that is intensely used for recreational boating. In this project, the installation of coir fiber logs and emergent aquatic vegetation plantings tested the feasibility of stabilizing the eroding shoreline of Lake Austin with natural materials. Sediment accumulation gauges measured deposition or scour in the near shore environment at coir treatment sites over a period of one year as a surrogate for determining an increase in stability and reduction in erosion. Preliminary results indicate that coir log treatment areas exhibit increased stability as evidenced by an increase in sediment deposition within the coir treatment area compared to controls. Additional observations indicate that the coir logs exhibited deterioration, but generally maintained their integrity after one year in the lake and American water willow (Justicia americana) exhibited the best survival. The watershed protection department is currently installing another half a mile of coir logs at sites greatly impacted by erosion in an effort to mitigate slumping of cliffs and increased sediment loading of Lake Austin.

Lake Shoreline

COIR

Ecosystem services, stated simply, are the benefits humans derive from the environment. Food, clean air and water, fiber for clothes….these are obvious and significant examples of supplies upon which we are dependent. What keeps the water and air clean? How can the land keep providing food to feed billions of people? Why am I happier when out in ‘nature’? Is my home worth more because of its proximity to a resource (e.g., lake, river, park, forest)?

Turns out, the environment is providing more for us then we tend to think about. The myriad processes that occur ‘outside’ give rise to the services we need and desire. Scientists have grouped the activities and products of nature into four categories: First, Provisioning Services. These are the services we are most familiar with (and grateful for) such as food, potable water, wood and fiber, and fuel. Then, we have the Regulating Services. These occur on a scale that may be imperceptible, when things are good, but relate to services very important to us including flood regulation, water purification and quantity, and disease regulation (think Ebola). Those services are still pretty tangible (and relatively easy to monetize). Services for which we have an innate desire are the Cultural Services. These include having a spiritual connection to nature, enjoying the aesthetic quality of the environment, and of course recreational activities (boating, hiking, camping, etc). Probably the most overlooked but important of all the Ecosystem Services provided by nature are what are known as the Supporting Services. The supporting services are the processes and functions of nature that give rise to all the other services listed above. We desire breathable air, plentiful food, and fiber, so we plant trees and shrubs that take up carbon dioxide and provide raw materials and fruits for consumption. Nutrient cycling mediated by plants and microbes help keep our water clean, our food nutritious (high in nutrients and other compounds), and slow climate change. A diverse, species rich landscape full of animals and plants gives us a sense of peace and fulfillment. Without nature and the environment doing what it does through the Supporting Services, we would not have the other services of interest. It is for the protection and sustainability of the environment that the Supporting services are so often studied by scientists and at heart, our regulations and protections are in place (e.g., minimizing nutrient pollution, deforestation, impervious cover). As human populations increase, our footprint on the landscape grows, and our need for ‘natural capital’ becomes greater to support mankind, it will be the protection, regulation, and protection of the Supporting Services that will ensure sustainability of all Ecosystem Services required and desired for the wellbeing of mankind.

Austin's Small-Scale Green Infrastructure

Clean Creek Camp

No, we cannot accommodate younger children.

No, this is a parent/child camp.  Your child may attend with a friend’s parent or babysitter (over age 18).

Yes, there is a high demand to attend camp so please be committed to attending the full week.

Various sites around Austin.  Refer to directions.

Coal Tar

The following list of products* contain no coal tar according to the product labels.

Retail Stores
Henry

Gardner

Commercial/Wholesale

Asphalt Systems, Inc

Seal Master

(Direct Number 1-800-326-1994) e-mail: info@sealmaster.net
Professional Coating Technologies Inc

*Sealant product availability is changing rapidly. There may be other sealant products available that do not contain coal tar so please read labels carefully. Listing of a specific product trade name does not constitute an endorsement of its use.
"This is a list of alternative pavement sealant products to assist in compliance with Austin's Coal Tar Ban Ordinance. The Watershed Protection and Development Review Department does not advocate or recommend any one company's product or service and is not responsible for their performance. This department encourages persons to be fully informed of all aspects of the product chosen including human health related issues. We have included links to each product on this list to facilitate your search. The list was compiled from various advertisement listings and from contacts with company representatives and may not represent all the pavement sealant product or service companies that exist."

The City of Austin amended its Code to ban the use and sale of pavement sealants containing coal tar within the City’s planning jurisdiction (full purpose city limits and ETJ). The one exception is that the sealant may be sold if the intended application area is outside the City’s ETJ. The Austin ban was effective January 1, 2006.

Basis for the Ban

  • PAHs are a high-profile pollutant of growing concern nationwide, due to increasing concentrations in waterways
  • City research has found that coal tar-based sealants are a major source of PAHs; a ban provides an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate a significant pollutant threat to our local water resources
  • The combination of chemical tracing, laboratory toxicity, and field-verified degradation provides ample evidence to support regulatory action to remove the use of coal tar sealants within the City’s jurisdiction

Field staff (inspectors, investigators, biologists, etc.) for the Watershed Protection Department watch for sealant applications in progress and freshly sealed parking lots as they drive throughout the city on their other job duties. Whenever new sealant is found, it is screened for the presence of coal tar. Enforcement action is taken when coal tar-based pavement sealant is found applied after the ban was initiated. That enforcement action through municipal court typically involves remediation of the applied sealant.  The requirement for remediation is full removal of the coal tar sealant. Besides remediation, legal action can include fines and jail time.

The city produces and disseminates educational materials to producers, applicators, buyers, and to the general public through various means. City staff also periodically checks distributors to monitor product on their shelves.

Citizens may call in suspected coal tar application to the City’s 24-Hour Pollution Hotline at 512-974-2550.

Coal tar based sealants should not be disposed of as regular garbage. Austin and Travis County residents may dispose of Household quantities of coal tar based products at the City of Austin’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility. The facility is located at 2514 Business Center Drive and is open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from noon to 7 p.m. Businesses requiring information regarding the disposal of coal tar based products may call 512-974-3443.

If you have specific questions concerning the regulations governing the disposal of coal tar containing wastes, please contact the Municipal Solid Waste Permits Section of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at (512) 239-2334.

Are there PAH concentrations of concern in asphalt-based pavement sealants?

Coal tar and asphalt have different molecular structures stemming from their origins: coal tar is a byproduct of the production of coke from coal and asphalt is derived from the refining of crude petroleum. Product analyses by the City of Austin indicates that coal tar sealcoat products have median concentrations of total PAHs about 70 times higher than concentrations in asphalt-based sealcoat products.

During our annual surveys of stream sediment chemistry, concentrations of Total PAHs (the sum of 16 compounds) generally range from <1mg/kg to over 200 over the past 15 years (Fig. 1). A screening value of 23 mg/kg is used as a threshold, above which, aquatic life use is expected to be negatively effected (Probably Effects Concentration, or PEC), and most of our data falls below this value. However there are a number of locations that have exceeded this value one or more times, and we are looking at these sites carefully for temporal trends and potential best practices that will address the source of PAHs to these sites.

Box plot of total PAH (mg/Kg) collected in EII sampling from 1996-2010.  Black diamonds represent means, notched lines represent medians, and small circles represent outliers.

Figure 1: Box plot of total PAH (mg/Kg) collected in EII sampling from 1996-2010. Black diamonds represent means, notched lines represent medians, and small circles represent outliers.

  • Coal tar - Coal tar is a byproduct of the coking of coal when coal is carbonized to make coke. It is a brown or black liquid of extremely high viscosity which smells of naphthalene and aromatic hydrocarbons. Coal tars are complex and variable mixtures of phenols, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic compounds.
  • Coal tar pavement sealant - Coal tar sealants are surface finishes for parking lots, driveways, and airports used both commercially and by homeowners across the country. They are usually not applied to public streets. They contain varying concentrations of coal tar depending on product and formulation. They are the black, shiny emulsion painted or sprayed on asphalt pavement in an effort to protect and beautify the asphalt. Coal tar pavement sealant is marketed as a way to extend the life of asphalt, while also restoring a rich dark color. It is also marketed as having better resistance to gasoline, motor oil, and kerosene is allegedly more durable and absorbs less water while retaining its color longer.
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH’s) - PAH’s are a group of chemicals formed during the incomplete burning of coal, gasoline, wood, garbage or other organic substances such as tobacco, charcoal broiled meat, and incense. As a pollutant, they are of concern because some compounds have been identified as cancer-causing. For example, one PAH compound, benzo[a]pyrene, is notable for being one of the first chemical carcinogens discovered; one of many found in cigarette smoke. PAHs are lipophilic (mix more easily with oil than water). The larger compounds are less water-soluble and less volatile (less prone to evaporate). Therefore, PAHs in the environment are found primarily in soil, sediment and oil substances, as opposed to water or air. However, they can be found in particulate matter suspended in air.

The City of Austin continually seeks ways to educate producers, applicators, buyers and the general public about coal tar and the coal tar ban.  City of Austin staff:

  • Meet with applicators and producers
  • Host public meetings with citizens
  • Send regulatory and educational mail outs to producers, applicators, apartments, churches, public and private schools, rental car companies, large hardware stores, large food chains, large retailers, management companies, etc.
  • Publish scientific papers
  • Benchmark data and information with other cities
  • Respond to requests for information from citizens and the media
  • Create outreach pieces like: Ads in utility bill inserts, brochures, handouts, flyers
  • Installed ban signs at the two major producers in the central Texas area.

By removing this potent source of PAHs to our environment, we are reducing PAHs in our streams. A United States Geological Survey (USGS) study conducted in 2014 showed a 58% reduction in PAH’s in lake sediment from Lady Bird Lake.

Graphic showing a 58% reduction in PAH’s in lake sediment from Lady Bird Lake.

Vehicle tires abrade parking lot sealcoat into small particles. These small particles are washed off parking lots by precipitation and into storm sewers and streams. Sealcoat “wear and tear” is visible in high traffic areas within a few months after application. Sealcoat manufacturers recommend reapplication every 2 to 3 years.

Besides urban runoff as a pathway, PAH can originate from atmospheric fallout of particulates from naturally occurring combustion sources like forest fires or from fossil fuel combustion - incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials like oil, wood, garbage, and coal. Automobile exhaust and industrial emissions are additional sources. They contain high levels of PAHs. More PAHs form when materials burn at low temperatures such as in wood fires and cigarettes than in high-temperature furnaces.

Many useful products such as mothballs, blacktop, and creosote wood preservatives contain PAHs. They are also found at low concentrations in some special purpose skin creams and anti-dandruff shampoos that contain coal tars.

The detrimental effects of PAHs aquatic ecosystems are well documented. Examples:

  • Fish - When fish are exposed to PAHs, they exhibit chronic problems, including fin erosion, liver abnormalities, cataracts, skin tumors, and immune system impairments leading to increased susceptibility to disease.
  • Benthic macroinvertebrates - When benthic macroinvertebrates, insects and other organisms that live at the bottom of rivers and lakes and that make up the base of the aquatic food chain, are exposed to PAHs, they are susceptible to a number of detrimental effects, including inhibited reproduction, delayed emergence, sediment avoidance, and mortality. The most important mechanism by which acute effects occur in benthic invertebrates is a nonspecific narcosis-like mode of action that results in the degradation of cell membranes. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation greatly increases the toxicity of PAHs in a wide variety of aquatic organisms.

The City of Austin has conducted a range of laboratory and field experiments which documented the negative effect that PAHs from coal tar sealants have on benthic invertebrates that live in our streams. This work was a primary support and motivator for the ban of coal tar sealants in Austin

Considering Seal Coating your Parking Lot?

The following recommendations will assist you in getting a better job that lasts longer while protecting the environment

Choose the Right Applicator

  • Learn about the company and their track record. Ask the applicator for references and contact the Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to see if complaints have been lodged against the contractor. Take a few hours and visit some properties that the sealant company has done. Be sure and include a site that is more than a year old.
  • Always ask the applicator what warranty is offered with the product and the workmanship. Often products are given a manufacturer’s warranty that may convey to the property owner when applied correctly. Get the warranty in writing before the start of work.
  • Sealants come in a variety of packages and product names. Several producers require applicators be trained to apply their product, take a few minutes and inquire as to the applicators expertise.
  • Get a written contract or agreement for the work.

Choose the Right Product

  • Research the sealant to be used, how long it is likely to last and how it is made. Remember that coal tar containing sealants are banned in Austin and its ETJ. Check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for information on the sealant ingredients. The company sealing your lot should have the MSDS available
  • If you have old coal tar sealant present, consider having it removed prior to re-sealing. Equipment is available in Texas which can remove sealant with a shot blasting process. It can be done if dust is controlled and the removed sealant is disposed of in the trash. This eliminates the possibility of future coal tar pollution from old degrading sealant.
  • Consider using a lighter colored sealant. Lighter colored sealant will often reduce the surface temperature of the parking lot. The payoff would be cooler cars for customers and staff parked all day, as well as a reduction in the heat island effect.

 

Ensure a Good Application

  • Be certain that the sealant is applied at a proper dilution. Sealants are produced and designed to work best when the material is properly blended with water and fortifiers. Sealants are offered in concentrated forms as well as pre-diluted. Mixing must be done as recommended for the specific product to avoid premature failure of the application.
  • Ask the applicator how long sealing a parking lot and re-striping will take. Some of the alternative sealants take longer to dry than the conventional coal tar based sealants. Often freshly applied asphalt based sealants are abraded quickly by traffic if not fully cured.
  • Be certain to turn off the sprinklers, postpone trash/dumpster collection service and deliveries until the sealant has cured. Dried sealant and cured sealant look the same, but they are a world apart when a car drives over it.
  • The contractor should not apply sealant when rain is in the forecast. The wash-off of freshly applied sealant is the most potent form of pollution discharge from a parking lot. Report any incidents of sealant wash-off to the 24-Hour Pollution Hotline at 512-974-2550

For additional information of the recommendations provided, please call 512-974-2550.

There are a variety of forces that wear sealant off of lots and driveways, but the abrasion of tires is probably the dominant one.  In temperate northern climates, snow plows are probably another major factor.  The City of Austin did a photographic coal tar sealant wear study, finding that drive areas wear at about 5% per year, and parking areas at about 1.5%, with an average of about 2.5% per year.  A study in 2010 by the University of New Hampshire found that export of PAHs off of parking lots was much greater in the first three months (1357ug/L) than in the two years following application (17-116 ug/L), although elevated concentrations (52ug/L) of PAH from coal tar lots can persist for at least 5 years (Selbig, 2005).

Currently, the use of coal tar-based pavement sealant is not federally regulated. In 1992, the U.S. environmental Protection Agency excluded coke product residues, including coal tar, from classification as hazardous wastes if they are recycled. Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, coal tar-based pavement sealants are products that contain recycled coal tar and, therefore, are not regulated.

  • Cities that regulate coal tar-based pavement sealants or implement a similar ban
  • Cities that regulate coal tar-based pavement sealants or implement a similar ban
    State/District Jurisdiction
    District of Columbia Washington
    Illinois South Barrington
    Kansas Winfield
    Maryland Montgomery County
    Minnesota (29 Citywide Bans) Albertville,  Buffalo, Cannon Falls, Centerville, Circle Pines, Eden Prairie, Edina, Elk River, Falcon Heights, Golden Valley, Hutchinson, Inver Grove Heights, Little Canada, Maplewood, Medina, Minneapolis, Newport,  New Hope, Oakdale, Prior Lake, Rosemount, Roseville, Shoreview, Shorewood, Vadnais Heights, Waconia, West St. Paul, White Bear Lake, Woodland   
    New York Suffolk County
    South Carolina Greenville
    Texas Austin, Bee Cave , Edwards Aquifer: Comal and Hays Counties
    Washington Statewide
    Wisconsin Dane County

 

Creek Flooding

It’s a good idea to determine the risk your property has of flooding. Is your house next to a creek or storm drain channel? Is it located at the low-point of a roadway or at the bottom of a hill? These are indications that flood insurance may be a good idea.

Mortgage companies usually require flood insurance for homes and businesses in the floodplain. Homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding caused by stormwater.

Keep in mind that people outside of floodplain areas file more than 20% of flood insurance claims and receive about one-third of disaster assistance, when it is available.

For more information about who must purchase flood insurance, download FEMA’s Mandatory Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines booklet.

In regard to lowering your premium, you may already be getting a 20% discount because of the steps Austin takes to guard against flooding. In addition, there may be some improvements that you can make to protect your house or business from flooding. For more information, call our hotline at 512-974-2843 or send an email.

An elevation certificate may also be helpful. Prepared by a surveyor or engineer, elevation certificates show the elevation of your home in comparison with the expected elevation of floodwaters. If the certificate shows that the lowest floor elevation in your house is above the expected inundation levels, it should lower your insurance premium. The City may already have one on file for your house or business, but we cannot guarantee the accuracy. Please use FloodPro to look up whether we have a certificate on file or you may contact us by phone or email.

Download these FEMA publications to find out more about protecting your property:

A drainage easement is a part of your property where the City has limited rights of access and/or use. Generally, you cannot make any improvements in a drainage easement. That means no fences, sheds, walls, trails or buildings. You should avoid planting trees or much landscaping as well.

A drainage easement has two possible purposes. It may be needed for the flow of storm water. For example, drainage ditches and creeks are typically within a drainage easement. In this case, anything that prevents the flow of water; that might catch debris; that might be washed away; or that might cause a dam-like effect is problematic.

Alternatively, the easement may be needed to access drainage infrastructure. In this case, anything that might make it difficult to drive a truck through or dig up an underground pipe is problematic.

We look at a number of factors, including safety and cost. Some questions we ask are: 

  • What is flooding? Is it a house, a yard or a street that is flooding?
  • Are there multiple properties in the same area that are flooding?
  • Is there a safe way in and out of the neighborhood during a flood?
  • Could improvements to the City’s infrastructure help with this problem? Would increasing the capacity of the storm drain system or raising the roadway help?
  • Is there a cost-effective solution?
  • Is the problem potentially life threatening?
  • Is there a nearby erosion or water quality issue that could also be addressed with a project?
  • Is the flooding likely to happen again?

We usually receive grant funding for buyouts, and the process depends on the type of grant. Usually, buyouts are voluntary. We will first get an independent appraisal. We will use this to make an offer based on fair market value. If the property owner accepts the offer, we will then help locate comparable housing. After closing, we will demolish the house that was bought and maintain the land as open space. There will be no future development on that piece of land. 

Keep monitoring the situation and get ready to potentially evacuate or move to the second floor or roof. The flooding may get much worse very fast. In Austin, our creeks can rise several feet in just a few minutes. Keep in mind that the road providing access to your home may become impassible before water enters your house. Leave before the road is flooded. Do not attempt to drive or walk through a flooded road.

If there’s time, the following steps can help limit damage:

• Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary. • Move valuables, such as important papers, jewelry, and clothing to upper floors or higher elevations. • Fill bathtubs, sinks, and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach and rinsing. • Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills, and trash cans inside, or tie them down securely.

Find out what to include in an emergency preparedness kit.

Stormwater ponds with embankments or walls higher than 6 feet are monitored by the Stormwater Pond Safety Program. These ponds are inspected regularly to ensure they are functioning properly. However, if you notice any clogging, erosion, or other problems with any pond (regardless of size), please call 3-1-1.

Call 3-1-1. The Watershed Protection Department will send someone to document the flooding. This helps us understand where projects are necessary.

Call your homeowners insurance company and follow their instructions to file a claim and repair your house. A separate flood insurance policy is required to cover damages due to flooding. Here are some precautions: • Check for structural damage before entering your house. Don’t go in if the building might collapse. • Do not use matches, cigarette lighters, or any other open flames, since gas may be trapped inside. Use a flashlight. • Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety. • Look out for snakes and other animals. • Be careful walking around. Look for nails, broken glass or other hazards. Floors may be slippery due to mud. • Document the damage with photographs. • Clean right away. Throw out food and medicines that may have come in contact with flood water. • Boil water vigorously for five minutes until local authorities proclaim your water supply is safe. • Before you start repairs, contact the Development Assistance Center at 512-974- 6370 about possible permitting requirements.

Download this FEMA publication to find out more about repairing your home: Repairing Your Flooded Home.

Please email and ask about the possibility of releasing this easement. We will explore whether this is feasible. If it looks like there are no obvious problems, we will direct you to fill out an application for an easement release. The release process is handled by Real Estate Services, and there is an application fee whether the request is approved or denied.

Please call 3-1-1 and report the situation. A field crew will remove a downed tree or other large debris. As far as litter is concerned, we have a partnership with Keep Austin Beautiful for adopt a creek and volunteer cleanups. 

Creek flooding occurs when the water rises in a creek and starts flowing out of the banks. Local flooding is not directly associated with a creek. It occurs before the water gets to a creek when runoff from heavy rainfall overwhelms the existing storm drainage system. The stormwater may flow through streets, yards and structures as the water seeks a path to a creek. This may happen because there are not enough ditches or storm drains or because there is something blocking the flow of water. 

Appraisals are done by a third party independent appraisal company. There are various options if you do not agree with the appraisal. This will all be explained during the buyout process.

Earth Camp

No, only Title I schools in the Austin Independent School District are eligible.

We have developed a watershed viewer, so it is easy to find out what watershed you live in and to find out its EII score.

AISD 5th grade teachers that have been trained and attended a week of Earth Camp led by City staff may participate in Teacher-Led Earth Camp! To schedule contact Susan Wall

The four Earth Camp Field Guides are available below for you to download. They require Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing. If you are scheduled for Teacher-Led Earth Camp, an Assistant will bring the field trip materials. If you would like to purchase materials, reference the "Materials" PDF file.

Field Trip Guide Contents * required when leading Teacher-Led Earth Camp

Edwards Aquifer/Barton Springs

Scavenger Hunt *only print the Lesson for the Park you will visit

Green Classroom

Macroinvertebrate Activities

McKinney Falls

Biologist

Andrew Clamann

Andrew Clamann

Environmental Scientist

Biologist

College Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Biology, University of Texas at Austin

How did you become interested in biology? Watching nature TV shows (like the old school shows with Jacques Cousteau and Marlin Perkins)

What have you learned about water quality from your job? We all do our part. No matter how small, every little bit counts. Use less water, never litter and conserve resources. When people see that nature is worth protecting, we will have a better quality of life.

What science question are you investigating? I am studying the impacts of the water quality on the aquatic life of Austin's streams.

My best day on the job... ...is a day when I feel like I have made a difference by protecting wetlands and riparian areas or by finding pollution problems and helping to resolve them.

Fun facts I know from doing my job: Bugs are awesome, and you’d be completely amazed at the things they do, and the way they look under a microscope. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job? Seeing salamanders swim in little spring-fed streams

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movie: Shawshank Redemption
  • Favorite Book: The Diversity of Life, (E.O. Wilson)
  • Favorite Hobby: Grilling
  • Favorite Food: Chocolate Cake
  • Favorite Music: Tom Petty

Something unique I do: I like to catch reptiles in South Texas and West Texas

Have another question? Send Andrew Clamann an email.

 

Todd jackson

Todd Jackson

Environmental Scientist

Biologist

College Degrees:    Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of North Texas

Career: I am currently working as an associate environmental scientist for the City of Austin. Before moving to Austin I had been working for Watershed Protection in the City of Denton. I have also been employed as a research assistant conducting arthropod bioinventories at Texas Army National Guard Training sites, as a laboratory instructor teaching biology, and as an analyst at an air quality lab where I identified molds.

How did you become interested in biology?
My interest in biology began at an early age and I always had a particular interest in spiders and insects. When I was about 8 or 9 years old I started keeping all kinds of spiders and other “creepy crawlies” in terrariums in my room.

What have you learned about water quality from your job?
I have learned that each of us plays an important role in protecting our water. Every time you pick up even the smallest bits of trash you can help keep our water clean and help protect the environment for all of the other organisms that live in the creeks and lakes in our city. Whenever someone throws out even a little bit of trash, motor oil or yard waste improperly, it can really add up. These things can end up in stormwater drains, which don’t go to the sewer system, and eventually end up in the same water bodies that we get all of our drinking water from! One other thing that I have learned about water quality at my job is that streams which are surrounded by large tracts of healthy riparian woodlands usually have much better water quality compared to streams that are not surrounded by healthy ecosystems (such as areas where buildings or parking lots are built right up to the waters edge).

What science question are you investigating?
One of my major job duties is to collect and identify aquatic macroinvertebrates (insects, crustaceans, worms, snails, and others) that live in creeks and lakes in the Austin area.  Some of those organisms are very sensitive to water pollution, while others are very tolerant to some types of pollution.  The different types of organisms present in a sample, and the number of those organisms present, allows me to compare water quality and ecosystem health in different creeks or in different parts of the same creek.    Another one of my jobs is to help the other scientists who monitor the populations of salamanders that live in our area, such as the Barton Springs Salamander.  The Barton Springs Salamander is an endangered species, which means that it must be protected from threats to its extinction.  When I count the salamanders I have to wear SCUBA gear and I stay under water at Barton Springs for hours sometimes.    Some of the other jobs I do include taking water samples in creeks and lakes, collecting bacteria samples, looking for places where litter is becoming a problem, and trying to make Austin creeks a better place for wildlife and plants to live by improving the habitat around the creek.  I look for elevated bacteria in the water so I can help other City employees fix problems like leaking sewers or parks where too much pet waste is getting into the water.

My best day on the job... I really do love my job so most of my days are pretty awesome. Some of my best days have been spent snorkeling in Barton Springs while counting salamanders, collecting insects and water quality data in creeks all over the city and cruising up and down Town Lake and Lake Austin to pick up sediment samples from the bottom of the lakes.

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job?
One time we found more than 1200 Barton Springs Salamanders at the Eliza Spring at Barton Springs.

Fun facts I know from doing my job:

  • Native mussels (these look kind of like clams from the outside) spend part of their life cycle as parasites that attach to fish!
  • Lethocerus uhleri is a big aquatic insect that lives in the headwaters of Bull Creek and may prey on salamanders and tadpoles.
  • There are species of fresh water jellyfish that live in some spring-fed streams in this region and they look just like miniature versions of the jellyfish that you can find in the ocean.  These jellyfish are non-native.
  • The larvae of many caddisflies, which live under water before they become adults, construct really neat cases that help them obtain oxygen from the water and also protect them from some predators. For example, the caddisfly Helicopsyche constructs a spiraled case that looks just like a snail’s shell!
  • Some water snakes can make themselves look like venomous cottonmouths to scare predators (or people) away when they are scared.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Book - gosh that's a hard question, probably whatever books I'm reading at the time.  Lately I've been reading some Tom Robbins novels, some books on drawing, a music book called Never Heard of 'em, by Sue Donahoe, and a book called Wicked (can't remember the author but its about the wicked witch of the west).  Oh, and I kind of read books like other people watch television, so I'm always reading little bits of different ones.
  • Favorite Hobbies - When I'm out hiking I like to take pictures of all the insects and other small animals that I find.  I like thrift store shopping for junk and turning it into art.  I collect fossils, weird pieces of tree stumps, plants and other stuff and I like to put it around my house.  I'm learning how to play guitar.
  • Favorite Food - Tacos.  Maybe also mint chocolate cookie ice cream.
  • Favorite Music - Punk rock.  At least it used to be.  I think I like a lot more stuff nowadays.

Something unique I do:  I collect grasshoppers and crickets from different places because I'm writing a book about them.

Have another question? Send Todd Jackson an email.

 

Mateo Scoggins

Mateo Scoggins

Environmental Scientist

Aquatic Biologist

College Degrees:

  • Bachelors of Arts in Communication, University of California at San Diego
  • Masters of Science in Aquatic Biology, Southwest Texas State University

How did you become interested in environmental science? I got interested in water resources in the Peace Corps where I worked building water systems and teaching watershed management.

What have you learned about water quality from your job? Every creek in Austin is a fantastic place to experience our environment. Our senses are often more efficient at assessing stream health than years worth of data. If more people spent time really experiencing our streams, they would probably be in a lot better shape than they are.

  • What science question are you investigating?
  • Are algae or insects (or both together) better at measuring water quality?
  • Do plants and trees along streams improve water quality?
  • At what level of development do our streams degrade quickly?
  • What effect of impervious cover is more destructive to our creeks: 1) Pollution runoff (chemical effects) or; 2) Increased flooding/decreased baseflow (physical effects)?
  • What methods should we be using to quickly and effectively evaluate water quality?
  • How often should we monitor biology and at what time of year?

My best day on the job...

  • Spending the day walking through beautiful stream channels, collecting insects and documenting environmental conditions.
  • Analyzing biological data (on a computer, using statistics) and finding patterns and trends that answer important questions we have been asking for years.

Fun facts I know from doing my job.

  • I spent about 6 years counting salamanders once a month at Barton Springs Pool (underwater, using SCUBA).
  • The more you study insects the more incredible and interesting they become.
  • Austin has hundreds of fantastic swimming holes on its streams; you just have to find them.
  • I have the best job in the world.

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job? I once watched a large Cottonmouth snake catch, wrestle and finally eat a big catfish. It was an epic battle and reminded me how out of place I was in the water.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movie - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • Favorite Book - Catcher In the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  • Favorite Hobby - Cooking Favorite Sport - Soccer
  • Favorite Food - Souvlaki Favorite Music - Cuban
  • Something unique you do - Ride my bike to work everyday

Have another question? Send Mateo Scoggins an email.

 

Staryn Wagner

Staryn Wagner

Environmental Scientist

College Degrees:

  • Associative Science from Whatcom Community College in 2000
  • Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Western Washington University in 2002

Career: I presently work as an Environmental Scientist Associate for the City of Austin in the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department. The environmental work I performed before this involved taking water quality samples from Lake Whatcom in Bellingham, Washington and processing them in the lab. Before that I built and installed neon signs in Texas and Washington.

How did you become interested in geology? Living near Seattle in Washington State I was able to spend much of my time in the mountains and along the streams that fed the Puget Sound. The more time I spent in the wild there the more I began to focus my attention on the Salmon streams and the amazing life cycle of these anadromous fish. This interest piqued my curiosity how the entire landscape, both flora and fauna, lent itself to enabling this amazing fish to exist. From there sprouted my interest in Ecology which I continue to expand my knowledge on every day.

What have you learned about water quality from your job? The more natural vegetation that exists around a stream and its contributing features, the better the water quality which leads to a greater diversity in the aquatic biology.

What science question are you investigating? Right now I have my head buried in two research projects. The first is whether or not dog parks lead to increased bacteria levels in the stream sediments and the other project is focusing on the ecological impacts resulting from rehabilitating urban stream riparian zones. A riparian zone is the area of land that joins the terrestrial and aquatic habitats.

My best day on the job... ...is under 95°F, water flowing in the stream and a full day in the field.

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job? One of the property owners whose land we cross to get to Barton Creek loves what we do so much that she wants to help us.

Fun facts I Know from doing my job:

  • Walnut Creek has lots of fossils and Native American artifacts in it.
  • The streams and their inhabitants respond positively when people take care of them.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Book - Ecotopia, by Ernest Callenbach and Earth, by David Brin. Both are EnviroSciFi.
  • Favorite Hobbies - Designing and building things and riding my bike.
  • Favorite Food - I love all food but I especially like eating things that I have never tried before.
  • Favorite Music - I like all kinds of music. Each different style has something in it that is worth paying attention to.

Something unique I do:  I have traveled and lived in many places all around the world. I like to ride my bicycle everywhere I go. That way I get to see things that you do not notice when you are in a car like the animals that are all over the place here in Austin. I also like to swim in Barton Springs Pool and any other cool swimming hole I can find.

Have another question? Send Staryn Wagner an email.

 

Ana Gonzales

Ana Gonzales 

Environmental Scientist

College Degree:  Plant Ecology, PhD

How did you become interested in environmental science?
Exploring the woods and gathering food in the forest had been some of my favorite things since I was a little girl. Nature had always been an exciting place and I wanted to learn more about how nature functions and why. I am still amazed by all the strategies that plants use to survive. Unlike animals, plants cannot hide when a plant-eater approaches, build a burrow to escape the freezing weather, move to a shady place in the middle of summer, or move around in search for water during drought. How do they manage to survive? Trying to find answers to these questions I became a biologist. Now, as an environmental scientist, my work focuses also on trying to preserve or restore the forests that grow along rivers and creeks.

What have you learned about water quality from your job?
I have learned that plants provide a lot of services to keep our creeks healthy. Plant roots hold the soil and prevent soil erosion, the leaves and branches slow-down the rain and reduce runoff, shade from the plants keeps the temperature in the creek more stable, and their fruits and leaves feed many critters. Maintaining or improving water quality in our creeks depends on the plants that grow near the stream.

What science questions are you investigating?
When the plants have been mowed for a very long time, the soil is very compacted and it is hard for the forest to grow back again. I am working on some studies trying to understand what strategies are more efficient at getting the plants to grow again and restore a healthy forest along the creeks.

My best day on the job...
Is when go to work on the field, collecting data, and picking bugs.

Fun facts I know from doing my job:
I can get dirty and muddy doing my work and I don’t get in trouble for that.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movie: Andrei Rublev
  • Favorite Book: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
  • Favorite Hobby: Working on my vegetable garden
  • Favorite Food: Thai and Mediterranean
  • Favorite Music: Nueva Trova

Something unique I do:  I buy local fruits in bulk to make my own preserves for the whole year (strawberries, peaches, blackberries, figs, and tangerines) and also make my own ricotta cheese at home.

Have another question?  Send Ana Gonzalez an email.

 

Tomm Devitt

Tom Devitt

Environmental Scientist

Salamander Biologist

College Degree:

  • Bachelor of Science in Biology (Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation emphasis) from UT
  • Master of Science in Biology from Louisiana State University
  • Ph.D. in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley

How did you become interested in your profession?
I’ve been fascinated by reptiles and amphibians since the time I could walk! I grew up across the street from a pond and spent the majority of my time as a kid looking for snakes, salamanders, frogs, and turtles. I never grew out of it, and here I am as one of the City’s Salamander Biologists!    

What have you learned about water quality from your job?
Water is our most important natural resource. Because we only have a finite amount, we have to protect and conserve it every day.

What science questions are you working on?
Working with a team of other biologists, we’re trying to gather basic information about the biology of the Barton Springs and Austin Blind salamanders so that we can conserve them. We’re asking questions including:  How many salamanders are there? What is the extent of their geographic range? How long do they live? How far do they move?  What do they eat? What are their predators? Where do they mate and lay eggs? What causes populations to increase or decrease in number? How are the Barton Springs and Austin Blind salamanders related to other Central Texas species of aquatic salamanders?

My best day on the job...was the first time I scuba-dove in Barton Springs searching for salamanders.

Fun facts I know from doing my job:
The scientific name of the Austin Blind Salamander (Eurycea waterlooensis) comes from the name “Waterloo”, the original name for Austin.

What has been your most interesting nature encounter on the job?
Seeing an Austin Blind Salamander for the first time.

Want to know what I like besides science and engineering?

  • Favorite Movie: Lonesome Dove
  • Favorite Book: The Crossing, by Cormac McCarthy
  • Favorite Hobby: exploring nature
  • Favorite Food: Tex-Mex
  • Favorite Music: blues

Something unique I do:  I love to fly-fish in and around Austin.

Have another question?  Send Tom Devitt an email.

 

Hydrogeologist

Nico Hauwert

Nico Hauwert

Environmental Scientist

Hydrogeologist

College Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Geology from University of Texas, Austin
  • Master of Science in Geology from University of Toledo, Ohio
  • Ph.D in Geological Sciences, University of Texas, Austin

How did you become interested in hydrogeology? In high school I got interested in geology because I loved exploring the outdoors. In college I became fascinated with learning about the aquifer through cave exploring and hiking the City parks.

What have you learned about water quality from your job? I have learned how our groundwater flow system is incredibly sensitive to pollution, so much more than we previously thought.

What science question are you investigating? How much recharge occurs in what locations?

My best day on the job... A lot of my job is fun because I get to be in nature; like measuring flow in creeks, exploring caves, and mapping geology.

Fun facts I know from doing my job:  Barton Springs and many water-supply wells south of Austin are most affected by areas farthest away- almost 20 miles away.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movies "Pirates of the Caribbean"
  • Favorite Book - Fafhrd and the Grey Mouse, by Fritz Lieber
  • Favorite Hobby - Playing with my daughter, Tara
  • Favorite Sport - Caving
  • Favorite Food - Cherries and exotic fruits, like mango, papaya, and cherimoya
  • Favorite Music - Alternative 80's songs

Something unique I do:  Love building things: tree houses, toy sceneries for my daughter, creek-flow stations... though I am most awed by nature untouched (is that a contradiction?).

Have another question? Send Nico Hauwert an email.

 

Scott Hiers

Scott Hiers

Environmental Scientist

Geologist

College Degrees: Bachelor Science in Geology, University of Wisconsin

How did you become interested in geology? I always had a love for mystery stories and rocks. As a kid, I had a rock and a mineral collection. I wondered about the rocks and the minerals that I was finding. How did they form? How did they end up in the places were I found them? How could I identify them from other rocks and minerals? It was all a great mystery to me, like Geology. I learned in college that Geology helps us unlock the mysteries of the world in which we live.

What have you learned about water quality from your job? Water is a valuable natural resource that needs to be protected.

What science question are you investigating?

  • How fast and in which direction is ground water moving in the Edwards Aquifer?
  • Which springs are contaminated in Austin?
  • Where is the contamination coming from?

My best day on the job... When I find recharge features like caves, sinkhole, and solution cavities and protect them from being destroyed.

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job? Finding and exploring caves.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Book - Cosmos
  • Favorite Hobbies - Hiking, Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Hunting, Biking and Caving
  • Favorite Sport - Football
  • Favorite Food - All Food Favorite Music - Rock, Jazz and Classical

Something unique I do:  Woodworking

Have another question? Send Scott Heirs an email.

 

David Johns

David Johns

Environmental Scientist

Hydrogeologist

College Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Geology, Texas A&M
  • Master of Arts in Geology, University of Texas, Austin

How did you become I have always loved the outdoors and wanted a job that would pay me to be there. I also had a great biology teacher in high school that led me into the sciences in college.

What have you learned about water quality from your job? The quality of groundwater is important because it flows into most of the rivers and creeks in our area through springs or seeps; it provides the life of the surface waters.

What science question are you investigating? What happens to groundwater and springs when development happens? For example:

  • Do springs dry up when we cover their recharge areas with homes, or do they flow more because we water our lawns?
  • Does what we do in our yard, like fertilize, affect groundwater?
  • How quickly does water from Slaughter Creek reach Barton Springs?
  • What is one of the best ways to protect water quality?

My best day on the job... My best days at work are spent in the field. The field means anywhere outside collecting samples, gathering information, or surveying for interesting environmental features. Sometimes it means swimming in Barton Springs to collect a water sample from the cave where the main spring flows out. Other times it means standing in a swiftly flowing creek measuring the volume of water flowing in the channel. Lately, it means exploring ranch lands that will soon be developed to map the location of special areas like springs and caves that we will want to protect from damage during and after construction. A day in the field beats a day in the office any day!

Fun facts I know from doing my job:  Barton Springs discharges an average of 400 gallons of water every single second!

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job? One summer I was collecting samples at Barton Springs for a tracing project when who should show up but the entire Dallas Cowboys football team. Those guys are big!

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movie - "The Lord of the Rings"
  • Favorite Book - Dune, by Frank Herbert
  • Favorite Hobby - Hunting
  • Favorite Sport - Soccer
  • Favorite Food - Fried Shrimp
  • Favorite Music - Rock-n-Roll

Have another question?  Send David Johns an email.

 

Sylvia Pope

Sylvia Pope

Environmental Scientist

Hydrogeologist

College Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Geosciences, Purdue University, Indiana
  • Master of Science in Community and Regional Planning University of Texas, Austin

How did you become interested in hydrogeology? I was interested in protecting water resources because I like to swim and hike and it is more fun when the water is clean.

What have you learned about water quality from your job? There is a rapid connection of water that flows in creeks in the recharge zone to what comes out at the springs.

What science question are you investigating? How can we protect the aquifer from construction activities?

My best day on the job... When I get to go kayaking to pick up receptors for a dye trace test or to collect spring samples.

Fun facts I know from doing my job:  There are hundreds of small springs in Austin. Sometimes you can even find them in your local park!

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movies- "A Civil Action"
  • Favorite Book - A Civil Action
  • Favorite Hobby- Kayaking Favorite Sport- Biking
  • Favorite Food - Pumpkin Pie
  • Favorite Music - World Beat

Something unique I do:  Church Youth Group Advisor

Have another question?  Send Sylvia Pope an email.

 

Engineers

Michelle Adlong

Michelle Adlong

Graduate Engineer

 

College Degree:   B. S. Environmental Engineering, Oregon State University; M.S. Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California at Berkeley

How did you become interested in your profession?  
In high school, my favorite subjects were chemistry and math because they were logical and predictable. Engineering seemed like a good fit, but what type of engineering? Well, in high school I got interested in rivers and water quality, and I volunteered as a student representative on my local watershed council. But ultimately, I wanted whatever I did to have a positive impact on the world. After doing some research, I discovered environmental engineering, and have stuck with it ever since!

What have you learned about water quality from your job?
I have learned that healthy creeks are natural water filters. There are many parts that work together to clean the water, from the air and soils to the plants and bacteria to the insects and other animals. We can learn a lot from these natural processes and we sometimes mimic them when designing our own water treatment systems.

What engineering problems are you working on?
My group does a lot of engineering to solve problems caused by poor development decisions of the city's past, but with a limited toolbox of solutions. For example, large swaths of pavement (called impervious cover) cause rain to run off faster and dirtier than if it fell on natural ground, and this causes erosion, flooding, and poor water quality. But how do you fix a watershed-wide problem on the scale of acres, when your solution can only take up a few hundred square feet? Is it even possible to fix it?

My best day on the job...
One day I visited my stream restoration project where the stream had been an unsightly, torn-up construction zone for many months. Some plants had finally begun to grow back, but that day, I saw a heron fishing for the first time since the creek had been restored. With the heron's silent approval, I knew all that hard work was worth it!

Fun facts I know from doing my job:
1.    Rivers naturally change and reshape themselves. What is a sandy beach one day may be in the middle of a stream a few years later.
2.    It may look weak, but water is very powerful! Little by little, water in rivers can erode away even the most permanent-looking rock (think of the Grand Canyon!). When you get a lot at a time, it can carry the heaviest boulders and the biggest trees.
3.    I am definitely not immune to poison ivy.

What has been your most interesting nature encounter on the job?
When I first started my job, I was walking in an eroded creek in east Austin. I started noticing spiral-shaped fossils everywhere where erosion had worked them out of the limestone. I picked one up and later found out that the fossils were common ones called Exogyra, and they were ancient clams from back when Texas was under an ocean. That fossil in my hand was over 200 million years old!

Want to know what I like besides science and engineering?

  • Favorite Movie: I protest this question…I can never decide!
  • Favorite Book: The Hobbit
  • Favorite Hobby: Backpacking
  • Favorite Food: Pineapple
  • Favorite Music: Anything that makes me want to sing when nobody's listening

 

Something unique I do:  I am learning how to paraglide.

Have another question?  Send Michelle Adlong an email

 

Katina Bohrer

Katina Bohrer

Engineer

 

College Degree:  Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, University of Colorado

How did you become interested in civil engineering/modeling floodplains?
My grandfather is a civil engineer who specialized in oil spill cleanup and I became interested in engineering through him.  I became interested in floodplain modeling specifically while in college when our class was tasked with determining if a local eatery would flood during a rain storm, and then determining a possible solution to keep the eatery from flooding in the future.

What have you learned about flooding from your job?  
Most of the people who die during a flood event are in a vehicle at the time  – do not attempt to cross a flooded roadway.  Save yourself!  Turn around, don’t drown.

What engineering question are you investigating?
Right now we’re completing floodplain studies for 5 watersheds (Cottonmouth, Shoal, Boggy, Carson and Bull creeks) which encompass approximately 60 square miles of land in Austin.  The floodplain studies will tell us where to expect creek flooding in the future.

My best day on the job...
...is a day where I feel like I’ve been able to make a difference – whether that’s educating people about the possibility of flooding, inspecting locations where roads cross over creeks for the potential of flooding, determining how high the water was during a flood or reviewing site plans to make sure that a potential development doesn’t increase the possibility of flooding on another property.

Fun facts I know from doing my job:
If a house is in a 100-year floodplain, there is a 26% chance of that house experiencing a flood in a 30-year period while the chances of that house experiencing a fire is only 7%.  

What has been your most interesting encounter on the job?
When I was helping at the Halloween Flood Flood Assistance Center, I met Representative Lloyd Doggett.

Want to know what I like besides science?

  • Favorite Movie:  Tropic Thunder
  • Favorite Book: I’m an avid reader, so it’s tough for me to choose a favorite…Founding Gardeners by Andrea Wolf, the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and anything by James Rollins are the ones that get re-read the most frequently.
  • Favorite Hobby: Photography and Gardening
  • Favorite Food: Spaghetti
  • Favorite Music: I’m an ex-band geek so I love everything from Classical to Punk Rock.  If it’s got an odd time signature, I’m almost guaranteed to like it.

Something unique I do:  I’ve been a garden blogger January 2007.

Have another question?  Send Katina Bohrer an email

 

Earth School

We have developed a watershed viewer, so it is easy to find out what watershed you live in and to find out its EII score.

Email Jessica Gordon or call 512-974-3082 to receive a registration form.

The Earth School presentation is one hour per class (however, special accommodations may be made for a longer or shorter presentation).

The Earth School presentation can accommodate up to 30 students per presentation.

It is helpful if tables or desks can be set up so that students can work in five separate groups.  Access to a sink and running water is necessary.  The presentation should be in one room with classes rotating through because the materials are too heavy to move from class to class.

Teacher Testimonials:

“This is a very valuable lesson for the students.  I love the hands-on activities.  Students are engaged and work together to discover the knowledge.  It ties in well with concepts taught in class.  The presenter was wonderful.  The students truly enjoyed the lesson.”

“Not only was the information relevant to the curriculum, but it was relevant to the lives of the scholars.”

“I loved all of the interactive activities.  The kids were 100% engaged.”

“Very meaningful to kids in Austin! Strongly recommend!”

If your school is not able to schedule all of the presentations in one day, you can schedule two consecutive days.

An Earth School teacher will bring all of the materials that students need.

Registration forms are accepted throughout the school year, but the earlier you register the more likely you are to receive your choice dates.

Environmental Integrity Index

For more information on the EII program, please contact:

Andrew Clamann

Mateo Scoggins

Generally, there are six categories of data collected:

E.Coli Bacteria

  1. Contact Recreation - E. Coli Bacteria
    • Human pathogen indicator
    • 4 times per year/reach
  2. Non-Contact Recreation - Visual assessment form
    • Aesthetic appeal to average person
    • Garbage, odor, algae, clarity, etc
  3. Water Quality - Chemical measurements
    • Nutrients (Nitrate-N, Ammonia-N, and Orthophosphorus
    • Total Suspended Solids and Turbidity
    • Dissolved Oxygen, Conductivity, pH and Temperature
  4. Sediment Quality - Sediment Chemistry
    • Sampled at mouths of streams once per year
    • Aggregates watershed inputs
    • Metals, PAHs, pesticides and herbicides
  5. Habitat Quality - Forms based on visual assessment and direct measurements
    • EPA national protocol, qualitative
    • Non-scoring Pfankuch channel stability form
  6. Aquatic Life
    • Benthic Macroinvertebrate Community (invertebrates)
      • 9 metrics assessing: Diversity, Pollution Tolerance and Community Structure
      • Evaluates stream health in terms of the preceding months to years
    • Diatom Community (single cellular algae on rocks)
      • Pollution Tolerance Index and Percent Similarity to Reference Conditions
      • Evaluates stream health in terms of the preceding months to years

A more complete description of the parameters and methods for the most recent sample years are provided in the introduction to the Watershed Summary Report More detailed information on the specific methods for field and lab analysis in addition to metrics for determining scores is located in report COA-ERM-1999-01 Environmental Integrity Index Methodology, May 31, 2002 edition.

 

We have developed a watershed viewer, so it is easy to find out what watershed you live in and to find out its EII score.

Austins Watershed Phase 2 2009-02010

The current two-phase monitoring cycle involves the monitoring of 122 sample sites within 49 watersheds in the City’s planning area.

Erosion Control and Stream Restoration

Analyses of sediment transport are performed to evaluate the ability of a channel to carry the incoming sediment load. The design goal for mobile bed channel projects is to achieve a state of dynamic equilibrium. This refers to a condition where the channel can transport the incoming sediment load without excessive erosion or deposition. The intent is that the channel retains its planform, shape and profile within an acceptable range of variability without trends. Most frequently for City of Austin applications the analysis is based on including a low flow channel within the active and flood conveyance channels. The Stream Restoration Program promotes the concept of sediment continuity to assist in assessing existing conditions and to design for a state of dynamic equilibrium. The levels of sediment continuity analysis and surrogates thereof may include:

Equilibrium (Steady State) Methods

  • Incipient Motion (Threshold)
  • Sediment Continuity

Dynamic Methods

  • Sediment Continuity
  • Sediment Routing

Sediment Continuity Concept

Sediment Continuity Concept

Steady-state and/or dynamic sediment transport models are used for analysis and design of stream stabilization projects. Commonly used models for sediment transport:

  • HECRAS Stable Channel Design and Sediment Transport Modules
  • SAMwin Hydraulic Design Package for Channels
  • HEC-6

The initial step in a sediment transport analysis is evaluation of the mobility of the channel bed material. This is accomplished through comparison of the hydraulic shear stress (computed from hydraulic model) and the critical shear stress of the bed material. There are many paradigms for sediment and channel armor mobility. The Shield’s equation is most commonly used for this purpose:

where:
c = critical shear stress to initiate motion of bed material (lb/ft2)
SP = Sheilds Parameter (~0.05 for Austin gravel/cobble streams)
Sg = specific gravity of sediment (~2.4 - 2.65)
Ds = representative diameter of bed material from gradation (ft)

The ratio of hydraulic shear stress (o ) to critical shear stress (tc ) is know as the shear stress ratio. When the "shear stress ratio" (o / c ) exceeds unity or the "excess shear stress" (o -c) is greater than 0 the bed material becomes mobilized and moves downstream. Many sediment transport equations utilize the shear stress ratio concept to determine sediment transport rates.

In mobile bed systems the erodibility of the channel is dependent on the sediment supply from upstream sources and the ability of the design channel to transport the incoming load. Generally there are three cases related to the equilibrium condition of the stream.

Dynamic Equilibrium - the channel can transport the incoming sediment load without excessive erosion or deposition.

Transport Limited – The channel cannot sufficiently pass the incoming sediment load and aggradation results.

Supply Limited – The channel transport capacity exceeds the incoming sediment load and erosion/degradation occurs.
A stream channel is formed by the continuum of flows that the channel receives over time. The channel forming discharge is often selected as a surrogate to this range of flows.

Channel forming Discharge, also known as:

  • Dominant Discharge
  • Formative Discharge
  • Effective Discharge
  • Where the Channel is Going

The channel forming discharge is defined as a flow that transports the most sediment over time and determines the principal dimensions and characteristics of a natural channel. The effective discharge has been associated with bankfull discharge in the eastern U.S. However bankfull discharge is less applicable in incising systems and in arid/semi-arid environments. Therefore a collaborative approach including analytical methods, flood frequency and field investigation is used to identify channel forming discharge in the Austin area.

used to identify channel forming discharge in the Austin area.
Analyses of sediment continuity in the channel forming discharge range can be used to develop a family of stable channel dimensions that can provide for a condition of sediment continuity or dynamic equilibrium.

Analyses of sediment continuity in the channel forming discharge range can be used to develop a family of stable channel dimensions that can provide for a condition of sediment continuity or dynamic equilibrium.

Utilizing sediment continuity requires definition of the upstream sediment supply, which can be expressed with a sediment transport-rating curve for the supply reach. Significant judgment and a thorough knowledge of the system are essential to estimate an appropriate supply loading for a rehabilitation design. A simplified approach in lieu of sediment continuity is the threshold approach setting the design hydraulic bed shear stress (o )to the critical shear stress (c ) at the channel forming discharge. This however may under estimate the sediment supply.

There are multiple combinations of slope, depth and width that could satisfy sediment continuity for a particular reach. More often than not there are space constraints that limit the range of solutions. In other cases one of the channel geometry variables (width, depth, slope) may be selected based on environmental and habitat criteria. Target velocities and/or depth suitable for fishes and bethnic communities may be used to define a template for the channel geometry. Following a stable slope is selected based on the sediment transport analysis.

Sediment transport analysis in combination with observations, experience, hydraulic geometry and planform relations can assist in predicting future channel response and provide design parameters for channel stabilization.

 

The Stream Restoration Program utilizes hydrologic and hydraulic models for estimating runoff quantities, rates and the hydraulic forces impacting a reach of stream. These analyses provide parameters for use in stable channel design. For projects within an existing floodplain, generally the existing FEMA hydrology and hydraulic models are used. For smaller projects models are developed for each specific project. Common models used are:

Hydrology:   HEC-1   TR20   FFA

Hydraulics:   HEC-2   HECRAS (HECGEORAS)   WSPRO   Manning’s Equation

Results from the H&H analyses are used to estimate channel boundary shear stresses and sediment transport capacities, which allow for prediction of future short- and long-term channel erosion and provides data for design of channel stabilization measures.

The first step in consideration of a stream stabilization project includes a site investigation or field reconnaissance where an assessment of stream conditions and the problem severity are made.  Watershed Protection Department Staff:  deduce the physical processes dominating the system, evaluate morphological state of the stream (channel evolution), identify constraints, consider potential solution types and extents, assess appropriate level of engineering analysis, and prioritize with respect to Citywide problem areas.

Fluvial geomorphology is the science dealing with the physical processes and characteristics of rivers and streams:
Some geomorphic factors considered during stream assessment are:

  • Lateral and Vertical Channel Variability
  • Bed and Bank Material Type, Composition and Stratigraphy
  • Bed Forms
  • Channel Cross Section Shape
  • Channel Gradient
  • River Valley Conditions
  • Floodplain Conditions
  • Riparian Vegetation
  • Upstream Watershed Conditions (impervious cover, soils, vegetation)

 

Geomorphic analysis in the engineering and implementation context is used to quantify channel morphological parameters as they relate to design of a stable system. Geomorphic analysis provides:

  • Quantitative channel and stability assessment tools
  • Foundation for natural channel design
  • Prediction of short- and long term channel change
  • Optimize design for stability and natural channel processes
  • Estimate maintenance requirements

All of these components interact with each other to form the ultimate channel configuration. In urban channels these elements often become “out-of-phase” with each other as the channel adjusts to imposed watershed conditions.

General Channel Stability There are levels of analyzing channel stability and developing solution types. Generally the approach is based on the extents of the affected processes and constraints typically limit the selected solution type. Channel stability can be looked at on a large watershed scale or down to site specific problems.

Approaches to Channel Stability

  • Watershed-scale
    • Upland Stormwater Management Controls
    • (ponds, disconnected impervious cover, impervious cover limits)
  • Reach-based
    • Channel lengths with common hydraulic/morphologic characteristics
  • Site Specific
    • Stabilization of isolated stretch of channel (usually for property protection)

General Channel Adjustment For watershed, stream reach based and site-specific situations, the Stream Restoration Program utilizes the concept that a stream reach equilibrium is dominated by the hydrology, hydraulics and sediment load. A relationship proposed by Lane can be used to qualitatively identify these physical processes dominating the system.

Qw = water discharge S = channel slope Qs = sediment discharge Ds = sediment size

Qw = water discharge S = channel slope Qs = sediment discharge Ds = sediment size

Our experience shows that the most common response to urbanization in degrading reaches can be represented as:

 The (+) signs indicate an increase in water discharge (Qw) and coarsening of the channel bed material (Ds); the S- indicates the river slope would decrease through meandering (planform adjustment) and/or downcutting (geometric adjustment) and the relative sediment supply would decrease in an incising reach.

The (+) signs indicate an increase in water discharge (Qw) and coarsening of the channel bed material (Ds); the S- indicates the river slope would decrease through meandering (planform adjustment) and/or downcutting (geometric adjustment) and the relative sediment supply would decrease in an incising reach. This qualitative analysis provides a basis for more quantitative analyses.

Sediment Load X Sediment Size versus Channel Slope X water Discharge.

Channel Planform Channel planform is evaluated to assess the condition of stream meanders and the tendency of the channel to migrate laterally. Channel planform characteristics are most readily assessed using historical aerial photography and mapping. The most commonly used geomorphic planform variables are:

  • Sinuosity
  • Meander Amplitude and Belt Width
  • Meander Wave Length
  • Meander Arc Length
  • Meander Radius of Curvature
  • Meander Arc Angle
  • Riffle-Pool Spacing
  • Channel Width

Channel Sinuosity and Meander Belt

Channel Sinuosity and Meander Belt

Sinuosity is the ratio of the length of the centerline of the channel (CL) to the length of a line defining the general trend of the valley or stream reach (VL) and describes the amount of meandering in a stream.

Sinuosity = CL / VL

Channel Planform Characteristics

Channel Planform Characteristics

Some commonly used relationships for planform in natural stable systems are as follows:

  •   10 to 14W
  • Riffle spacing  5 to 7W or  ½ 
  • rc  2 to 3W

In general pools are located in bends, riffles are located near crossings. It should be noted that the relations for wavelength and radius of curvature have been most often been identified in stable natural systems and should be used with discretion in the urban environment. This is because impervious watershed conditions accelerate the erosion process and can cause a shift from the natural condition. However these relationships are used as a starting point for many channel reconstruction projects. They can be used to determine whether a system is “out-of-phase” and provide design targets for stabilization projects. From historical observation and common planform relationships the Stream Restoration staff are able to ascertain the probability of bank retreat in a particular area.

Channel Geometry and Profile Channel geometry refers to the cross sectional and longitudinal parameters that affect the amount of channel conveyance and hydraulic forces on the channel boundary. Some common channel geometry parameters are:

  • Channel Width
  • Flow Area
  • Hydraulic Radius
  • Hydraulic Depth
  • Depth of Flow (maximum depth)
  • Width/Depth Ratio
  • Bank Height
  • Channel Profile

The channel geometric parameters vary throughout a stream reach depending on location these can be averaged to estimate the "reach-average" conditions for certain types of evaluation and analysis.

Channel Geometry Characteristics

Relationships that relate channel geometry to hydrology are termed “regime equations” and are based on observations of a large group of streams. These relationships usually take the form of:

  • W = aQb
  • d = cQf
  • V = kQm
  • S = fQz

For width (W), depth (d), velocity (V) and slope (S)

As with planform channel geometric relations are only relevant in stable systems and should be used with discretion in the urban environment. In areas with rapid land-use change such as developing watersheds relationships such as these may be useless for design. However they may be used for comparative purposes. In older or undeveloped watersheds they may prove more functional. In general more detailed analyses are required to determine appropriate stable channel geometry in areas where watershed land use has been altered.

Drainage area is also used as a surrogate to discharge in channel geometry relationships. It has been observed that the trend is and upward shift in the relationship for channel width to drainage area as a result of urbanization.

Effect of Urbanization of Channel Geometry

The channel adjustment process resulting from urbanization can also be expressed with incised channel evolution model proposed by Schumm (1984).

The channel adjustment process resulting from urbanization can also be expressed with incised channel evolution model proposed by Schumm (1984).

The critical bank height at which mass failure begins is described as hc. when the bank height (h) exceeds hc (Stages II - III) geotechnical failures can be expected.

Observations in Austin indicate that the progression from Stage I to II occurs quite rapidly (10- 30 years) and the widening and restabilization process (Stage IV – V) occurs over a much longer time frame. Most of our urban streams that have been impacted are currently in stages II & III. This identification allows us to utilize other empirical and analytical methods appropriately. The channel evolution model serves to tell us:

  • Where the Channel has Been
  • Where the Channel is in its Evolution
  • Where the Channel is Going

It is important to identify the channel stage of evolution in order to develop appropriate mitigation strategies and reduce future adverse impacts.

Bed Material Characteristics The size, shape, composition and distribution of material in the channel bed are important to the channel stability. These characteristic are used to determine the mobility of the channel bed and subsequently the erosion potential. In general larger sediment sizes (cobbles/boulders) act to stabilize the channel bed, where smaller particles (sand/silt) are more readily erodible. The distribution of particle sizes in bed material mixtures affects the ability of water to mobilize these sediments. The characteristics of the bed material are analyzed through visual observation and gradations developed from sieve analyses or pebble counts.

Bed Material Gradation Curve

Bed Material Gradation Curve

A well-sorted sediment mixture consists of grains that are of uniform size and a poorly-sorted sediment contains particles of many sizes. A poorly-sorted sediment may be indicative of a high energy/flashy system. A poorly-sorted stream may also include large particles that armor the channel bed.

The shape of the bed material affects its stability. Angular particles will provide more stability than rounded particles because of the interlocking and friction characteristics.

The chemical composition of the bed material particles affect how it breaks-down, changes size and shape as the material moves downstream. Weaker materials such as shale and limestone degrade faster than quartz-based sediments.

Bank Composition The type of material and stratigraphy in a channel bank affects its erosion potential. Bank stratigraphy is identified and measured in the field. Geotechnical analyses are performed to analyze the strength characteristics of the bank materials. Many channels in Austin are comprised of composite channel banks with bedrock, clay, alluvium and soils.

Composite Channel Bank in Shoal Creek

Composite Channel Bank in Shoal Creek

Composite Channel Bank in Onion Creek

Composite Channel Bank in Onion Creek

Riparian Vegetation Vegetation acts to provide channel stability as the root systems strengthen the bank material and resist erosive forces. Deep rooted plants and trees give internal strength to the soil mass comprising the channel bank. Shallow rotted plants such as grasses provide more erosion resistance to surficial forces from flowing water. In addition riparian vegetation is an essential component of the aquatic ecosystem.

Roots in the Channel Banks

Roots in the Channel Banks

 

Geotechnical analyses are used to determine existing bank stability, anticipate bank failures and to provide design parameters for embankment construction. Bank failure can occur in various modes depending on the bank soil properties and the morphology of the stream. Some bank failure modes include shallow, planar, rotational and cantilever type failures. The most common type of bank failure in our urbanized stream results from removal of soil from the channel toe (undermining) and subsequent slope failure.

Bank Failure Modes

Bank Failure Models. Before and After.

In design of bank stabilization projects the primary components of a slope stability analysis include evaluation of:

  • External Stability
  • Internal Stability
  • Local Stability
  • Global Stability

External stability refers to the acting and resisting forces adjacent to stream that influence stability of the constructed slope. External stability analysis evaluates forces related to bearing capacity, base sliding and overturning moments.

Internal stability refers to forces within the channel bank that affect the stability of reinforcements (internal sliding, tensile overstress, and pullout).

Local stability is related to the surficial facing of a channel bank. This also relates to the connection strength between the facing and internal reinforcements in a constructed slope.

Global Stability relates to deep seated rotational failures that are generally outside the limits of a constructed slope.

 

 

The amount and type of data obtained for a stream stabilization project depends of the extent of the problem, the geomorphic physical process affecting the system, variability within the problem area and the type of solution envisioned for the project.

The Stream Restoration Program’s objective is to create a stable stream system that decreases property loss from erosion and increases the beneficial uses of our waterways.  In this context a stable channel is one that maintains its plan form, profile and channel geometry without excessive erosion or deposition. 

  • Topographic and Bathymetric Survey
  • Bed Material Pebble Counts and/or Sieve Analyses
  • Geotechnical Borings and Soil Strength Testing \
  • Historical Aerial Photography
  • Historical Comparative Channel Cross Sections and Profiles
  • Existing Hydraulic and Hydrology Models and Floodplain Information
  • Watershed Mapping (GIS)

Components of the engineering analysis for stream stabilization projects include hydrologic and hydraulic modeling, geomorphic analysis, sediment transport analysis, channel adjustment modeling, and geotechnical analysis. The level of engineering analysis for a stream stabilization project is dependent on the size of the problem and solution type to be implemented.

The stream assessment is used to determine the key factors causing the stream instability. This identification may be used to assess whether a long-term solution may be provided on a site-specific, reach based or watershed-scale approach. Constraints such as budget, land availability and temporal factors also significantly affect the type of solution envisioned.

The Stream Restoration Program utilizes both traditional and innovative design techniques to provide channel stability while enhancing natural channel variability to the extent possible. To the extent practical we utilize a natural channel design approach while meeting the ultimate channel stability goals. The attempt in natural channel design is to:

Design with nature - rather than against it and allow the river to participate in its own recovery.

Imitate natural systems - in particular their morphological variability, rather than a rigid homogenous design.

Scientific basis - is a balance between empirical-statistical and analytical (process-based) methods.

Natural channel design includes manipulation of the channel planform, geometry and profile to minimize the amount of hard armor required to provide channel stability. The primary components of stable channel design include consideration of:

  • Reach-Average Channel Geometry (Width, Depth, Slope)
  • Local Channel Geometry (Composite/Uniform Shape, Pools Riffles)
  • Channel Planform
  • Bed and Bank Stabilization
  • Grade Control
  • Local Scour

Space constraints and infrastructure in the urban environment may limit the amount of channel geometry and planform manipulation that can be provided to achieve stability. Beyond these adjustments, channel stabilization and armoring techniques are employed. The primary components of channel stabilization considerations include:

  • Bank Stabilization
  • Grade Control
  • Channel Bed Armoring
  • Toe Protection
  • Flow Training Structures

Bank Stabilization The Stream Restoration Program encourages use of natural materials for bank stabilization. The combined use of structural elements, i.e., boulders, reinforcing grid, geocells, fabrics, soils and vegetation, create a stable streambank that is resistant to internal and external forces. These stabilization techniques provide flexibility in structure, aesthetic appeal, habitat benefits and potential cost savings over traditional methods.

Conceptual Streambank Stabilization Design

Conceptual Streambank Stabilization Design

Streambank Stabilization Design Drawing

Streambank Stabilization Design Drawing

Grade Control

Grade control is used to inhibit long-term channel degradation which occurs through general incision, head-cutting and nick point migration. Grade controls act as hard-points (artificial geology) in the system.

Conceptual Grade Control Design

Conceptual Grade Control Design

Grade controls are designed with stable materials that should not move during extreme flood events. Grade controls can be designed with rocks, boulders, concrete or other materials. A natural channel design approach is “constructed riffles” using rock placed in a similar configuration as natural riffles. The Stream Restoration Program frequently uses limestone boulders for construction of these structures.

Boulder Grade Control

Channel Bed Armering

Channel Bed Armoring Channel bed armoring refers to placing stable materials continuously throughout a design reach. Traditionally rubble riprap, gabion mattress or concrete have been used by others. The Stream Restoration Program attempts minimize the extents of channel bed armoring when conditions allow. Alternately a series of grade control structures is encouraged instead of continuous channel armoring to allow as much of the native channel bed material to exist.

Toe Protection A critical element to any channel stabilization project is providing protection of the channel toe. Experience shows that this is the initial point of failure and subsequently bank collapse occurs. Toe protection may be provided with a variety of materials including rock riprap, boulders, biologs, etc. The Stream Restoration Program encourages the use of native materials, but toe protection is included in virtually every channel stabilization project.

Flow Training Structures Flow training structures act to alter the flow pattern and divert flow away from a channel bank or structure to be protected. This can be a more cost-effective alternate to continuous bank stabilization in areas where more space for channel adjustment may be allowed. Some common types of flow training devices are spurs and bendway weirs, which are constructed transverse to the flow path. The function is to act as flow deflectors and between which sediment deposition may occur.

Conceptual Spur/Bendway Weir Field

Conceptual Spur/Bendway Weir Field

Bendway Weir Design Drawing

Bendway Weir Design Drawing

 

Flood Early Warning System

It’s a good idea to determine the risk your property has of flooding. Is your house next to a creek or storm drain channel? Is it located at the low-point of a roadway or at the bottom of a hill? These are indications that flood insurance may be a good idea.

Mortgage companies usually require flood insurance for homes and businesses in the floodplain. Homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding caused by stormwater.

Keep in mind that people outside of floodplain areas file more than 20% of flood insurance claims and receive about one-third of disaster assistance, when it is available.

For more information about who must purchase flood insurance, download FEMA’s Mandatory Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines booklet.

In regard to lowering your premium, you may already be getting a 20% discount because of the steps Austin takes to guard against flooding. In addition, there may be some improvements that you can make to protect your house or business from flooding. For more information, call our hotline at 512-974-2843 or send an email.

An elevation certificate may also be helpful. Prepared by a surveyor or engineer, elevation certificates show the elevation of your home in comparison with the expected elevation of floodwaters. If the certificate shows that the lowest floor elevation in your house is above the expected inundation levels, it should lower your insurance premium. The City may already have one on file for your house or business, but we cannot guarantee the accuracy. Please use FloodPro to look up whether we have a certificate on file or you may contact us by phone or email.

Download these FEMA publications to find out more about protecting your property:

Check the ATXfloods for road closures. You may also check real-time gauge data online.  A NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio will alert you to flood warnings and evacuations. Also, local TV and radio stations often keep you posted during flooding conditions.

You don’t. It is not possible to tell if a flooded low water crossing is safe just by looking at it. Approximately 75% of all flood fatalities occur in vehicles. Shallow water can be deceptively swift and easily wash your vehicle off the road. Water over a roadway can conceal damage to the roadway or supporting structure. You may find that there is no longer a road under the water. When a low water crossing is flooded, don’t chance it.  Turn Around - Don’t Drown!

Keep monitoring the situation and get ready to potentially evacuate or move to the second floor or roof. The flooding may get much worse very fast. In Austin, our creeks can rise several feet in just a few minutes. Keep in mind that the road providing access to your home may become impassible before water enters your house. Leave before the road is flooded. Do not attempt to drive or walk through a flooded road.

If there’s time, the following steps can help limit damage:

• Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary. • Move valuables, such as important papers, jewelry, and clothing to upper floors or higher elevations. • Fill bathtubs, sinks, and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach and rinsing. • Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills, and trash cans inside, or tie them down securely.

Find out what to include in an emergency preparedness kit.

Yes, it is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas to drive around a barricade at a flooded road. This is the same as a DWI. If caught, you may be arrested, have your car impounded, spend up to 180 days in jail and/or be fined up to $2000. You may also be charged for the cost of your rescue.

ENS stands for Emergency Notification System. These areas have been identified by the City as being more likely to require evacuation due to flash flooding than other areas. The areas have been pre-entered into our emergency notification system to expedite automated phone calls in the event of an evacuation.

If a road is flooded, turn around and find an alternate route. Don’t risk drowning by trying to cross it. Most flood fatalities occur in vehicles. 

The 100-year storm is an event that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. To put that in perspective, during the span of a 30-year mortgage, there is a 26% chance that a 100-year event will occur.

The amount of rainfall necessary to produce a 100-year storm is partially dependant on the duration of the storm. If the rain falls over the course of 3 hours, it takes about 6 inches for it to be classified as a 100-year rainfall. But if those same 6 inches fall over the course of 3 days, it would be considered a much smaller rainfall event. The standard 100-year design storm for the City of Austin has a duration of 24-hours and produces a total rainfall of over 10 inches. To learn more about rainfall return periods in Austin, see section 2 of the Drainage Criteria Manual.

 During a large storm, it is normal for the intensity to vary widely across the city. In September 2010, Tropical Storm Hermine produced rainfall totals equivalent to a 100-year storm over portions of the Bull Creek watershed. However, other areas of Austin did not experience as severe a storm. Keep in mind that even if a large storm has recently occurred, there is the same percent chance of an equally large storm occurring the following year.

Turn Around - Don’t Drown. Approximately 75% of flood fatalities occur in vehicles. Try to avoid driving during heavy rainfall. If you must drive, look for water over the road, avoid low water crossings, and turn around if a road is barricaded or if there is water over the roadway. Keep in mind that at night, during heavy storms, it may be difficult to see that a road is flooded.

There are many other dangers during a flood as well. In general, stay away from creeks and drainage infrastructure during rainfall.  

There is more information about flood safety on our Flood Safety and Preparedness page.

 

The City may use a number of different methods to announce an evacuation, including: • NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio • Local Radio and TV • Door to door • An automated phone call with a recorded message to landlines or registered cell phones.

Please keep in mind that floods can happen faster than emergency personnel can respond, so you should monitor the situation yourself as well. There may not be a warning from the City.  

This question is impossible to answer except in hindsight. When someone dies, there is a temptation to think the result might have been different if they had just stayed in the car or had just managed to get out of the car. Calling 9-1-1 when your vehicle first stalls has helped some people survive. The best thing is to avoid this situation, by turning around if a road is flooded. Better yet, avoid driving in heavy rainfall, since sometimes visibility is so poor, it is hard to see that a road is flooded. 

In the right circumstances, almost any road can flood. The ones listed below are the ones that flood most frequently:
• W. 12th St. from Lamar to Shoal Creek Blvd.
• W. 32nd St. at Hemphill Park
• E. 38 1/2 St. between Grayson and Airport Blvd.
• Adelphi Ln. between Scribe Dr. and Waters Park Rd.
• E. Alpine Rd. between Willow Springs and Warehouse Row
• Burleson Rd. between U.S. 183 and FM 973
• Carson Creek Blvd. between Cool Shadow Dr. and Warrior Ln.
• Colton-Bluff Springs Rd. by Alum Rock Dr.
• Convict Hill Rd. between Flaming Oak Place and MoPAC
• David Moore Dr. north of Sweetwater River Dr.
• Delwau Ln. at Shelton Rd.
• W. Dittmar between Loganberry and S. Congress
• Joe Tanner Ln., near Hwy. 290
• Johnny Morris Rd. between FM 969 and Loyola Ln.
• Lakewood Dr., 6700 block
• W. Monroe St. between S. First and Roma St.
• McNeil Dr. between Camino and Burnet
• Nuckols Crossing at Teri Rd.
• Parkfield Dr. from Thornridge to Mearns Meadow
• Possum Trot between Inland Place and Quarry Rd.
• Old Bee Caves Road, near Hwy. 290
• Old San Antonio Rd. between FM 1626 and IH 35
• Old Spicewood Springs Road, between Loop 360 and Spicewood Springs Rd.
• O’Neal Ln., between MoPAC service road and Waters Park Rd.
• Posten Ln., 7900 block
• River Hills Rd., off Cuernavaca
• Rogge Ln. between Ridgemont and Delwood Dr.
• Rutland from Mearns Meadow to N. Lamar
• Spicewood Springs Road, between Loop 360 and Old Lampasas Trl.
• Springdale Rd. from Ferguson to Breeds Hill Dr.
• Wasson Rd. near S. Congress Ave.
• Waters Park Rd. between 183 and MoPAC

Flood Safety & Preparedness

It’s a good idea to determine the risk your property has of flooding. Is your house next to a creek or storm drain channel? Is it located at the low-point of a roadway or at the bottom of a hill? These are indications that flood insurance may be a good idea.

Mortgage companies usually require flood insurance for homes and businesses in the floodplain. Homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding caused by stormwater.

Keep in mind that people outside of floodplain areas file more than 20% of flood insurance claims and receive about one-third of disaster assistance, when it is available.

For more information about who must purchase flood insurance, download FEMA’s Mandatory Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines booklet.

In regard to lowering your premium, you may already be getting a 20% discount because of the steps Austin takes to guard against flooding. In addition, there may be some improvements that you can make to protect your house or business from flooding. For more information, call our hotline at 512-974-2843 or send an email.

An elevation certificate may also be helpful. Prepared by a surveyor or engineer, elevation certificates show the elevation of your home in comparison with the expected elevation of floodwaters. If the certificate shows that the lowest floor elevation in your house is above the expected inundation levels, it should lower your insurance premium. The City may already have one on file for your house or business, but we cannot guarantee the accuracy. Please use FloodPro to look up whether we have a certificate on file or you may contact us by phone or email.

Download these FEMA publications to find out more about protecting your property:

You can look this up on FloodPro, an online tool that shows floodplain maps, models, rainfall amounts, elevation certificates and floodplain map revision information. Questions? Call 512-974-2843 or send an email.

 

 

 

You don’t. It is not possible to tell if a flooded low water crossing is safe just by looking at it. Approximately 75% of all flood fatalities occur in vehicles. Shallow water can be deceptively swift and easily wash your vehicle off the road. Water over a roadway can conceal damage to the roadway or supporting structure. You may find that there is no longer a road under the water. When a low water crossing is flooded, don’t chance it.  Turn Around - Don’t Drown!

Keep monitoring the situation and get ready to potentially evacuate or move to the second floor or roof. The flooding may get much worse very fast. In Austin, our creeks can rise several feet in just a few minutes. Keep in mind that the road providing access to your home may become impassible before water enters your house. Leave before the road is flooded. Do not attempt to drive or walk through a flooded road.

If there’s time, the following steps can help limit damage:

• Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary. • Move valuables, such as important papers, jewelry, and clothing to upper floors or higher elevations. • Fill bathtubs, sinks, and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach and rinsing. • Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills, and trash cans inside, or tie them down securely.

Find out what to include in an emergency preparedness kit.

Yes, it is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas to drive around a barricade at a flooded road. This is the same as a DWI. If caught, you may be arrested, have your car impounded, spend up to 180 days in jail and/or be fined up to $2000. You may also be charged for the cost of your rescue.

Consider buying flood insurance if you do not already have it. You can take simple steps to protect your possessions by storing important papers, photographs or valuables in watertight containers, placed on a high shelf. In addition, there may be some improvements that you can make to protect your house or business from flooding. For more information, call our hotline at 512-974-2843 or send an email.

If flooding is imminent and you have time, the following steps can limit damages: • Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary. • Move valuables, such as papers, furs, jewelry, and clothing to upper floors or higher elevations. • Fill bathtubs, sinks, and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach and rinsing. • Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills, and trash cans inside, or tie them down securely.

Download these FEMA publications to find out more about protecting your property: • Protecting Manufactured Homes from Floods and Other HazardsHomeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect Your Home from FloodingEngineering Principles and Practices for Retrofitting Flood-Prone Residential StructuresAbove the Flood: Elevating your Floodprone HouseProtecting Building Utilities from Flood Damage

Call 3-1-1. The Watershed Protection Department will send someone to document the flooding. This helps us understand where projects are necessary.

Call your homeowners insurance company and follow their instructions to file a claim and repair your house. A separate flood insurance policy is required to cover damages due to flooding. Here are some precautions: • Check for structural damage before entering your house. Don’t go in if the building might collapse. • Do not use matches, cigarette lighters, or any other open flames, since gas may be trapped inside. Use a flashlight. • Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety. • Look out for snakes and other animals. • Be careful walking around. Look for nails, broken glass or other hazards. Floors may be slippery due to mud. • Document the damage with photographs. • Clean right away. Throw out food and medicines that may have come in contact with flood water. • Boil water vigorously for five minutes until local authorities proclaim your water supply is safe. • Before you start repairs, contact the Development Assistance Center at 512-974- 6370 about possible permitting requirements.

Download this FEMA publication to find out more about repairing your home: Repairing Your Flooded Home.

Risk of Property Damage: If your home is in the 100-year floodplain, it has a 26% chance of being flooded over the course of a 30-year mortgage. There are steps you can take to reduce property damage. For more information, visit www.floodsmart.gov, explore our FAQs or call our hotline at 512-974-2843.

Safety: Flooding can be deadly. Monitor the weather, consider purchasing a NOAA Weather Radio and prepare a family disaster plan. Learn more about where the floodplain is located on our interactive floodplain map. For more information about flood safety, visit our Flood Safety and Preparedness page.

Restrictions: Stricter permit regulations apply for any building, remodeling, construction or other development on properties in the floodplain. In some cases, it may be impossible to get a permit. For more information on restrictions, go to Floodplain Development Information.

ENS stands for Emergency Notification System. These areas have been identified by the City as being more likely to require evacuation due to flash flooding than other areas. The areas have been pre-entered into our emergency notification system to expedite automated phone calls in the event of an evacuation.

If a road is flooded, turn around and find an alternate route. Don’t risk drowning by trying to cross it. Most flood fatalities occur in vehicles. 

Turn Around - Don’t Drown. Approximately 75% of flood fatalities occur in vehicles. Try to avoid driving during heavy rainfall. If you must drive, look for water over the road, avoid low water crossings, and turn around if a road is barricaded or if there is water over the roadway. Keep in mind that at night, during heavy storms, it may be difficult to see that a road is flooded.

There are many other dangers during a flood as well. In general, stay away from creeks and drainage infrastructure during rainfall.  

There is more information about flood safety on our Flood Safety and Preparedness page.

 

This question is impossible to answer except in hindsight. When someone dies, there is a temptation to think the result might have been different if they had just stayed in the car or had just managed to get out of the car. Calling 9-1-1 when your vehicle first stalls has helped some people survive. The best thing is to avoid this situation, by turning around if a road is flooded. Better yet, avoid driving in heavy rainfall, since sometimes visibility is so poor, it is hard to see that a road is flooded. 

In the right circumstances, almost any road can flood. The ones listed below are the ones that flood most frequently:
• W. 12th St. from Lamar to Shoal Creek Blvd.
• W. 32nd St. at Hemphill Park
• E. 38 1/2 St. between Grayson and Airport Blvd.
• Adelphi Ln. between Scribe Dr. and Waters Park Rd.
• E. Alpine Rd. between Willow Springs and Warehouse Row
• Burleson Rd. between U.S. 183 and FM 973
• Carson Creek Blvd. between Cool Shadow Dr. and Warrior Ln.
• Colton-Bluff Springs Rd. by Alum Rock Dr.
• Convict Hill Rd. between Flaming Oak Place and MoPAC
• David Moore Dr. north of Sweetwater River Dr.
• Delwau Ln. at Shelton Rd.
• W. Dittmar between Loganberry and S. Congress
• Joe Tanner Ln., near Hwy. 290
• Johnny Morris Rd. between FM 969 and Loyola Ln.
• Lakewood Dr., 6700 block
• W. Monroe St. between S. First and Roma St.
• McNeil Dr. between Camino and Burnet
• Nuckols Crossing at Teri Rd.
• Parkfield Dr. from Thornridge to Mearns Meadow
• Possum Trot between Inland Place and Quarry Rd.
• Old Bee Caves Road, near Hwy. 290
• Old San Antonio Rd. between FM 1626 and IH 35
• Old Spicewood Springs Road, between Loop 360 and Spicewood Springs Rd.
• O’Neal Ln., between MoPAC service road and Waters Park Rd.
• Posten Ln., 7900 block
• River Hills Rd., off Cuernavaca
• Rogge Ln. between Ridgemont and Delwood Dr.
• Rutland from Mearns Meadow to N. Lamar
• Spicewood Springs Road, between Loop 360 and Old Lampasas Trl.
• Springdale Rd. from Ferguson to Breeds Hill Dr.
• Wasson Rd. near S. Congress Ave.
• Waters Park Rd. between 183 and MoPAC

Floodplain Development Information

It’s a good idea to determine the risk your property has of flooding. Is your house next to a creek or storm drain channel? Is it located at the low-point of a roadway or at the bottom of a hill? These are indications that flood insurance may be a good idea.

Mortgage companies usually require flood insurance for homes and businesses in the floodplain. Homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding caused by stormwater.

Keep in mind that people outside of floodplain areas file more than 20% of flood insurance claims and receive about one-third of disaster assistance, when it is available.

For more information about who must purchase flood insurance, download FEMA’s Mandatory Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines booklet.

In regard to lowering your premium, you may already be getting a 20% discount because of the steps Austin takes to guard against flooding. In addition, there may be some improvements that you can make to protect your house or business from flooding. For more information, call our hotline at 512-974-2843 or send an email.

An elevation certificate may also be helpful. Prepared by a surveyor or engineer, elevation certificates show the elevation of your home in comparison with the expected elevation of floodwaters. If the certificate shows that the lowest floor elevation in your house is above the expected inundation levels, it should lower your insurance premium. The City may already have one on file for your house or business, but we cannot guarantee the accuracy. Please use FloodPro to look up whether we have a certificate on file or you may contact us by phone or email.

Download these FEMA publications to find out more about protecting your property:

Floodplain Management and Regulations

It’s a good idea to determine the risk your property has of flooding. Is your house next to a creek or storm drain channel? Is it located at the low-point of a roadway or at the bottom of a hill? These are indications that flood insurance may be a good idea.

Mortgage companies usually require flood insurance for homes and businesses in the floodplain. Homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding caused by stormwater.

Keep in mind that people outside of floodplain areas file more than 20% of flood insurance claims and receive about one-third of disaster assistance, when it is available.

For more information about who must purchase flood insurance, download FEMA’s Mandatory Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines booklet.

In regard to lowering your premium, you may already be getting a 20% discount because of the steps Austin takes to guard against flooding. In addition, there may be some improvements that you can make to protect your house or business from flooding. For more information, call our hotline at 512-974-2843 or send an email.

An elevation certificate may also be helpful. Prepared by a surveyor or engineer, elevation certificates show the elevation of your home in comparison with the expected elevation of floodwaters. If the certificate shows that the lowest floor elevation in your house is above the expected inundation levels, it should lower your insurance premium. The City may already have one on file for your house or business, but we cannot guarantee the accuracy. Please use FloodPro to look up whether we have a certificate on file or you may contact us by phone or email.

Download these FEMA publications to find out more about protecting your property:

The City conducts engineering studies to determine the extent of the regulatory floodplains. We use historical rainfall information, aerial photography, ground surveys, and engineering computer software to complete these studies. We update floodplain studies about every 10 years.

You can look this up on FloodPro, an online tool that shows floodplain maps, models, rainfall amounts, elevation certificates and floodplain map revision information. Questions? Call 512-974-2843 or send an email.

 

 

 

Use FloodPro, an online tool that shows floodplain maps, models, rainfall amounts, elevation certificates and floodplain map revision information. Questions? Call 512-974-2843 or send an email.

Risk of Property Damage: If your home is in the 100-year floodplain, it has a 26% chance of being flooded over the course of a 30-year mortgage. There are steps you can take to reduce property damage. For more information, visit www.floodsmart.gov, explore our FAQs or call our hotline at 512-974-2843.

Safety: Flooding can be deadly. Monitor the weather, consider purchasing a NOAA Weather Radio and prepare a family disaster plan. Learn more about where the floodplain is located on our interactive floodplain map. For more information about flood safety, visit our Flood Safety and Preparedness page.

Restrictions: Stricter permit regulations apply for any building, remodeling, construction or other development on properties in the floodplain. In some cases, it may be impossible to get a permit. For more information on restrictions, go to Floodplain Development Information.

In some cases, the area of land subject to flooding has not changed, but we have now have better information to base predictions on where the flooding is likely to occur. During floodplain studies, we gather more information about topography, elevations, bridges and the amount of impervious cover. 

The City does not grandfather development from using the best available floodplain information. If your property is shown to be in the floodplain with the new study, then you may be grandfathered for flood insurance premiums, but will no longer be eligible for a preferred risk policy. Visit www.floodsmart.gov to learn more about flood insurance or contact your insurance agent.
 

Our current studies will follow the FEMA process for revision of floodplain maps.

  • Information Gathering: Surveyors and engineers collect information in the field and from construction plans.
  • Engineering and Mapping: Engineers and technical staff will then incorporate the new survey data into the current floodplain models to produce draft floodplain maps.
  • Stakeholder Meetings: The draft floodplain maps and supporting engineering data are presented to community and stakeholders.
  • Production and Distribution of Preliminary Maps: Based on comments received during stakeholder meetings, the City produces preliminary floodplain maps and prepares them for distribution to the community.
  • Public Meetings and Appeal Period: The preliminary maps are made available to the public. There will be an opportunity for the public to review and formally appeal the maps.
  • Production of Final Maps: Appeals and protests are reviewed and revisions made to the maps if justified.
  • Adoption of Revised Maps: Maps are officially adopted by FEMA and the City of Austin.

The City conducts engineering studies to determine the extent of the regulatory floodplains. We use historical rainfall information, aerial photography, ground surveys, and engineering computer software to complete these studies.

The reason for the remapping effort is specific to each watershed. Please download the flyer for the watershed you are interested in for more information. The watersheds are listed on the Floodplain Management page. You can download a flyer by clicking on the watershed name.

Depending on how much rain there’s been, Austin’s creeks may be bone dry, gently flowing with water or a raging torrent. The floodplain is the area of land that is likely to be under water when the creek rushes over its banks. In a sense, the floodplain is the full extension of the creek. 

The 100-year floodplain is the land that is predicted to flood during a 100-year storm, which has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. You may also hear the 100-year floodplain called the 1% annual chance floodplain or base flood. Areas within the 100-year floodplain may flood in much smaller storms as well. The 100-year floodplain is used by FEMA to administer the federal flood insurance program and the City of Austin to regulate development.

The FEMA floodplain maps are used for administering flood insurance. FEMA floodplains are based the conditions that existed at the time of the floodplain study, including buildings, parking lots, driveways, bridges, culverts and channel geometry.

The City of Austin regulatory floodplain is used for development and building permits. Its floodplains are based on fully developed conditions. In other words, all of the land area is assumed to be fully built out with the maximum impervious cover currently allowed by zoning. Generally, the regulatory floodplains cover a greater area of land than the FEMA floodplains. In some cases, for example in the urban watersheds, the FEMA and City of Austin floodplains are exactly the same.
 

The restrictions protect lives and properties. They ensure that development doesn’t cause additional flooding on other properties. In addition, they ensure that the development itself minimizes the risks of flooding. Many of the development restrictions are federal requirements in order for Austin citizens to be able to purchase federally-backed flood insurance from FEMA.

Groundwater

Barton Springs has been called "the soul of Austin" with a history of human activity that dates back at least 10,000 years. It is the main discharge point for water that enters the Barton Spring segment of the Edwards Aquifer.

Barton Springs

Monitoring water quality at Barton Springs is essential for assessing the cumulative impact of development on the entire Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer as well as for endangered species protection and preservation of the unique swimming site. An automatic sampler is stationed at Barton Springs to collect data on pH, temperature, turbidity, specific conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and depth. Watershed Protection groundwater monitoring staff test for suspended solids and nutrients every two weeks. Additionally, twice weekly, and following rainfall over one inch, the Parks and Recreation and/or County Health Departments test for bacteria levels.

Barton Springs is actually comprised of four separate but related spring outlets.

  • Main Barton Springs, also known as Parthenia, discharges from the aquifer directly into the pool from numerous fractures and openings upstream of the diving board area. This is also where the endangered Barton Springs salamander is primarily found.
  • Eliza Spring discharges into a concrete amphitheater on the north side of the pool near the concession stand. Water is visible welling up from holes drilled into the artificial concrete floor and flows out through a drainage pipe at the east end of the amphitheater.
  • Old Mill Spring, also know as Sunken Garden or Zenobia Spring, discharges into a stone-walled pool on the south side of the creek downstream of Barton Springs pool and flows through a short tributary to Barton Creek.
  • Upper Barton Springs is located upstream of Barton Springs pool.

Groundwater tracing is a commonly used technique to understand water movement through karst aquifers like the Edwards. The dissolution of limestone occurs slowly over a long period of time and these opening are pathways or conduits for water to enter the aquifer and for groundwater to move through the aquifer. Tracing can use naturally occurring chemical in he water, introduced chemicals or dyes to track water movement. A tracer is typically introduced into the aquifer through a naturally occurring recharge feature and wells, springs and other water ways are monitored to detect the tracer.

A coordinated tracing program began in the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer in 1996. Since that time, over 30 traces have been conducted. A special project began in 1996 in conjunction with the BS/EACD called the Barton Springs Zone Dye Trace Study. Dye was injected into caves and sinkholes to map water movement in this segment. The goals were to trace the water going into the aquifer at various points in the recharge zone, measure flow rates, and determine which wells and springs the water would emerge from. Travel rates from recharge points to springs varied from 4 miles/day to 0.25 miles/day.

Environmental Assessments can range from field checks of karst features for development projects submitted to the City for review to extensive surveys of undeveloped ranches to map and document karst features.

Groundwater monitoring staff collect quarterly samples from six springs in the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer: Barton, Eliza, Old Mill/Sunken Gardens, Upper Barton, Backdoor, and Cold.

The Barton Springs Segment of the Edwards Aquifer (BSEA) is an important resource for the Austin area. It supplies drinking water to wells for numerous communities, provides habitat for endangered species, provides clean base flow to the Colorado River, and supplies the City of Austin with part of its drinking water supply. Large rain events fill, or "recharge" the aquifer, which feeds Barton Springs. Recharged water can begin discharging from Barton Springs in a matter of hours.

The City of Austin, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BS/EACD) coordinate an annual sampling program for BSEA wells and Barton Springs. Automatic data loggers are stationed to monitor impacts from rain events, discharge rates, and seasonal effects.

Overhead map of the City of Austin

The U.S. Geological Survey’s website allows you to customize your search for this data related to spring discharge and well water levels.

Grow Green

Using earth-wise practices can save you time, energy, and money while helping to protect our precious water resources – our streams, lakes, and aquifers.

 

Click here to subscribe online to be notified by mail about gardening classes or call 512-974-2550 and ask to be put on the emailing list for gardening classes. You will receive notification when a homeowner class is scheduled. We usually offer classes a couple of times a year. Please also check the Grow Green home page occasionally. We post classes from multiple City departments and the Travis County Master Gardeners - but will not be sending out announcements for those classes individually.

The program is a partnership between the City of Austin and the Texas AgriLife Extension Services. All materials are designed by the City using the technical expertise of the Texas AgriLife Extension Services. The City manages the program within the City limits with Extension handling the rest of Travis County.

As of September 12, 2014, the priority for the distribution of Native & Adapted Plant Guides, paid for by Austin citizens, are Grow Green nurseries and program partners. As a courtesy, we sell them to businesses and entities outside of Austin, but we reserve the right to limit the sale, when the inventory is low or an anticipated high demand period is expected. When sales are allowed, the maximum number of boxes will be 2 per organization

Formalized on October 14, 2013

The City of Austin Grow Green program partners with Austin nursery businesses to provide the public with information about earthwise landscaping and management of common landscape pests. The information is intended to help protect water resources by reducing the amount of pesticides that enter our waterways.

The materials are provided and distributed free to Austin-area businesses that sell plants, pesticides or both. They are provided at the point-of-sale to educate people about plant selection and integrated pest management alternatives, with emphasis on the least toxic, most effective solution. Materials are also all available electronically at www.growgreen.org.

Program Materials:

  • Grow Green Native and Adapted Landscape Plant guide – The plant guide highlights native and adapted plants that do well in Central Texas’ environment.
  • Grow Green Fact Sheet series/display - The Grow Green fact sheet series provides least toxic options for the most common Austin-area landscape pests and other general landscaping information topics.
  • Landscape Design templates – Design templates for landscape designs such as Child Friendly, Classic, and Shade Friendly.
  • T-shirts – are provided annually to staff at partnering nurseries

Business Category:

  • Plants only: If a business only sells plants they can receive the Grow Green Native and Adapted Landscape Plant guide and have the option to display the Grow Green Fact Sheets and Landscape Design Templates.
  • Plants & Pesticides: If a business sells plants and pesticides they are required to carry both the Grow Green Native and Adapted Landscape Plant guide and the Fact Sheets. They have the option to distribute the Landscape Design Templates.
  • Plants and only Least-toxic pesticides - if a business only carries products with the least toxic designation (i.e. the lady bug icon featured on the Fact Sheets), they may opt out of carrying the fact sheets. Qualifying businesses that select this option must send the Grow Green Program Coordinator a list of the pesticide products carried at the beginning of the agreement and provide a current list of the pesticides they sell each October. If any pesticides that do not have the least toxic icon are sold then the business will begin to display the Fact Sheets or forfeit receiving any of the Grow Green program materials.

Store Responsibilities

  • Identify a Grow Green Single Point of Contact (SPOC)
    • The SPOC will:
      • let the Grow Green program coordinator know at least one week in advance which program materials need restocking. This information can be emailed or left on a voicemail message at denise.delaney@austintexas.gov or 512-974-2581.
      • keep the display organized and clean.
      • report any damage to the display.
      • contact the Grow Green program coordinator to remove any program materials or displays from the store if participation in the program is no longer desired.
  • Stock less-toxic integrated pest management products
  • Allow Grow Green training of employees
  • Provide feedback on the program

Grow Green Coordinator Responsibilities

  • Provide & set up displays
  • Provide program materials for restocking displays
  • Coordinate trainings
  • Follow-up with stores as needed to answer questions
  • Provide map of Grow Green partners on the website www.growgreen.org

Participating city departments include: 

Program Partners:

Funding Provided by:

Grow Green offers 23 fact sheets that help you identify and solve pest and disease problems and provide general landscaping design, installation and maintenance recommendations. It offers a Native and Adapted Plant Guide that recommends 200 plants that not only survive, but thrive in Central Texas. It also provides workshops and technical information to nursery sales associates so that they can better serve their customers. All materials are offered FREE to Austin citizens and the garden centers.

Nearly every nursery and some home improvement stores throughout Austin have 23 Grow Green fact sheets and the very popular Native and Adapted Landscape Plant Guide. The information is also available online at www.growgreen.org.

Click here for a map of locations where you can find Grow Green information.

Grow Green and xeriscaping have very similar principles. Xeriscaping is landscaping whose main goal is to conserve water (Water Wise Austin). The seven principles of Xeriscape include: Planning and Design, Soil Analysis, Plant Selection, Practical Turf Areas, Efficient Irrigation, Use of Mulches, and Maintenance. Grow Green goes beyond Xeriscaping in emphasizing the use of least toxic products in the landscape. Minimizing chemical input in the landscape protects our living areas and our water ways.

Grow Green Resources

February 1, 2012

The presentations and handouts listed here were used as a part of the 2013 Grow Green Landscape Professional Training series and reflect the opinions of individual presenters.

Matt Hollon - New Commercial Landscape Ordinance

John Gleason - Rain Gardens

Kristin Carlton - Inspections

February 8, 2012

Dr. Mark Simmons - New Turf article from Ecological Engineering

Matt O'Toole - MOST WANTED: Top 24 Invasive Species

Michael Embesi

February 15, 2012

Brian Bomer

Drema Gross

February 22, 2012

Troy Nixon

Woody Raine

Alan Watts

Doug Christensen

February 29th, 2012

Dick Peterson

Stacy Neef

Daphne Richards

March 7, 2012

Dr. David Chalmers

Nearly every nursery and some home improvement stores throughout Austin have 23 Grow Green fact sheets and the very popular Native and Adapted Landscape Plant Guide. The information is also available online at www.growgreen.org.

Click here for a map of locations where you can find Grow Green information.

Hydrilla

Once hydrilla has been introduced into a lake, complete elimination is very difficult. There is no quick fix for hydrilla but control options fall into three basic categories:

  • Mechanical controls:
    • Remove part or all of the plant either by hand or machine (harvesting)
      • This is costly and the plants grow right back, like mowing a lawn.
      • Dispose of all plant fragments on shore: Because new plants can sprout from fragments, all plant material cut or collected MUST be removed from the lake. Throwing hydrilla back in the lake can result in a maximum fine of $2000 per plant.
    • Winter lake lowering to expose the plant to drying and possibly freezing temperatures
      • This only impacts plants in less than 12 ft of water, and doesn’t kill roots
  • Biological methods:
    • Introduce fish (sterile grass carp) or insects that eat the plants
    • Reintroduce native plants- the City has done this on 20 sites on Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake, but it takes a long time for the plants to outcompete invasives like hydrilla
  • Chemical control using aquatic herbicides to kill the plants. Lake Austin’s depth and constant water flow limit the effectiveness, and due to drinking water intakes and public perception, it has not been an acceptable solution in the past. The City does not recommend this, and private individuals must get approval from TPWD for this action.

September 2013

TPWD’s September 2013 vegetation survey of Lake Austin documented 203 acres of aquatic vegetation, mostly Eurasian watermilfoil (milfoil), which increased from 136 acres in June. The most notable change was the exotic plant hydrilla, which covered 330 acres in June but was not observed at all on the September survey.

Infesting the lake since 1999, this aggressive, invasive plant has posed significant public safety threats as its dense growth impacted flood flows, water intakes and recreation on the lake. It reached a historic high coverage of over 600 acres in February 2013, due primarily to the drought-induced warmer water that the plant prefers. The recent decline is a result of ongoing stocking of sterile grass carp that eat hydrilla, preferring it to other plants like milfoil.

As hydrilla declined, milfoil (a less problematic exotic) has increased and is providing critical ecosystem benefits like aquatic habitat, food and oxygen that helps keep the lake healthy without the extremely dense growth of hydrilla.

It is important to remember that hydrilla is under control but probably not eradicated; over time, the fish population will decline naturally and hydrilla may re-sprout from underground tubers. Changes in water flow and temperature can also impact growth rates, so the City and TPWD will continue to monitor Lake Austin vegetation and implement control efforts as needed.

Lake Austin Vegetation Survey September 2013

Summer 2013

TPWD’s June survey documented 338 acres of the exotic plant hydrilla on Lake Austin, a decrease from the lake’s historic high of 588 acres in February 2013. As hydrilla decreases, the less aggressive exotic milfoil increased to 136 acre from 60 acres in February, making 474 acres of total vegetative cover on the lake. Most of these plants are concentrated from upstream of Emma Long (City) Park to the headwaters, with hydrilla growing in more than 12 feet of water, and only small areas reaching the surface. This is a significant change since last summer, when hydrilla covered 580 acres, and dense mats impacted recreational use of the lake.

The decrease in hydrilla can be attributed to the stocking of grass carp in the lake, with the latest addition in May 2013 bringing the rate to 55.5 fish per hydrilla acre. The fish had kept hydrilla in check from 2005-2010, and the plant coverage stayed below 80 acres throughout that period. But since 2011, Lake Austin’s warmer water and lower flow (due to drought-stricken Lake Travis) allowed hydrilla to increase steadily, and required an increase in the fish stocking rate to gain control.

The extreme low water level on Lake Travis means there is insufficient water available for re-fill after a lake drawdown, so it is not anticipated that the City will request that LCRA conduct a lowering of Lake Austin in January 2013. If Lake Travis water levels rise significantly in the months ahead, this option can be re-evaluated as additional vegetation control. TPWD will continue to conduct quarterly Lake Austin vegetation surveys, using the results to determine appropriate control actions for hydrilla.

Lake Austin Vegetation June 2013

April 2013

TPWD’s February 2013 Lake Austin vegetation survey (see map below) documented over 580 acres of hydrilla (out of 647 acres total plant coverage), a slight increase since last fall’s survey of 554 acres of hydrilla. This increase over the winter prompted TWPD to approve the stocking of an additional 9,000 sterile grass carp, which the City will purchase and stock at Mary Quinlan Park in early April . This fish stocking is part of an ongoing program designed to limit impacts from hydrilla without removing all beneficial vegetation from the lake.

Estimating loss of fish due to mortality and migration downstream, TPWD has determined these additional fish will bring the stocking rate up to 55.5 fish per acre of hydrilla. This elevated stocking rate was recommended to address the drought conditions favorable to the plants (limited flow, warmer water) that are expected to continue throughout this summer. TPWD anticipates surveying the lake again in June or July to measure the impact from the higher stocking rate.

Lake Austin Vegetation Survey February 2013

October 2012

TPWD’s September 2012 survey showed a slight decrease in lake vegetation, with 554 acres of hydrilla, down from the April 2012 historic high of 585 acres. As a comparison, during the same period last year, hydrilla increased over 150 acres (see red arrows on graph below). While hydrilla coverage is still of great concern, and is a result of drought-induced warmer water and lower flow in the lake, this downward trend is encouraging, and is most likely due to the ongoing stocking of sterile grass carp.

Chart of Lake Austin Vegetation from Jan 2009 - Sep 2012.

The graph above shows plant growth and fish stocked over time on Lake Austin. 

The plants were kept in check from 2005 – 2010 primarily due to the large number of grass carp (fish that prefer hydrilla) stocked.   The City will stock 6,000 more grass carp in early November 2012, following this summer’s cooperative stocking of over 11,300 fish.  But it will take some time for these newly stocked fish to ‘catch up’ to the increased growth spurred by current environmental conditions. 

Over 47,700 fish have been stocked in the lake since the program began in 2003, but with natural mortality and other losses, TPWD estimates the 2012 population to be around 27,770 fish.  At current hydrilla coverage, this means there are about 50 fish per hydrilla acre, which is a level TPWD expects to provide control, as coverage has increased whenever the stocking level dropped below that in the past. 

While winter drawdowns can provide some control in areas less than 12 feet deep, hydrilla grows in depths well beyond the drawdown’s exposure, and affected plants grow back by the next summer.  LCRA has indicated that current water levels on Lakes Travis and Buchanan make a lake lowering unfeasible, but if water levels increase significantly this fall, that option will be re-considered. 

 

June 2012

TPWD approved 15,200 sterile grass carp for use in Lake Austin due to results of the April 2012 survey showing over 585 acres of  hydrilla in the lake.  This is 50% of the total number of fish stocked in the past nine years, and more fish than were stocked in all of 2011.   The City of Austin, LCRA and Friends of Lake Austin have agreed to share the cost of these fish.  However, current supplies of grass carp are very limited (2012 has been a banner year for hydrilla growth across the southern United States) so only 10,000 fish can be stocked at this time.  The City will release 3,000 of these fish on Wednesday June 20 at Mary Quinlan Park, and the remaining fish will be stocked in subsequent weeks.

May 2012

The April 2012 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) survey showed over 585 acres of hydrilla in Lake Austin, with an additional 86 acres of milfoil and other vegetation, for a total of 672 acres of vegetative cover, a historic high. This map shows the extent of the infestation. 

Lake Austin vegetation survey April 2012

The increase is most likely due to the drought-induced low water levels on Lake Travis, making the deep water releases into Lake Austin warmer than normal. Hydrilla has been increasing steadily over the past year, and has now reached levels that can limit shoreline access as well as other lake activities.  This trend is expected to continue, especially since LCRA is not releasing water for rice irrigation in 2012, so there is limited water flow through the lake.  

Chart of Lake Austin Vegetation

The graph above shows plant growth and fish stocking over time.

From 2003-2011, more than 30,000 fish were stocked in the lake (20,000 purchased by COA, 10,000 by TPWD), and for over five years, the fish were effective in keeping hydrilla below nuisance levels.  With the recent surge in hydrilla growth, TPWD approved an additional 15,200 grass carp, and the cost of these fish will be shared by the COA, LCRA and Friends of Lake Austin.  It is hoped that this large input of fish will provide a significant level of control, as the plants continue to grow and threaten uses of the lake.

Hydrilla sprouts new plants from fragments containing at least one circle of leaves, or leaf whorl. Once hydrilla becomes established, it is easily spread by waterfowl and boating activities.

Hydrilla forms dense mats of vegetation that can interfere with recreation and degrade fish and wildlife habitat. Hydrilla can grow extremely rapidly, up to one inch per day, until it reaches the water's surface and forms a thick mat that effectively shades any plants below it. Plants have been known to reach a length of 50 feet and produce a biomass of more than 130 tons per acre.

Does hydrilla provide good habitat for fish?  Initially, yes. Aquatic plants are an important part of Lake Austin's environment, providing habitat and food for organisms living there. Before it gets too dense, hydrilla can provide good habitat for fish. However, fish populations are negatively affected when hydrilla exceeds 30-40% coverage of the lake. Hydrilla will grow with less light and fewer nutrients than other aquatic plants, and can outcompete all other native and non-native plants. Eventually, decomposing plants can rob the water of oxygen needed for fish and a healthy aquatic community.

  • To minimize fragmentation and spreading of plants, avoid boating through dense hydrilla mats.
  • Remove hydrilla from your boat's propeller and trailer before and after boating.
  • Dispose of all plant fragments on shore: Because new plants can sprout from fragments, all plant material cut or collected MUST be removed from the lake. Throwing hydrilla back in the lake can result in a maximum fine of $2000 per plant.
  • Follow City of Austin hydrilla disposal guidelines:
    • Plants should be placed as far up on the shore as possible.
    • Plant material stockpiled within 75' of the water's edge should be surrounded on the downslope side by silt fencing.
    • Plant material pulled from the lake will contain small fish and other organisms, and will have an odor associated with it. The plants are mostly water, and piles will lose 90% of their bulk within 2-4 weeks. This material can be used to mulch flowerbeds or gardens.
  • Learn more about Friends of Lake Austin (FOLA) - a citizen group dedicated to preserving and enhancing Lake Austin for those who live, work and play on the lake. They have been working to help fight the hydrilla infestation on Lake Austin and are taking an active role in the approved management plan

In 2000, COA, TPWD, LCRA and Friends of Lake Austin finalized the Lake Austin Hydrilla management plan that integrates all control efforts appropriate for use in this situation.  Objectives are to return Lake Austin to a pre-hydrilla condition and to maintain a healthy lake ecosystem and fishery.  It integrates every appropriate control option, so that potential impacts from any one option are minimized while the possibility of success is increased.

Sterile grass carp have proven the most effective control, because they can move throughout the lake, eating plants in any water depth. Biennial winter drawdowns provide additional relief, but only in less than 12 ft of water.  From 2003 to 2011, over 30,000 grass carp were stocked, and hydrilla remained below 65 acres until late 2009, when drought-induced warmer water temperatures provided an advantage to the plants.

The graph above shows plant growth and fish stocking over time.

The graph above shows plant growth and fish stocking over time.

As of April 2012, aquatic vegetation (586 acres hydrilla, 86 acres Eurasian watermilfoil, and a mix of other plants) covered 41% of Lake Austin. Because of its dense and rapid growth, hydrilla has the potential to impact virtually every one of Lake Austin's uses:

  • Intakes for drinking water, power generation and irrigation can be clogged
  • Shoreline access and boating traffic can be restricted
  • Swimmers can get tangled in its thick growth
  • Water quality may degrade as dense vegetation dies and decomposes
  • Plant and animal diversity will decline as hydrilla takes over
  • Property values can decrease as recreation is limited by dense plant growth
  • Hydrilla may spread downstream to Town Lake and the lower Colorado River.

Hydrofiles

We have developed a watershed viewer, so it is easy to find out what watershed you live in and to find out its EII score.

Contact Sara Heilman, email or phone 974-3540.  Allow at least 2 hours for field trips (caving and creek testing).  Bus fees will be reimbursed.

Contact Sara Heilman email or phone 974-3540.  Our training kit contains 6 sets of the following kits: Dissolved oxygen, pH, TDS, nitrate, and E. coli.  The kit may be checked out and we provide training for your students if required.  You may also request one free complete test kit.

Water test kits are available for teachers and classes for educational use. General use kits may be requested through Keep Austin Beautiful

Contact Sara Heilman for specific information about your school's watershed, maps and curriculum on non-point source pollution and land use.

Part 1 View the presentation, then illustrate your concept of point source and non point source pollution

Part 2 Use the information on the site Protecting Water to answer the questions on the student sheet.

Part 3 A. Spills data

Follow directions on the student sheet and answer questions 1-6

B. Contour maps Permitted business data Use the contour map of your watershed, 2000 land use map of your watershed, and the data to answer questions 7-8.

Part 4 Use information from the Watershed Viewer   Follow directions on student sheet and answer questions 11-16.

Land use and Water Quality in your Watershed

Goal Students learn how land use affects water quality.

Objective Students will:

  • Define watershed;
  • Identify land use and water quality impacts;
  • Research and identify pollutants associated with particular types of land use found in their watershed.

Time Two to three, 45 minute class periods (may need another class period to finish research)

Science TEKS Biology 2(A, C, D) Environmental Systems 2(A,C,D); 4(C); 5(A,B,F); 8(A,D) Aquatic Science 2(A,D,E); 3(B,D); 5(D); 8(A,B,C); 10(C)

Student Vocabulary

Watershed - An an area of land that drains water into a particular creek, river, lake, or aquifer. Water drains downhill, so hills, ridges and other high points define the boundaries of a watershed.

Land Use - the human activity or economic function associated with a specific piece of land; the way the land is used in a watershed (e.g. residential, industrial).

Headwaters - the source of a creek or where the creek begins.

Mouth - the point where a creek enters a larger body of water.

Runoff - water that flows over the surface of the land into a creek, river, or lake; may carry a variety of pollutants.

Pervious Surface - a land surface such as grass or soil which allows water to filter through the ground.

Impervious Surface - a land surface such as a road, parking lot, sidewalk, rooftop, or other surface that does not allow water to filter through.

Point Source - a single identifiable source that discharges pollutants into the environment (e.g. sewer, ditch, pipe).

Non-point Source Pollution - pollution that cannot be traced to a single point because it comes from many individual sources or a widespread area.

Lesson 1-Part I: Land Use and Flow Paths in Your Watershed

Materials Some materials are in PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing

Preparation

Facilitating the Activity

  • Define a watershed- A watershed is an area of land that drains water into a particular creek, river, lake, or aquifer. Water drains downhill, so hills, ridges and other high points define the boundaries of a watershed. The water that flows over the surface of the land and drains into a body of water is called runoff. The cleaner the land (i.e. watershed) the cleaner the runoff and the receiving body of water. If the land (i.e. watershed) is polluted, then runoff is polluted and the receiving body of water becomes polluted.
  • Do Watershed Model demonstration- Allow students to rain on the watershed using the watering can. Focus on the downhill pathways the water follows to drain to the creek, and the cleanliness of the water as it flows over the land. Tell students the red food coloring represents pollution. Allow students to drop one drop of food coloring on different areas of the watershed. Rain again and discuss the flow of pollutants from the land (i.e. watershed) to the creek.
  • Define Land Use- Land Use is how land has been changed for human use, e.g. for a school, road, park, preserve, etc. Studying land use is a quick, practical method of locating the source of pollutants found within a watershed. Watershed scientists are particularly interested in studying land use to determine the impact it will have on water quality. The first step in assessing land usage in a watershed is to observe how the land surrounding the waterway is being used. Different types of land use generate different types of pollutants, which can runoff into the local body of water. Land use practices in the Austin area can affect the quality of our creeks and ground water in various ways that you will research and identify.
  • Identify Land Use Impacts to Water Quality- Discuss student handout #1 Land Use and Pollutants:Causes and Effects. Students will use this handout to answer questions on the student sheet.
  • Student Land Use Map Activity- Arrange students in groups and give each group 1990 and 2000 Land Use maps of their watershed. Show transparency of 2000 map. Locate and define the headwaters, mouth, and the different kinds of land use. Give groups time to complete Lesson #1: Land Use and Water Quality In Your Watershed.

Lesson 2: Point and Non-Point Source Pollution

MaterialsSome materials are in PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing

Preparation

  • Arrange computer (internet) access for each group or produce hard copies of the websites.
  • Copy Lesson 2 for each student.(above)

Facilitating the Activity

  • Introduce point and non-point source pollution - There are two types of pollutant sources that enter waterways, point and non point sources. Point source pollution is a single identifiable source that discharges pollutants at specific locations through pipes, ditches or sewers into bodies of water. Typical point sources of pollution include industrial waste discharge, sewage plants, chemical spills, oil spills, illegal dumping, and construction sites where 5 or more acres are disturbed. Typically, this type of pollution results from the wastes or by products of public and private commercial facilities, which are purposely deposited into the water. Because point sources are at specific sites, they are fairly easy to identify, monitor and regulate. In the City of Austin, point sources of pollution include businesses that require a permit to discharge their chemicals (Stormwater Discharge Permit Program), and documented spills (Spills and Complaints Response Program). The City of Austin’s Stormwater Discharge Permit Program conducts inspections of specific commercial and industrial operations to ensure compliance with a City Code that protects water quality. Inspectors check materials handling, waste storage, and disposal practices from these businesses. These wastes must be disposed of properly, not on the ground or to a storm drain or waterway. The Spills and Complaints Response Program conducts investigations, assesses the potential environmental impact, determines the responsible party, identifies the pollutant, achieves compliance with environmental regulations, and ensures that corrective actions and preventative measures are taken.  Non point sources of pollution are scattered, diffuse sources of pollution that cannot be traced to any single point of discharge. Non point sources can be hypothesized by observing the land use surrounding the water source. Generally, non point source pollution is created through everyday occurrences in places where there is an increase in impervious surfaces and human activity. Examples include: lawn care chemicals, household hazardous products such as paint, petroleum products from cars and lawn mowers, and bacteria and nutrients from pet waste. When rain falls, these substances mix into storm water and eventually make their way into creeks, rivers, and lakes. The concentration of non point source pollution may be enough to degrade water quality and impact aquatic organisms and human health.
  • PowerPoint Presentation - Present slide show OR allow students to view it on their own using computers. Give each student a copy of the student activity worksheet, Lesson 2-Part 1: “PowerPoint Presentation” to fill out after the presentation.
  • Student Group Activity Two- Arrange student groups for use on computers with Excel and internet access. Give each student the handout Lesson 2-Part 2: "Point and non point pollution in your watershed”. Instruct students to use links on the Student Page for “Spills In Your Watershed”, Contour Map, and Student Handout #2: “Pollution Permitted Facilities”, and the 2000 land use maps from lesson 1.

Note: If your students have a question about a spill in their watershed or you are interested in having a spill investigator give a presentation to your class, contact Eric Kaufman at 974-3512

If your high school is not listed here and you would like this lesson adapted for your watershed, please contact Sara Heilman at 974-3540

Integrated Pest Management

INDOOR PESTS

Ants
Cockroaches
Rodents
Termites

PEST PROBLEMS FOR PEOPLE AND PETS

Biting & Stinging Insects (Texas A&M)
Choosing an Insect Repellent (EPA)
Mosquitos
Mosquito Safari (Texas A&M)
Poison Ivy

LANDSCAPE PESTS

Aphids

Bacterial Leaf Spot

Bacterial Leaf SpotBacterial leaf spot

Problem Leaves yellow and may drop. Plants lose vigor and produce less chlorophyll. Bacterial Leaf Spot is caused by wet plant foliage and injury.  This is commonly seen on:

  • Greens
  • Turnips
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • English Ivy
  • Tomatoes
  • Fruit trees
  • Several ornamental shrubs and trees

Least Toxic Solutions

  • Avoid wetting foliage when watering.
  • Space plants to allow adequate air flow.
  • Do not injure foliage. Bacteria enter plants through wounds or natural openings.
  • Remove infected plant sections.
  • Carefully consider use of chemical controls— they are often only marginally effective.
  • If you must use a chemical control, apply a copper hydroxide product such as Kocide®.

Beetles

Caterpillars

Cotton Rot/Root Rot

Cotton rot/Root rot

Description: Fungal plant disease that attacks the roots of plants, turning them brown rather than a healthy white. Cotton root rot is common in soils with a pH over 7.2 and in areas with high summer temperatures.

Problem: Plants wilt, dieback and lose vigor. Control is difficult because symptoms normally appear after damage to the stem or root is severe. Cotton Root Rot moves through the soil from plant to plant, with symptoms usually occurring in July and August.

Attacks: More than 2,000 species of plants including:

  • Cotton
  • Ornamentals
  • Fruit trees
  • Nut trees
  • Shade trees
  • Most landscape plants

Least Toxic Solutions

Cotton Root Rot

  • No treatment available once plant is infected.
  • Mulch plants to keep soil cool.
  • Add organic material to clay soils.
  • Use resistant plants, natives and grasses.
  • When practical, acidify soil in the root zone of the plant.

Root Rot

  • Ensure proper drainage and allow excessively wet soils to dry.
  • Plant in raised beds if drainage is marginal.
  • Avoid crowding plants in beds.
  • Place plants at the same soil depth as they were in the container you purchased them in.
  • Because there are several different fungi that cause root rots, have the disease diagnosed at the Texas A & M Plant Disease Lab or by Extension personnel before applying fungicide.

Cycad Scale
Fire Ants

Fire Blight

Fire Blight

Description: Bacterial disease that causes rapid blackening and desiccation of blooms and foliage. Affected shoots bend at the tip in a "shepherd's hook". Black, sunken twig and branch cankers develop later.

Problem: Fire Blight causes twig dieback and blossom blight in up to 2-24 inches of twig length. The bacterium stays in the cankers over winter and in the spring, oozes from the cankers and is carried by wind, rain and insects to healthy foliage.

Attacks:

  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Pyracantha
  • Quince
  • Loquat
  • Indian Hawthorne
  • Photinia

Least Toxic Solutions

  • Avoid high nitrogen levels and excessive pruning. Vigorous growth is much more susceptible to fire blight.
  • Prune four inches below visible cankers.
  • Pruning equipment between cuts with one part household bleach to nine parts of water. Clean and oil equipment after pruning.
  • Select fire blight resistant varieties and species. Contact the Extension office at 854-9600 for a list.
  • With the exception of Kocide® and streptomycin sulfate, chemical controls are usually ineffective.

Fleas

Galls

Lawn Problems

Lawn Problems Spanish

Oak Wilt Prevention

Oak Wilt

Oak WIltOak Wilt

Description Fungus that plug water-conducting vessels, reducing flow of water up the stem of the tree. Often causes leaves to wilt and fall prematurely.

Live Oaks: Tree appears weakened. One area of the tree dies at a time. Areas around leaf veins are often brightly colored.

Red Oaks: Die in a flash of fall color in early summer.    

Problem Disease spread by beetles feeding on tree wounds. Also can travel from tree to tree through interconnected roots. Oak Wilt travels 75 feet per year in all directions. Live Oaks die quickly one tree at a time.  

Attacks:

  • Blackjack Oak
  • Live Oaks
  • Schumard Oak
  • Spanish Oak/Texas Red Oak

Least Toxic Solutions:

  • Prune oak trees only in the coldest part of winter and hottest part of summer.
  • Use a pruning paint to protect cut or wounded areas immediately after pruning or wounds are discovered. Sterilize tools after pruning.
  • Contact Chris Dolan, City of Austin Oak Wilt Suppression Program at 974-1881 for information.
  • Trench 4' deep and at least 100 feet from infected and susceptible trees to sever root connections.
  • Only use old, dry wood if you use oak firewood.
  • Certified applicators can inject ALAMO® into tree roots. This method is best used as a preventative.

Poison Ivy
Spider Mites
Scale
Snails
Stink Bugs

Thrips
Description
To the naked eye, they look like tiny threads; with a hand lens, their narrow, fringed wings are visible. When holding an infested rose bloom you can see that they are very active. They may even bite!
ThripsThrips

Infestation
Tattered flowers, deformed flowers, silvery spots or streaks on
leaves - by the time damage is visible the infestation is already severe.
 
Attacks:

  • Roses
  • Daylilies
  • Iris
  • other flowers

Thrips

Lifecycle
Adults lay hundreds of eggs in plant tissue. In Roses, the eggs hatch inside the flower bud. The resulting nymphs scrap plant tissue, then, suck the sap, damaging the flower before it opens. There are many generations per year.

Least Toxic Solutions:
Thrips are notoriously very difficult to control, so early detection is important when trying to keep the populations in check.

  • Aim for control rather than eradication. The only way to completely get rid of thrips is to destroy the infested plants - not an option most want to consider
  • Remove and dispose of infested blooms
  • Clean up leaf litter
  • Always read and follow pesticide labels
  • Alternate the following treatments:
    • Spray with Neem oil. For best results the spray needs to come in contact with the insect, but Neem oil is also slightly systemic; meaning some of it will absorb into the plant tissue and help weaken the insect after it feeds on the plant
    • Dust plants and immediate area with diatomaceous earth
    • Use a light weight horticultural oil

Viruses
Description:
Sub-microscopic infectious particles that multiply only inside living cells. Viruses enter plants through wounds and by insects that feed on plants. Symptoms vary but include abnormal color, vein patterns, shape, mottling, ring spots and mosaic patterns in leaves; Can include abnormal flower color and fruit size, shape and color.
 
Problem:
Seldom lethal to plants, but severely affect the quantity, quality and longevity of the host plant.
 
Attacks:
Many types of plants.

Least Toxic Solutions:

  • Chemicals do not effectively control virus diseases.
  • Select plant stock that is free of viruses.
  • Cover susceptible annual garden plants with a row cover fabric   to keep sucking insects away from healthy plants.
  • Diseased plants should be removed and destroyed to prevent  infection of other plants by sucking insects that move from   plant to plant.

 Weeds

Learn more earth-wise gardening tips at www.GrowGreen.org

In 1990, the City authorized this program to review and regulate City pest control activities.

The IPM program has the following responsibilities:

Developers
If an IPM plan is required, developers should be informed during the development review process. It is then their responsibility to submit, and comply with, a plan. If the land is then sold, it is their responsibility to communicate the need for the new land owner to abide by the plan.

Submit an IPM Plan

Homeowners
If you own an individual parcel of land that requires a site plan review and no developer or previous owner has submitted an IPM plan, then it is your responsibility to do so.

Submit a Voluntary IPM Plan

If you purchase a property that already has a plan, then it is your responsibility to abide by the plan.

The Save Our Springs Ordinance (SOS) was adopted in 1992 and differed from its predecessors because it became law by citizen initiative. Two ordinances worth noting preceded the SOS Ordinance: the Interim and Composite Ordinances. These ordinances addressed development in the Barton Springs Zone, which includes Barton Creek and the other creeks draining to, or crossing, the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. Highlights of these ordinances included: the first requirements for non-degradation (based on stormwater discharge concentrations) and provisions that excluded variances unless a demonstrable improvement in water quality was shown. Variances, which made departures from an ordinance permissible, were a general feature of watershed ordinances up until this time.

The SOS Ordinance, applied throughout the Barton Springs Zone, required: non- degradation (based on total average annual loading), and lowered impervious cover to 15 percent NSA for all development in the recharge zone, 20 percent NSA for development in the Barton Creek portion of the contributing zone and 25 percent NSA for development in the remaining portions of the contributing zone in Williamson, Slaughter, Bear, Little Bear and Onion Creeks.

 

IPM Plans for Water Quality Protection are required when one or more of the following conditions exist:

Regulatory

  1. When land is developed in the Barton Springs Zone (required since 1992 under the Save Our Springs, SOS, Ordinance); homes and businesses built before the ordinance are grandfathered and do not require IPM plans although voluntary compliance is encouraged
  2. When a City Board or the City Council requires an IPM plan (usually occurs when a developer request a variance from regulations)
  3. When the requirement is written into an agreement, such as for a PUD or to qualify for Green Building certification credits
  4. Per the Environmental Criteria Manual (ECM), when specific water quality treatment systems are used on commercial properties, including:
    • Wet ponds (1.6.6)
    • Retention/Irrigation (1.6.7.A)
    • Vegetative filter strips (1.6.7.B)
    • Biofiltration (1.6.7.C)
    • Rainwater harvesting (1.6.7.D) if used in conjunction with vegetation
    • Disconnection of Impervious Cover to Vegetated Filter Strip (1.6.7.F)
    • Non-required vegetation (1.6.7.G)
    • Rain gardens (1.6.7.H)
  5. On intensive landscape management sites such as athletic fields and golf courses. These require customized IPM plans because the anticipated pests are more likely to be specialized

Voluntary

When a business chooses to submit an IPM plan in order to gain credit for the City's Green Business program (this is a voluntary decision, not a legal requirement)

Developers

If an IPM plan is required, developers should be informed during the development review process. It is then their responsibility to submit, and comply with, a plan. If the land is then sold, it is their responsibility to communicate the need for the new land owner to abide by the plan.

Homeowners

If you own an individual parcel of land that requires a site plan review and no developer or previous owner has submitted an IPM plan, then it is your responsibility to do so. If you purchase a property that already has a plan, then it is your responsibility to abide by the plan.

Submit an IPM Plan

Submit a Voluntary IPM Plan

JJ Seabrook Stream Restoration, Rain Garden and Urban Trail Project

Jollyville Salamander

Jollyville Plateau salamanders are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act as of September 2013. Populations have declined in urbanized watersheds but remain stable in undisturbed portions of their range.

The ideal habitats for the Jollyville Plateau Salamander are springs, spring-fed streams, and caves with flowing water.  Most of the known populations are surface dwelling, or epigean, although this can be somewhat of a misleading classification because the salamanders will retreat to underground refugia during dry periods when the springs no longer flow at the surface.

Creek, pssible habitat of the Jollyville Plateau habitat

There also are at least a half dozen caves in the Buttercup Cave system inhabited by salamanders.  These salamanders are called troglobites because they spend their entire lives underground (although many may be able to survive on the surface, in which case they would be considered troglophiles).  It is unclear whether all cave populations are more closely related to each other than to surface populations, but it is clear that there is variation in morphological appearance among the different populations of cave-dwelling E. tonkawae.  Researchers currently are examining the population genetics of this species, which will give more insight into the relationships among the cave and surface populations.

Jollyville Plateau Salamander Jollyville Plateau Salamander

 

This is a picture of the cross-section of a stream bed when there is no surface flow and the water table has retreated to a sub-surface level.  The salamanders retreat with the water level and live under the stream bed until the stream begins to flow again.  Down there, they can move between the interstitial spaces created by larger stones below the surface of the stream, as shown in this picture.

This is a picture of the cross-section of a stream bed when there is no surface flow and the water table has retreated to a sub-surface level.

 

The City of Austin initiated an intensive two-year study in 1997 and 1998 to collect baseline information about the JPS. This effort established nine monitoring sites in three watersheds (Bull, Long Hollow, and Shoal) where transects were searched periodically and all salamander observations were recorded (direct count survey). From 1999 to 2003, City of Austin biologists continued to conduct direct count surveys at some of these original monitoring sites, but on a less frequent basis. Beginning in 2004, City of Austin biologists expanded monitoring efforts to include all nine long-term monitoring sites as well as new sites in other watersheds (Cypress, Walnut, and West Bull). The purpose of these surveys was to assess trends in relative abundance, habitat conditions, and seasonal variation in reproduction.

Recent efforts to understand the population dynamics of Jollyville Plateau salamanders began in response to the City’s plan to build a water treatment plant (WTP4) at the headwaters of Bull Creek, an ecologically-sensitive area and home to many large populations of salamanders.  This included a mark-recapture survey that tagged salamanders so they could be studied at three different sites to compare the effects of the proposed water treatment plant before and after construction.  In the past, all monitoring was conducted by periodically counting all salamanders observed in a given area.  However, this method did not take into consideration capture probability (the likelihood of capturing an animal that is present), which can have a large effect on estimated population size.  Mark-recapture allows for estimation of capture probability, and thus, much more accurate approximations of population size in addition to estimates of survival and migration.

In December 2007, the City Council voted to purchase an alternate site to move WTP4 out of the Bull Creek watershed.  However, the mark-recapture portion of the study is still ongoing, although with less frequent sampling.

 

Most of what we know about the ecology of Austin’s aquatic salamanders is from studies conducted by the City of Austin on the more easily accessible surface populations. Their diet, like most salamanders, is entirely carnivorous. Based on field observations, fecal content analysis, and new radio-isotope data, they eat a variety of prey that is likely based on both what is available and what fits in their mouth. This includes a variety of snails (Gastropoda), seed shrimp (Ostracoda), copepods (Copepoda), amphipods, insects (such as midge, mayfly, and damselfly larvae, aquatic beetles, etc.), flatworms (Planaria), segmented worms (Annelida), and others.

Amphipods in Eliza Spring.

Barton Springs Salamander eating Amphipods

Predatory Fish

Relationships between the salamanders and their predators are not well understood. Some evidence suggests freshwater sunfish and basses opportunistically feed on salamanders. In the past, many salamander habitats were too shallow to harbor these fish species. Now these fishes have more available permanent and stable habitat in salamander streams because of direct and indirect stream channel modification by humans (e.g. dams creating Barton Springs Pool). Predatory fish presence may hinder dispersal where unnatural intermittent pools intercept the stream pathways that were once more shallow riffles or runs. Recent evidence clearly shows that chemical cues from predatory fish can negatively affect salamander activity.

Crayfish are common in both shallow and deep waters and can be found in nearly every salamander habitat.    Crayfish are generalist predators, eating a variety of things from fish and tadpoles to plants and detritus, and have been observed feeding on juvenile Barton Springs Salamanders.

So, it is not unlikely that they are also a common Jollyville Plateau Salamander predator. Interestingly, the burrows created by crayfish may be beneficial in some ways to Jollyville Plateau Salamanders. One theory is that crayfish burrows may act as a path for salamanders to retreat through dense sediment and gravel to reach subsurface waters during dry periods.

Other large invertebrates have been observed feeding on salamanders. Giant water bugs (Lethocerus uhleri) are large ambush predators (up to 65mm) and have been seen at several monitoring sites preying on salamanders, ranid tadpoles, and mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis).

Damselfly larvae of the genus Archilestes are long and slender ambush predators that prey on very small juveniles if given the opportunity.

Cannibalism has also been documented in this species.  Adults have been observed regurgitating the remains of juvenile salamanders when captured.  This in part helps to explain why juveniles are often found in areas where adults are not, such as in very shallow water on the edge of the stream.

Unlike the surface populations, cave-dwelling Jollyville Plateau salamanders are the top predators of that ecosystem.  The downside, however, is that prey availability is much lower.  Because all troglobitic organisms live in total darkness, there are no primary producers, so they must rely on nutrient input from the surface.  The salamanders likely feed on available troglobitic and troglophilic (can live inside and outside caves) crustaceans and insects and potentially accidental prey washed into the caves during rain events.

 

Like the other two salamanders endemic to Austin, Texas, there are several different reasons why the Jollyville Plateau Salamander is threatened.

First, the species is found in a very narrow geographic area. While not as restricted as the Barton Springs or Austin Blind salamanders that only are found in one closely spaced group of springs, the Jollyville Plateau Salamander is confined to the springs, spring-fed streams, and wet caves in and around northwest Austin, which is still a relatively small area for the entire worldwide distribution of one species (range map). Having a small range makes it inherently more susceptible to extinction because catastrophic events (natural or anthropogenic) can have a much larger impact on population size than they would for a wide-ranging species.

Second, increasing development has negatively affected salamander habitats and thus relative abundance has decreased in the recent past. Finding a direct cause and effect relationship between salamander population declines and the multitude of changes that occur with development is difficult to do, in part because of the complexity of the problem, but also because proper scientific rigor requires ample sample sizes, replication, and often experimental modification: three things conservation biologists do not usually have when studying threatened or endangered species. However, it is clear that sites with the most urban development support the fewest number of salamanders, and that several of these sites have experienced declines since monitoring began in 1996. Salamander deformities have also been observed at one urban monitoring site that has exhibited unusually high levels of nitrates.

 

The figure below shows the results from direct count surveys between 1997 and 2008. The Bull Creek Tributary 6 site was an area of increasing development, with a 10 percent increase in impervious cover between the years 1995 and 2003. You can see that between 2002 and 2008, counts are on average lower than those from previous years. Although there are many factors that could cause this observed decline in counts, this trend has also been observed at several other monitoring sites that are within urbanized watersheds, but has not been observed within rural ones.

 

One effect urban development has on the aquifer and watersheds of these salamanders is an increase in frequency and velocity of stormwater runoff during rain events. You might think that more water would be good for an animal that spends its life in water. However, increased flow can the effect of scouring a stream, removing the cobble and gravel substrate the salamanders use for cover and to lay their eggs. Runoff also brings a plethora of contaminants from the roadways and people’s yards, including increased sediment loads from construction projects and dangerous chemicals found in gasoline, motor oil, lawn care products, and driveway sealants.

Landscape Professional Training

February 1, 2012

The presentations and handouts listed here were used as a part of the 2013 Grow Green Landscape Professional Training series and reflect the opinions of individual presenters.

Matt Hollon - New Commercial Landscape Ordinance

John Gleason - Rain Gardens

Kristin Carlton - Inspections

February 8, 2012

Dr. Mark Simmons - New Turf article from Ecological Engineering

Matt O'Toole - MOST WANTED: Top 24 Invasive Species

Michael Embesi

February 15, 2012

Brian Bomer

Drema Gross

February 22, 2012

Troy Nixon

Woody Raine

Alan Watts

Doug Christensen

February 29th, 2012

Dick Peterson

Stacy Neef

Daphne Richards

March 7, 2012

Dr. David Chalmers

“My whole business modeling is changing and Grow Green added fuel to that change”.

“I expect to use more rain gardens and bioswales and continue to promote better soils to improve water availability to plants.”

“Although much of this was review, it was really helpful to listen to the best experts in Austin, and learn more about the City ordinances affecting design”.

“Great program. Love it, will return next year. Thank you so much”.

“Very well-organized, and the speakers all presented very actionable information”.

January 23, 2013

The presentations and handouts listed here were used as a part of the 2013 Grow Green Landscape Professional Training series and reflect the opinions of individual presenters.

Nora Mullarkey - Water Use and Conservation

Dan Pedersen - Water Reclamation in Austin

Sasha Earl - Rainwater Harvesting

Peter Varga - Water Conservation Code Revisions and Watering Variances

Susan Hoover - Water Budgeting / Irrigation Techniques

Jody Slagle - Dillo Dirt

January 30, 2013

Wizzie Brown - Ants: ID & Management

Ana Gonzalez & Lara Schuman - Tree Care

Daphne Richards - Plant Nomenclature & Physiology

Erin Cord - Attracting Wildlife

Liz McVeety - Least Toxic Solutions to Most Common Pest Problems

February 6, 2013

Glee Ingram - Applied Sustainable Landscaping: A Case Study

Susan Kenzle - Rain Gardens

Erin Wood - Commercial Landscape Ordinance

February 13, 2013

Jim Linardos - General Fire Behavior

Josh Portie - Firewise

Michael Embesi - Site Considerations, Tree Ordinance

Chris Harper - Considerations: Protected Species and Protected Property (habits)

Rich Gray - Development and Implementation of Fuels Reduction Projects

 

“Great opportunity to keep up-to-date with new ideas and regulations in a nice atmosphere surrounded by people who want to support our area’s environment.”

“Hearing extremely knowledgeable people discuss how and why they do things gives me a better base from which to work with other professionals whose fields abut or slightly overlap mine.”

“There is always something I get from the training that changes how I teach my clients to maintain their space, whether its pest management, pruning or plant selection.”

“I will definitely be continuing to educate the public on wildfire. This course helped me see how to effectively share this information.” “All speakers well immersed in the content and are open to collaboration and the bigger picture. Excellent in all regards.”

July 16, 2014

The presentations and handouts listed here were used as a part of the 2013 Grow Green Landscape Professional Training series and reflect the opinions of individual presenters.

Agenda

Michael Embesi
Navigating Tree Regulations

Lara Schuman
Caring for Mature Trees Navigating Tree Regulations

Andrea DeLong-Amaya
Native Plants for Texas Landscapes

Paige Oliverio & Mitch Wright
Permaculture - The New Culture of Food & Urbanity

Keith Brown
Common Tree Pests & Solutions

July 23, 2014

Agenda

Dr. David Villarreal, Texas Department of Agriculture
For questions about Environmental Issues with Use of Landscape Chemicals contact: David.Villarreal@TexasAgriculture.gov
Texas Department of Agriculture Pesticide Program

Wizzie Brown
Fire Ant Management

Perry Cervantes, Texas Department of Agriculture
For questions about Pesticide Laws and Regulations contact: Perry.Cervantes@TexasAgriculture.gov
Texas Department of Agriculture Pesticide Program

Mike Kelly & Darcy Nuffer
Managing Expectations for Large Constructions Projects

Matt Hollon
Landscape & Watershed Ordinance Updates

Atha Phillips
An Easy Guide to Passing Landscape Inspections

July 30, 2014

Agenda

Meredith Gray & Chris Sanchez
Vegetable Gardening, Wicking Beds, and Hugelkultur

Zach Herigodt
Edible Landscaping

Jane Tillman
Designing Landscapes for Life

Tom Franke
Green Alleys and Rain Gardens

Daphne Richards
Personal Protective Equipment

August 6, 2014

Agenda

Jody Slagle
The Magic of Composting

Fred Phillips
Restoring the Colorado River and Its Delta, Lessons Learned

William Glenn
The Soil Sponge: Compost

Mark Jordan
Drought & Utility Update

Markus Hogue
Water Conservation Through Irrigation Technology

John Abbott
Jacob Johnson
Chris Charles
Austin Water Rebates

August 13, 2014

Agenda

Will Boettner
Know Your Role

Justice Jones
From at Risk to Empowered

Ryan Hebrink
Environmentally Minded Mitigation

Michael Embesi
Mitigating to Preserve High Value Trees

Glen Gillman
Wildland Fire Behaving Badly

Daphne Richards
Added Value Landscaping

People who have never taken the training will get priority.  If you have attended the series in the past and wish to take the entire series again please select that option on the registration form.  On the registration deadline, Watershed Protection Department staff will review registration forms and if additional spaces are available they will be filled in the order registration forms were received.

You will be notified if registration for the full series is not available and given the option to register for individual classes instead.
 

CEu's approved for 2014 are:

ARBORISTS: International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)

Maintaining ISA Credentials

July 16th

  • 9:25 a.m. – 10:25 a.m. Caring for Mature Trees/ 1 CEU
  • 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Navigating Tree Regulations/.5 CEU
  • 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Tree Preservation During Landscape Installation/1 CEU
  • 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Common Tree Pests & Solutions/1 CEU

PESTICIDE APPLICATORS: Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA)

Types of Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) Pesticide Applicator Licenses

July 16, 2014

  • 1- TDA General CEU 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Common Tree Pests & Solutions

July 23, 2014

  • 1 - TDA General CEU 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Environmental Issues with Landscape Chemicals
  • 1 - TDA Integrated Pest Management CEU 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. Fire Ant Management
  • 1 - TDA Laws & Regulations CEU 11:00 a.m. - noon Laws & Regulations

July 30, 2014

  • 1 - TDA General CEU 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. Personal Protective Equipment

NURSERY & LANDSCAPE CONTRACTORS: Texas Nursery & Landscape Association (TNLA)

Texas Nursery & Landscape Association (TNLA) Certification Renewal Requirements

July 16th, 23rd, 30th & August 6th & 13th

  • 6 TNLA CEU’s will be awarded per day of training (1 per hour)

IRRIGATION CONTRACTORS: Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

Irrigators cannot receive any CEUs at this training but check with the City of Austin - Water Conservation Department about upcoming seminars for irrigation contractors

Texas Irrigation License Renewal Information

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS

Landscape Architects – per Texas Board of Architectural Examiners, CEU credit interpretation is left up to the individual

Texas Board of Architectural Examiners CEU Information

Landscape contractors and developers, and property managers based in Austin; as well as City of Austin employees involved with landscape design, installation or management responsibilities are eligible to take the Grow Green Landscape Professional Training series.

To determine if a business is Austin-based we ask if you have a physical Austin address or have the majority of your customers in Austin when you complete the registration form.

Yes.

The City’s Green Garden program has been merged with the City’s Grow Green program to avoid confusion due to similar names and to reach more people with a consolidated website.

This series is now called Grow Green Landscape Professionals Training. The program continues to offer the same high-level of training and professionals who complete the training series will be recognized on the webpage for one year. After completing the entire series, professionals must attend one Grow Green training day per year to maintain their presence on the webpage.

Why has the word certification been taken out of the name?

After evaluating the program, it was determined the classes do not justify the term “Certified.” The City’s Grow Green program does not have the authority to provide landscaping certifications. All of the benefits will remain the same – only the name has changed.

Participants will continue to receive educational classes on a variety of timely topics, recognition on the Grow Green webpage, CEUs, and the right to link to the Grow Green webpage from their businesses websites.

2009 class - If you are from the 2009 class and have not attended one day of supplemental training since then, your listing has expired. In order to be re-listed you will be required to attend the entire 2014 series.

2010 class - Your three years has expired.  Those that attended one day of the 2013 series have maintained their listing.  If you did not attend you will need to take the entire series in 2014 to be reposted. 

2011 class - You were not required to take any  classes in 2013 to maintain a listing on the webpage, but you will be required to attend one day on 2014

2012 & beyond - From 2012 on, you are required to come back for one day of training each year, so plan to attend one day in 2014.

Let's Can It

  • Causes pollution (from the breakdown of plastic, cigarette butts, batteries, motor oil, paint, and other toxic trash)
  • Decreases oxygen levels as it decays in the creek
  • Destroys aquatic habitat Harms animals living in water
  • Decreases property values
  • Attracts other types of crime
  • Makes the City look ugly
  • Cost taxpayers money to clean up

Scientists have approximated the length of time different types of trash last in our landfills. In many cases, litter stays around longer than we do!

Material Length of Time
Cigarette butt Takes 2-5 years to break down. Cigarette butts make up nearly 20% of all items littered and leach toxic chemicals into our water. If you smoke, dispose of fully extinguished butts in a trash can or ash receptacle.
Tin can (soup/vegetable) Takes 50-80 years to break down.
Aluminum can Takes 200-500 years to break down. An aluminum can recycled is typically a new can and back on the shelf within 60 days. Recycle!
Plastic bottle Takes one million years to break down and releases a harmful chemical, BPA, into our water when it degrades. Twenty-six (26) billion plastic water bottles are thrown away annually. Recycle!
Styrofoam cup Break down time is unknown – might remain as litter forever! The oils in a styrofoam cup never decompose.
Glass bottle Break down time is unknown – might remain as litter forever! The energy saved by recycling ONE glass bottle can light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours or run a computer for 30 minutes. Recycle!
Plastic bags Takes anywhere from months to hundreds of years to break down. As plastic bags decompose, tiny, toxic particles seep into soil. Those that enter creeks and rivers flow all the way to the Gulf of Mexico!
Pet Waste Can contain giardia, roundworms, salmonella, and other viruses and parasites. When left on the ground, pet waste poses a threat to human health and impacts water quality when it washes into our creeks and river. Scoop the Poop!

 

Wind and rainwater wash pollutants downhill to the lowest point in the area - the creek or the lake. Trash is the largest and most visible pollutant in urban creeks.

 

Materiales Hechos
Colillas de cigarrrillos Toman de 2 a 5 años para desintegrarse.  Se considera que un 20% de la basura son las colillas de cigarrillos que contaminan con sus materiales tóxicos nuestra agua.  Si usted fuma, disponga de las colillas de los completamente apagadas en el bote de la basura o en un cenicero. 
Latas de comida (sopa o vegetales) TaToman de 50 a 80 años para desintegrarse.
Latas de aluminio Toman de 200 a 500 años para desintegrarse. Las latas de aluminio que se reciclan se convierten en latas nuevas,  y regresan a las tiendas en 60 días.  ¡Recicle por favor!  
Botellas de plástico Toman un millón de años para desintegrarse y derraman un químico dañino BPA (Bisphenol A) en nuestra agua cuando se desintegran.  Cada año se tiran 26 billones de botellas de plástico.  ¡Por favor recíclelas!
Vasos de Unicel Se desconoce el tiempo que toman en desintegrarse – ¡puede que permanezcan como basura para siempre!  El aceite que se encuentra en los vasos de unicel nunca se descompone.
Botellas de Vidrio Se desconoce el tiempo que toman en desintegrarse – ¡puede que permanezcan como basura para siempre! La energía que se ahorra al reciclar UNA botella de vidrio puede iluminar un foco de luz de 100-watts por cuatro horas, o dar energía a una computadora por 30 minutos.   ¡Por favor recíclelas!
Bolsas de Plástico Toma desde unos meses hasta cientos de años para desintegrarse.  Al desintegrarse las bolsas de plástico dejan partículas tóxicas pequeñísimas que se incrustan en la tierra.  ¡Esas partículas que llegan a los arroyos y los ríos siguen su camino  hasta el Golfo de Mexico!
Excremento de Mascotas El excremento puede contener giardia, lombrices, salmonela, parásitos  y otros virus.  Cuando se deja en el piso, el excremento de las mascotas se convierte en una amenaza para la salud de los humanos e impacta la calidad del agua cuando éste es llevado por la lluvia hacia los arroyos y el río.  ¡Recoja el popó!

 

El viento y la lluvia llevan los contaminantes al arroyo o al lago, los cuales son los puntos más bajos del área.  La basura es el contaminante más grande y visible en los arroyos urbanos.

Let's Can it - Traditional Chinese

  • Causes pollution (from the breakdown of plastic, cigarette butts, batteries, motor oil, paint, and other toxic trash)
  • Decreases oxygen levels as it decays in the creek
  • Destroys aquatic habitat Harms animals living in water
  • Decreases property values
  • Attracts other types of crime
  • Makes the City look ugly
  • Cost taxpayers money to clean up

Wind and rainwater wash pollutants downhill to the lowest point in the area - the creek or the lake. Trash is the largest and most visible pollutant in urban creeks.

Local Flooding

It’s a good idea to determine the risk your property has of flooding. Is your house next to a creek or storm drain channel? Is it located at the low-point of a roadway or at the bottom of a hill? These are indications that flood insurance may be a good idea.

Mortgage companies usually require flood insurance for homes and businesses in the floodplain. Homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding caused by stormwater.

Keep in mind that people outside of floodplain areas file more than 20% of flood insurance claims and receive about one-third of disaster assistance, when it is available.

For more information about who must purchase flood insurance, download FEMA’s Mandatory Purchase of Flood Insurance Guidelines booklet.

In regard to lowering your premium, you may already be getting a 20% discount because of the steps Austin takes to guard against flooding. In addition, there may be some improvements that you can make to protect your house or business from flooding. For more information, call our hotline at 512-974-2843 or send an email.

An elevation certificate may also be helpful. Prepared by a surveyor or engineer, elevation certificates show the elevation of your home in comparison with the expected elevation of floodwaters. If the certificate shows that the lowest floor elevation in your house is above the expected inundation levels, it should lower your insurance premium. The City may already have one on file for your house or business, but we cannot guarantee the accuracy. Please use FloodPro to look up whether we have a certificate on file or you may contact us by phone or email.

Download these FEMA publications to find out more about protecting your property:

A drainage easement is a part of your property where the City has limited rights of access and/or use. Generally, you cannot make any improvements in a drainage easement. That means no fences, sheds, walls, trails or buildings. You should avoid planting trees or much landscaping as well.

A drainage easement has two possible purposes. It may be needed for the flow of storm water. For example, drainage ditches and creeks are typically within a drainage easement. In this case, anything that prevents the flow of water; that might catch debris; that might be washed away; or that might cause a dam-like effect is problematic.

Alternatively, the easement may be needed to access drainage infrastructure. In this case, anything that might make it difficult to drive a truck through or dig up an underground pipe is problematic.

We look at a number of factors, including safety and cost. Some questions we ask are: 

  • What is flooding? Is it a house, a yard or a street that is flooding?
  • Are there multiple properties in the same area that are flooding?
  • Is there a safe way in and out of the neighborhood during a flood?
  • Could improvements to the City’s infrastructure help with this problem? Would increasing the capacity of the storm drain system or raising the roadway help?
  • Is there a cost-effective solution?
  • Is the problem potentially life threatening?
  • Is there a nearby erosion or water quality issue that could also be addressed with a project?
  • Is the flooding likely to happen again?

Localized flood issues are typically identified in one of two ways. Either residents contact the City to report flooding of their property or street or City staff identify problem areas based on evaluations of the existing storm drainage system. We strongly encourage residents to report any flooding issues since this brings to light new problem areas and allows City staff to confirm problems identified through studies.

Austin has over 900 miles of storm drains, over 30,000 inlets, and about 200 miles of drainage ditches.

Consider buying flood insurance if you do not already have it. You can take simple steps to protect your possessions by storing important papers, photographs or valuables in watertight containers, placed on a high shelf. In addition, there may be some improvements that you can make to protect your house or business from flooding. For more information, call our hotline at 512-974-2843 or send an email.

If flooding is imminent and you have time, the following steps can limit damages: • Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary. • Move valuables, such as papers, furs, jewelry, and clothing to upper floors or higher elevations. • Fill bathtubs, sinks, and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach and rinsing. • Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills, and trash cans inside, or tie them down securely.

Download these FEMA publications to find out more about protecting your property: • Protecting Manufactured Homes from Floods and Other HazardsHomeowner’s Guide to Retrofitting: Six Ways to Protect Your Home from FloodingEngineering Principles and Practices for Retrofitting Flood-Prone Residential StructuresAbove the Flood: Elevating your Floodprone HouseProtecting Building Utilities from Flood Damage

Call 3-1-1. The Watershed Protection Department will send someone to document the flooding. This helps us understand where projects are necessary.

Call your homeowners insurance company and follow their instructions to file a claim and repair your house. A separate flood insurance policy is required to cover damages due to flooding. Here are some precautions: • Check for structural damage before entering your house. Don’t go in if the building might collapse. • Do not use matches, cigarette lighters, or any other open flames, since gas may be trapped inside. Use a flashlight. • Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety. • Look out for snakes and other animals. • Be careful walking around. Look for nails, broken glass or other hazards. Floors may be slippery due to mud. • Document the damage with photographs. • Clean right away. Throw out food and medicines that may have come in contact with flood water. • Boil water vigorously for five minutes until local authorities proclaim your water supply is safe. • Before you start repairs, contact the Development Assistance Center at 512-974- 6370 about possible permitting requirements.

Download this FEMA publication to find out more about repairing your home: Repairing Your Flooded Home.

Call 3-1-1. The Watershed Protection Department will send someone to document the standing water, research the cause and determine whether the City may be able to help with a solution. 

Please email and ask about the possibility of releasing this easement. We will explore whether this is feasible. If it looks like there are no obvious problems, we will direct you to fill out an application for an easement release. The release process is handled by Real Estate Services, and there is an application fee whether the request is approved or denied.

Monitoring the situation and get ready to potentially evacuate. The flooding may get much worse very fast. Keep in mind that the road providing access to your home may become impassible before water enters your house. Leave before the road is flooded.

If there’s time, the following steps can help limit damage:

Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.
Move valuables, such as important papers, jewelry, and clothing to upper floors or higher elevations.
Fill bathtubs, sinks, and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach and rinsing.
Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills, and trash cans inside, or tie them down securely.

For guidance in how to prepare an evacuation kit or stock emergency supplies ahead of time, visit Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
 

The 100-year storm is an event that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. To put that in perspective, during the span of a 30-year mortgage, there is a 26% chance that a 100-year event will occur.

The amount of rainfall necessary to produce a 100-year storm is partially dependant on the duration of the storm. If the rain falls over the course of 3 hours, it takes about 6 inches for it to be classified as a 100-year rainfall. But if those same 6 inches fall over the course of 3 days, it would be considered a much smaller rainfall event. The standard 100-year design storm for the City of Austin has a duration of 24-hours and produces a total rainfall of over 10 inches. To learn more about rainfall return periods in Austin, see section 2 of the Drainage Criteria Manual.

 During a large storm, it is normal for the intensity to vary widely across the city. In September 2010, Tropical Storm Hermine produced rainfall totals equivalent to a 100-year storm over portions of the Bull Creek watershed. However, other areas of Austin did not experience as severe a storm. Keep in mind that even if a large storm has recently occurred, there is the same percent chance of an equally large storm occurring the following year.

Creek flooding occurs when the water rises in a creek and starts flowing out of the banks. Local flooding is not directly associated with a creek. It occurs before the water gets to a creek when runoff from heavy rainfall overwhelms the existing storm drainage system. The stormwater may flow through streets, yards and structures as the water seeks a path to a creek. This may happen because there are not enough ditches or storm drains or because there is something blocking the flow of water. 

Turn Around - Don’t Drown. Approximately 75% of flood fatalities occur in vehicles. Try to avoid driving during heavy rainfall. If you must drive, look for water over the road, avoid low water crossings, and turn around if a road is barricaded or if there is water over the roadway. Keep in mind that at night, during heavy storms, it may be difficult to see that a road is flooded.

There are many other dangers during a flood as well. In general, stay away from creeks and drainage infrastructure during rainfall.  

There is more information about flood safety on our Flood Safety and Preparedness page.

 

Native Plant Week

2014 Fall Grow Green Homeowner’s Landscape Training: Branch Out!

Thursday, October 23, 6:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Celebrate Texas Native Plant Week by joining the City of Austin Grow Green team for our fall homeowner's landscape training.                                                                                     

6:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.             Tree Selection/Site Evaluation

Patti Dodson, Environmental Review Specialist, City of Austin (512) 974-9371
Patti is a registered Landscape Architect and LEED Green Associate.  She worked in the design/build industry practicing and promoting organic and sustainable landscape design and implementation and brings her passion to the City of Austin. 

6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.             Planting a Tree and Young Tree Care

Regina Ramos, Forester, City of Austin Parks & Recreation (512) 974-9546
Regina is a forester with the City of Austin Urban Forestry Program. She leads the program in the protection of public trees for development sites. She previously worked with the Texas A&M Forest Service and developed a state-wide BMP for tree protection. She has a masters in landscape architecture from the University of Texas and has worked with the Sustainable Sites Initiative to recognize outstanding development projects.

7:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.             Break

7:15 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.             How to Own a Tree – Owner’s Manual for Tree Health     

Lara Schuman, Forester, City of Austin (512) 974- 9545
Lara specializes in the program’s tree inspection and maintenance operations.  She was born and raised in Austin, and has a degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology from the University of Texas. She is an ISA Certified Arborist, and a Member of the ISAT Board of Directors.  Before working for the City she spent several years as the co-owner of a tree service in Buffalo, Wyoming. 

Registration: The training is Free – but attendees must pre-register on: EventBrite

Location:
Asian American Resource Center
8401 Cameron Road
Austin, TX

Parking:
Free parking on site

Contact:

Denise Delaney, (512) 974-2581  

This class is presented by the City of Austin Grow Green Team and the Urban Forestry Program.

 www.GrowGreen.org


Lady Bird Lake Walk and Talk

Thursday, October 23, 2014 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Come and join Wildflower Center staff to learn to identify the plants around Lady Bird Lake and about Mrs. Johnson’s impact on Austin’s landscape.

  • Minnette Marr, Plant Conservationist
  • Karen Clary, Plant Conservation Program Manager
  • Carrie McDonald, Volunteer Director

Location:
Lady Bird Lake, Under the Mopac Bridge on the north end, at the drinking fountains

Cost: Free

This class is presented by the City of Austin Grow Green program partners at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

www.GrowGreen.org


Edible Natives Walk and Talk

Saturday, October 25, 2014 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Join Director of Horticulture, Andrea DeLong-Amaya to walk the gardens identifying edible native plants

Location:
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the Courtyard Spring
4801 La Crosse Avenue

Cost:
Free with admission

Rain plan: If cancelled due to inclement weather, the Wildflower Center will notify the public via social media

This class is presented by the City of Austin Grow Green Team program partners at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

www.GrowGreen.org

 


Scenic Springs and Hidden Vistas (moderate/rugged) Guided Hike on the WQPL

Saturday, October 25, 2014, 9:00 a.m. - noon

Participants will be guided on a 3.5 mile hike over classic Hill Country terrain, enjoying beautiful views of surrounding wildland and close up looks at varied habitats ending with a visit to a hidden spring.  All the while, guides will relate the history of the tract and how it is being managed to benefit water quality and quantity.  Due to the length and pace, this hike is intended for audiences 12 and up.  Youth must be accompanied by an adult.

Location: Located near intersection of Circle Drive and Hwy 290W.  Directions sent upon registration.

Access Online Registration

Contact: For assistance with registration, please contact Amanda Ross or call 512-972-1690

This is an interpretive guided hike led by staff or trained volunteers on City of Austin land dedicated to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and owned and managed within Austin Water Utility's Wildland Conservation Division.

Austin Water Utilitiy’s Wildland Conservation Division is a member of the City of Austin Grow Green Team

www.growgreen.org


Warblers, Water and Wildlife Guided Hike on the BCP (moderate)

Saturday, October 25, 2014, 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

The 2 ½ hour moderate hike will wind through habitat utilized by the golden-cheeked warbler for breeding in spring and early summer.  The hike has over a 400’ change in elevation and steep inclines and is partially in shaded canopy and will proceed at a moderate pace.  Due to the terrain and pace, this hike is intended for ages 10 and up.

Location:  Near intersection of Hwy 71 and RR 620 in Bee Caves. Directions sent upon registration. Access Online Registration

Contact: For assistance with registration, please contact Amanda Ross or call 512-972-1690

This is an interpretive guided hike led by staff or trained volunteers on City of Austin land dedicated to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and owned and managed within Austin Water Utility's Wildland Conservation Division.

Austin Water Utility’s Wildland Conservation Division is a member of the City of Austin Grow Green Team

www.growgreen.org


Downtown Views Along Vireo Ridge (moderate) Guided Hike on BCP

Sunday, October 26, 2014, 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Description: While long considered a birder’s paradise, this preserve has something for both the novice naturalist and the expert.  Vireo preserve’s unique history has marked its landscape in interesting ways. Guides will discuss the preserve’s history and how it is expressed in today’s natural communities. This hike will pass through rich shrublands, golden-cheeked warbler habitat, and grassy hillsides while offering some of the best scenic views of Austin.  For ages 12 and up.

Location: Near intersection of Pascal Lane and Loop 360.Directions sent upon registration. Access Online Registration

Contact: For assistance with registration, please contact Amanda Ross or call 512-972-1690

This is an interpretive guided hike led by staff or trained volunteers on City of Austin land dedicated to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and owned and managed within Austin Water Utility's Wildland Conservation Division.

Austin Water Utility’s Wildland Conservation Division is a member of the City of Austin Grow Green Team

www.growgreen.org


Onion Creek Cross Country Guided Hike (rugged) on the Water Quality Protection Lands

Saturday, November 1, 2014, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

For the outdoor adventurist, this hike is an exciting opportunity to be guided cross country over a portion of the Onion Creek Unit of the Water Quality Protection Lands.  The six hour hike will take participants through the oak-juniper savannah and riparian zone, with highlights characteristic of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.  Aspects of historic land use will also be conveyed as guides interpret the landscape and the ongoing management activities to restore it for optimization of clean and plentiful aquifer recharge.  For ages 14 and up.  Limited to 20 individuals.

Location:  Near the intersection of FM 967 and FM 1626.  Directions sent upon registration. Access Online Registration

Contact: For assistance with registration, please contact Amanda Ross or call 512-972-1690

This is an interpretive guided hike led by staff or trained volunteers on City of Austin land dedicated to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and owned and managed within Austin Water Utility's Wildland Conservation Division.

Austin Water Utility’s Wildland Conservation Division is a member of the City of Austin Grow Green Team

www.growgreen.org

 

  • The Grow Green plant guide features many Texas natives and is available in downloadable and searchable database formats.
  • Participate in Keep Austin Beautiful’s Seed Savers program by contributing native seeds to the seed bank or requesting seeds for your public space improvement project.
  • Plant a native tree in your yard or at your place of business.
  • Volunteer at a Native Plant Week event! See calendar postings for details.
  • Attend native plant events, plant sales and educational presentations.
  • Take a tour of the Grow Green Demonstration gardens (Biking and driving map)
  • Plant a native garden for butterflies, hummingbirds and other wildlife.
  • Join us on Facebook and Twitter

On June 16, 2009 Governor Perry signed a bill into law that recognizes the third week in October as Texas Native Plant Week. The bill is intended to emphasize the role of native plants in conservation efforts and to be used as incentive for the Texas education system to teach school children about the importance of native plants. The Native Plant Society of Texas teamed with State Representative Donna Howard to present the bill to the State Legislature. The bill passed unanimously in both houses.

Native Plants

Trees

Landscaping

Wildlife Habitats

 

 

 

Participating partners:

  • Grow Green Nurseries
  • Keep Austin Beautiful
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
  • Native Plant Society of Texas
  • Texas Parks & Wildlife

Participating City of Austin departments include: 

  • Austin Resource Recovery
  • Austin Energy: Green Building
  • Austin Water Utility: Water Conservation and Wildlands
  • Libraries
  • Office of Sustainability: Climate Protection
  • Parks and Recreation Department: Urban Forestry, Wildlife Austin, Zilker Botanical Garden
  • Planning and Development Review: City Arborist
  • Public Works
  • Street & Bridge
  • Watershed Protection Department:  Grow Green

Native Plant Society of Texas promotes research, conservation and utilization of native plants and plant habitats of Texas throughout the state and includes Texas Native Plant Week events on their website.

Onion Creek

Check the ATXfloods for road closures. You may also check real-time gauge data online.  A NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio will alert you to flood warnings and evacuations. Also, local TV and radio stations often keep you posted during flooding conditions.

We usually receive grant funding for buyouts, and the process depends on the type of grant. We will first get an independent appraisal. We will use this to make an offer based on fair market value. If the property owner accepts the offer, we will then help locate comparable housing. After closing, we will demolish the house that was bought and maintain the land as open space. There will be no future development on that piece of land. 

Yes, you are allowed to sell your house. You must disclose that you are in a buyout area and any previous flooding on your property. Talk to your real estate agent about any other necessary disclosures.

Please report any suspicious activity to 9-1-1. Please contact Leticia Campa, District Representative with the Austin Police Department, to discuss non-emergency concerns. Her number is 512-974-5490.

Our real estate agents will help you find comparable housing outside of a floodplain. The buyout includes funding for relocation costs. This will help cover any difference in cost between your current home and the comparable ones. The families who have already been bought out have told us that this process worked well for them, and they were happy with their new homes.

Keep monitoring the situation and get ready to potentially evacuate or move to the second floor or roof. The flooding may get much worse very fast. In Austin, our creeks can rise several feet in just a few minutes. Keep in mind that the road providing access to your home may become impassible before water enters your house. Leave before the road is flooded. Do not attempt to drive or walk through a flooded road.

If there’s time, the following steps can help limit damage:

• Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary. • Move valuables, such as important papers, jewelry, and clothing to upper floors or higher elevations. • Fill bathtubs, sinks, and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach and rinsing. • Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills, and trash cans inside, or tie them down securely.

Find out what to include in an emergency preparedness kit.

Turn Around - Don’t Drown. Approximately 75% of flood fatalities occur in vehicles. Try to avoid driving during heavy rainfall. If you must drive, look for water over the road, avoid low water crossings, and turn around if a road is barricaded or if there is water over the roadway. Keep in mind that at night, during heavy storms, it may be difficult to see that a road is flooded.

There are many other dangers during a flood as well. In general, stay away from creeks and drainage infrastructure during rainfall.  

There is more information about flood safety on our Flood Safety and Preparedness page.

 

The City may use a number of different methods to announce an evacuation, including: • NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio • Local Radio and TV • Door to door • An automated phone call with a recorded message to landlines or registered cell phones.

Please keep in mind that floods can happen faster than emergency personnel can respond, so you should monitor the situation yourself as well. There may not be a warning from the City.  

Appraisals are done by a third party independent appraisal company. There are various options if you do not agree with the appraisal. This will all be explained during the buyout process.

Pesticides

Neem Oil
Active ingredient: Extract of hydrophobic neem oil
• Natural 3 in1 product kills many insects, spider mites and fungal leaf problems
• Oil-based product so to avoid leaf burn, apply during cool times of day
• Do not apply when bees are active
• Do not apply to stressed plants

Insecticidal Soap
Active ingredient: Potassium or sodium salts of fatty acids
• Helps break down body of soft-bodied insects like aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, immature scale
• Similar to dishwashing soap, but without perfumes or dyes that may cause plant tissue damage
• May need repeated applications

Horticultural Oils
Active ingredient (varies by brand): Canola oil, light weight petroleum, and paraffinic oils
• Smothers the insect
• Different oils are temperature specific; some must be used on dormant plants, others can be used at warmer times of year, read label for details
• Water plants thoroughly before applying to make sure the plant is not under moisture stress
• Is toxic to fish. Do not apply near water

Pest caterpillars: Bt, Thuricide 
Active ingredient: Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies kurstaki
• Must be ingested by the insect so be sure to thoroughly spray foliage
• Apply when pest caterpillars first appear
• Caterpillars should stop feeding within a few hours but may take a few days to die
• Does not kill beneficial insects
• Breaks down in sunlight after about a week
• Product contains live spores of a bacteria that infect the pest, so store in a cool dry place
• Shelf life - will lose potency after 2 – 3 years

Mosquito larvae: Mosquito Dunks
Active ingredient: Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis
• Kills the swimming larval stage of mosquitos
• Not to be used in drinking water
• Won’t hurt fish
• Available in granular form for small areas like bird baths; bigger dunks available for larger bodies of water
• Product contains live spores of a bacteria that infect the pest, so store in a cool dry place
• Shelf life - will lose potency after 2 – 3 years

Plants

Pollution Prevention and Reduction

The Spills and Complaints Response Program enforces the following:

State surface water quality rules (State statutes give cities authority to enforce state standards:

Federal guidelines

There are many closed or abandoned landfills in the Austin area. Many operated before landfills were regulated, and may pose environmental or safety risks. Their boundaries are often unknown or poorly defined. Learn more.

Oil contaminated soil caused by poor housekeeping and improper storage.

Oil contaminated soil caused by poor housekeeping and improper storage.

Dead grass and cotaminated soil caused by a gasoline spill at a residence.

Dead grass and contaminated soil caused by a gasoline spill at a residence.

Gasoline spill from above ground storage tanks at a tank farm.

Gasoline spill from above ground storage tanks at a tank farm.

Improper disposal of herbicide (weed killer) on the ground adjacent to an alleyway.

Improper disposal of herbicide (weed killer) on the ground adjacent to an alleyway.

Improper disposal of herbicide (weed killer) on the ground adjacent to an alleyway.

 

Sewage overflow from a sanitary sewer clean out at an apartment complex.

Sewage overflow from a sanitary sewer clean out at an apartment complex.

Wasteware overflow from a sanitary sewer manhole in a creek.

Wastewater overflow from a sanitary sewer manhole in a creek.

Sewage spill from a broken sanitary sewer line in a waterway.

Sewage spill from a broken sanitary sewer line in a waterway.

Overflow from a broken sludge line (untreated sewage).

Overflow from a broken sludge line (untreated sewage).

Foam in creek from an illegal detergent discharge.

Foam in creek from an illegal detergent discharge.

Soapy discharge from a poorly designed car wash facility.

Soapy discharge from a poorly designed car wash facility.

Foam accumulation in a waterway from an illegal discharge.

Foam accumulation in a waterway from an illegal discharge.

Illegal soapy discharge from a rental car facility washing operation.

Illegal soapy discharge from a rental car facility washing operation.

Illegal sediment discharge from construction site dewatering.

Illegal sediment discharge from construction site dewatering.

Sediment dischare to Lady Bird Lake.

Sediment discharge to Lady Bird Lake.

Mud discharge from aconstruction site.

Mud discharge from a construction site.

Sediment discharge to a creek from a construction site.

Sediment discharge to a creek from a construction site.

Antifreeze discharge from radiator flushing.

Antifreeze discharge from radiator flushing.

Antifreeze discharge to an alleyway.

Antifreeze discharge to an alleyway.

Spills from a cooling dispensing area.

Spills from a cooling dispensing area.

Antifreeze discharge from radiator repair at a residence.

Antifreeze discharge from radiator repair at a residence.

Blue paint discharge from washing paint equipment in residential alleyway.

Blue paint discharge from washing paint equipment in residential alleyway.

White paint discharged to a creek.

White paint discharged to a creek.

Illegal dumping of paint containers.

Illegal dumping of paint containers.

Discharging paint waste outside due to improper cleaning of paint equipment.

Discharging paint waste outside due to improper cleaning of paint equipment.

Leaking solvent drums illegally dumped in alleyway.

Leaking solvent drums illegally dumped in alleyway.

Solvent and sludge dumped on ground at a transmission shop.

Solvent and sludge dumped on ground at a transmission shop.

Leaking solvent and paint containers improperly disposed of in and around a dumpster.

Leaking solvent and paint containers improperly disposed of in and around a dumpster.

Illegal dumpiong of trash and debris in a storm drain.

Illegal dumping of trash and debris in a storm drain.

Trash and litter in a local creek.

Trash and litter in a local creek.

Bags of trash dumped in a creek from a residence.

Bags of trash dumped in a creek from a residence.

www.LetsCanItAustin.org

 

Grease spill form an overfilled restaurant grease bin.

Grease spill form an overfilled restaurant grease bin.

Difficult recovery of food grease discharged to a creek due to an overfilled restaurant grease trap.

Difficult recovery of food grease discharged to a creek due to an overfilled restaurant grease trap.

Improper maintenance of restaurant grease barrell.

Improper maintenance of restaurant grease barrel.

Grease spill in alleyway during servicing of restaurant grease bins.

Grease spill in alleyway during servicing of restaurant grease bins.

The Watershed Protection Department has a wide range of educational programs listed at:  http://austintexas.gov/department/watershed-protection/education In addition to these programs the Pollution Prevention and Reduction team has several targeted initiatives.

Austin Clean Water Partners

East Austin Environmental Initiative

The East Austin Environmental Initiative (EAEI) was created to help improve the quality of life in a targeted area of Austin, east of IH-35.

The Initiative educates the public and encourages citizen involvement to resolve environmental concerns in East Austin.

If you live in East Austin, please take a moment to fill out this brief survey to help us serve you better.  Take the survey!  English , En Español

For more information, please contact us

Eastside Environmental News is a bi-annual City newsletter that reports on environmental issues in East Austin. SUBSCRIBE to receive the newsletter electronically.

Recent Past Issues

Home Eco Mechanic

Coal Tar Ban/PAH Study
On November 17, 2005 the City of Austin's City Council voted unanimously to ban the sale and use of coal tar containing pavement sealants in the city and its ETJ (Extra Territorial Jurisdiction).

Swimming Pool Maintenance
 

Hotline phone number 512-974-2550Staff in the Spills and Complaints Response Program respond to citizen pollution complaints and spills that threaten our creeks or water bodies, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number is 512-974-2550.

What to Report
Provide:

  • A description of the potential pollution
  • The location of the problem
  • The source of pollution or the person(s) responsible
  • Your name and a number where you can be reached if the investigator needs further information (caller names and phone numbers are confidential)

When to Report
It is very important to report pollution problems while they are in progress or immediately after they are seen to ensure a rapid response and the identification of the pollution and source. Please note that 911 must be called first if there is any threat to life or property during a spill incident.
Report any pollutants that may threaten our creeks and lakes:

Report any pollutants that may threaten our creeks and lakes:

Petroleum Products: motor oil, gasoline, diesel, jet fuels, spills, leaking vehicles, use of fuel for weed control, dumping.
 
Soaps and Detergents: use in cleaning pavement, vehicles and equipment, failure to connect washing machine to wastewater line.
 
Silt, Mud and other Sediments: inadequate silt fences, excess water pumped from construction sites.
 
Antifreeze: improper flushing or draining; dumping on ground or in dumpster.
 
Latex/Oil-Based Paints & Solvents: cleaning equipment outdoors, dumping on ground, in dumpster, or down storm drain.
 
Sewage: leaking sanitary sewer lines, malfunctioning septic systems.
 
Trash and Debris: littering and dumping, household or construction waste.  (www.LetsCanItAustin.org )
 
Restaurant Grease: improper disposal.
 
Fertilizers and Pesticides: unnecessary or excessive use, application before rainfall.
 

Pollution Prevention Hotline: 512-974-2550

Photo of before and after clean-up of an area with old automobile parts, oil barrells and tires.The Stormwater Discharge Permit Program staff conduct inspections of specific commercial and industrial operations within the City of Austin limits to ensure compliance with City Codes which protect water quality. Inspectors locate, verify, and monitor plumbing connections to the City storm sewer system and receiving waterways to prevent illegal discharges of commercial or industrial wastes. Inspectors check waste storage, handling and disposal practices as well as premise maintenance activities to prevent illegal discharges. The operational condition of water quality controls (oil/grit separators, stormwater ponds, hazardous material interceptors, stormdrains) is assessed. A Stormwater Discharge Permit is issued to the facility on an annual basis. Each facility is responsible for obtaining and maintaining a current permit. Legal action is taken against Cod violators when necessary. Inspectors notify and coordinate efforts with other related agencies.

Other program activities include:

  • Providing guidance on proposed and existing non-stormwater discharges to the storm sewer system or waterways from activities such as swimming pool filter backwashing, construction work, cooling tower blowdown, and secondary tank containment releases.
  • Responding to requests from inspections owing to property assessments, remediations, proposed temporary discharges, or a change in property ownership or management.
  • Tracking and dye-tracing plumbing connections to the storm sewer system to determine the route of materials through the system.
  • Collecting samples for analysis, typically for enforcement purposes.
  • Providing guidance on regulations, pollutant testing, clean up and prevention strategies.
  • Reviewing sample plans, remediation plans and stormwater pollution prevention plans.
  • Providing records information to the public upon official request.
  • Recommending Best Management Practices (BMPs) applicable to each facility or operation. These are pollution prevention measures geared to reducing pollutants at the source and preventing the release of potential pollutants with storm water.
  • Providing education materials, such as lists informing operators how to dispose of or recycle waste materials.
  • Monitoring compliance for the Texas Pollution Discharge Elimination System to control discharges of pollutants to surface water.

Regional Stormwater Management Program

No, there is no need to have an existing regional detention pond facility to participate in the program. Additional types of appropriate solutions to reduce the damage to life and property from floodwaters include: property buyouts, channel modifications, culvert upgrades, and storm drain improvements. The Regional Stormwater Management Program uses a watershed-wide approach to analyze problem conditions and recommend appropriate mitigation measures.

Fees collected are held in accounts by watershed and spent only within that watershed. Funds may be used for the following purposes:

  • Land acquisition,
  • Design, permitting and construction of regional pond facilities,
  • Property buyouts,
  • Culvert upgrades,
  • Storm drain improvements,
  • Channel modifications, and/or
  • Watershed master plans.

Funds for the program are obtained from fees paid by land developers in lieu of providing on-site detention.

No, there are limitations that may affect participation in the program, such as:

  1. Flood-prone areas along streams,
  2. Storm drainage systems that lack required conveyance capacities,
  3. Structures with floor elevations below the 100-year floodplain water surface elevations, and
  4. Inadequate street conveyance where curbs are subject to overtopping.

Important factors also include the location of the development relative to existing flood hazards, and the availability of land for proposed mitigation projects. If the proposed development causes any identifiable adverse impacts or increases in flooding conditions anywhere within a watershed, participation in the program cannot be approved. Clear, comprehensive, and practical program submittals are necessary to clearly demonstrate and document the requirement of no identifiable adverse impacts.

Public benefits are private funding of projects, more comprehensive planning, better control of projects, and more overall effectiveness of improvements to reduce flood hazards.

Private benefits are less overall costs to develop a site without harming other property owners. It allows more flexibility in the development layout, savings in the design, permitting, and construction costs associated with the on-site facility and avoidance of operation and maintenance costs for commercial and multifamily development facilities. Therefore, developers may desire to pay fees to the program for the construction of public regional projects in lieu of constructing private on-site stormwater management facilities for flood control purposes.
 

The program is an alternative to on-site detention for flood control purposes that uses a watershed wide approach to analyze potential flooding problems and to identify appropriate mitigation measures.

The program exists in 28 developing watersheds within the Austin City limits and its extraterritorial jurisdiction, including:

  • Barton
  • Bear
  • Bull
  • Carson
  • Cottonmouth
  • County Club (East and West)
  • Decker
  • Dry
  • East Bouldin
  • Elm
  • Gilleland
  • Harris Branch
  • Lake
  • Little Bear
  • Little Walnut
  • Marble
  • North Fork Dry
  • Onion
  • Rattan
  • Rinard
  • Shoal
  • Slaughter
  • South Boggy
  • South Fork Dry
  • Walnut
  • West Bull
  • Williamson.


The Regional Stormwater Management Program team uses the best current information available before approving or disapproving participation in the program. As the capacity of the downstream system is exceeded, participation may be diminished. More recent storms and/or watershed models may also reveal previously unidentified flooding problems. The lack of adequate drainage may not be apparent until storm runoff problems occur, and are reported and documented.

The 100-year fully developed storm event is the minimum standard design storm utilized by the City of Austin. It is used to:

  • Provide safer conveyance in public drainage facilities as urbanization occurs,
  • Prevent property damage and
  • Avoid creating a future threat to lives.

The Regional Stormwater Management Program was created to allow a mutually beneficial public-private partnership to fund flood hazard mitigation for the community. A regional approach to control stormwater flows is generally more economical and effective than if flows are controlled on a site by site basis.

Ridgelea Storm Drain Improvements

A City of Austin arborist will evaluate the trees before construction begins and determine which trees need to be protected with fencing or planking and if any low-hanging branches need to be trimmed. This is to help prevent any damage to trees from construction equipment.

We will send email updates to give you an approximate idea of what is coming. Please be aware that the schedule may be adjusted on a daily basis between updates. To be placed on the distribution list, email Outreach Coordinator Stephanie Lott.

Before certain work, such as turning off water, we will leave notices at your home. We will also notify you by letter if we are planning to install an inlet at your property.

Safety is our key concern, and we are taking all appropriate precautions. In any construction project, there are inherent dangers. We ask that you stay aware of safety fencing and signage and keep children and pets away from the construction area and equipment. We will coordinate with emergency workers to ensure that they will always have access to the area.

For safety reasons, access to the staging area will be restricted. There will be some dust and noise associated with the construction equipment loading and unloading and backing up. There will also be frequent construction traffic entering and leaving the staging area.

Generally speaking, we need access to the full width of the street from curb to curb for this work. Cars and trucks parked on the street in the area where we are working are a real problem. We place the no parking signs up 48 hours in advance of the work to give you sufficient notice to move your vehicle. Please observe these signs. If for some reason a vehicle is parked in a no parking area when we are ready to start work, we will make an attempt to locate the owner of the vehicle. If we can’t find the owner, we may have no choice but to tow the vehicle.

Please continue to set out your garbage and recycling as normal, even when your road is closed. We will coordinate with the garbage and recycling collectors.

We will leave notices at homes 48 hours before cutting off the water. When the water is turned back on, lime that has settled in the pipes can mix with the water coming into the home and clog aerators on your faucets. In addition, air bubbles can make the water appear cloudy. Running the water from the bathtub faucet for five or 10 minutes when the water is turned back on should help prevent these problems.

It is impossible to undertake this type of project without disruption to the neighborhood. At a minimum, please expect the following:

  • Road closures and detours. Also, roads may be rough to drive on for extended periods before they are repaved.
  • Noise and dust during work hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., with occasional weekend work.
  • Potentially no access to driveways during the day when work is directly in front of your house.
  • There will be no street parking in the work area and for a portion of the street on either side of the work area.
  • Water turned off occasionally when we are working on the water lines. You will receive notice beforehand.
  • A small amount of tree trimming if branches are hanging low over the road. 
  • In certain yards, some digging in the right of way. The right of way extends about 10 feet behind the curb line. This is needed to install curbside inlets and to replace water and wastewater service lines. The service lines connect the water and wastewater lines on your property to the main lines in the street.

In addition, there is always the potential for temporary, unexpected disruptions to services such as gas, water, electricity or cable if a line is inadvertently cut.

We realize that you maintain your entire yard and may have invested a lot of time, energy and cost into improving it. However, approximately the first 10 feet of yard is part of the City’s right of way. There may be water lines, gas lines, electrical lines, light poles and other infrastructure in this area.

During this project, we will need to dig in this right of way area at certain homes to install curbside inlets, to replace water and wastewater service lines and to replace curbs, gutters, sidewalks and driveway approaches.

  • We are replacing the water and wastewater service lines at about half the homes, and there is very little flexibility in the location of these service lines.
  • We are installing inlets at more than 40 addresses. Although we have tried to locate them away from trees, some landscaping may be affected.
  • We are replacing curb and gutter, sidewalks and driveway approaches on most of Coatbridge, Berkett and Carlow (in the project area) and for short stretches on other streets.

We will restore grassy areas before the end of the project. If you have landscaping or a sprinkler system that goes up to the curb, please contact the construction inspector so we can check if your yard will be affected by the work. If so, you may want to transplant your favorite plants or move your sprinkler system to avoid damage.

Yes, Shoal Creek will continue to flood. This project is intended to address “localized” flooding issues, characterized as flooding away from the creeks (i.e., flooding associated with streets and storm drains rather than rivers and creeks). However, this project has been carefully designed so that it will not make Shoal Creek flooding worse.

Riparian Restoration

A degraded riparian zone is often entirely mowed, which results in bare soil along a stream bank.  A lack of vegetation is a visible and primary variable that relates to overall riparian health.  A degraded riparian area does not provide the important functions and services of a healthy riparian zone (see riparian function FAQ).

A heavily mowed, channelized creek exhibiting degraded riparian health.

A heavily mowed, channelized creek exhibiting degraded riparian health.

Probably the most important driver of degradation to a riparian zone is the alteration of the natural hydrologic cycle that occurs from the urbanization of a watershed.  This change or degradation in rain infiltration, flashy flows and baseflow essentially disconnects the banks and buffers from the stream and the water table.  The types of vegetation that thrive in wet, active floodplains cannot survive in this disconnected state and the result is a degraded, abandoned, or upland vegetative community.

Changes that occur to riparian hydrology through urbanization (from Groffman et al. 2003. Down by the riverside: Urban riparian ecology. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 6:315-321.)

After hydrology, the next most important factor that degrades riparian areas is alteration of the mature vegetative communities that evolve in these areas.  This occurs  primarily via human intervention, i.e. mowing, agriculture, logging or development.  These activities remove the original vegetation, and degrade and compact the soil.  These activities, when repeated over decades, make it very difficult to “replant” a healthy riparian vegetative community.  Removing the disturbance that is keeping the riparian area in a degraded state is the most important thing to do in riparian restoration.

A trail area in a park where soil is compacted and vegetation is excluded.

A trail area in a park where soil is compacted and vegetation is excluded.

The Department has considered how these Grow Zones affect flooding. Our engineers have determined if floodplains will increase with the anticipated fully grown out vegetation. The Grow Zone projects will not increase flooding on private property or public roadways.

A  “Grow Zone” is an effort to halt mowing along streams and allow the growth of more dense, diverse riparian vegetation. A  “Grow Zone” is an effort to halt mowing along streams and allow the growth of more dense, diverse riparian vegetation. This improves water quality, lessens erosion, increases wildlife habitat, and provides other ecosystem services.  It is our hope that Austinites will embrace these changes and appreciate the benefits of natural stream corridors.  If you or your group is interested in getting involved please check out the options under the FAQ “What can I do?”

Participate
Click here to be notified about volunteer workdays along Grow Zones.

Several organizations in the local area, such as,  Keep Austin Beautiful and the Austin Park Foundation coordinate volunteers to care for our natural areas.  Pitch in to be part of the solution by adopting a creek or participating in It’s My Park Day!

A few local volunteer organizations that have been trained by WPD to self-lead some restoration techniques in Grow Zones follow this maintenance schedule.

If you would like to propose a volunteer project in a Grow Zone please use this form to make the request.

Help keep the riparian zone clean
Pick up trash and remove pet waste to enhance both the environment and our enjoyment of natural areas.  Every time someone puts garbage in the appropriate waste receptacle, it is silently appreciated by those who never see the trash on the streets and in our creeks.  www.LetsCanItAustin.org

Give positive feedback to Park officials
Positive feedback is always appreciated and helps provide encouragement for programs that seek to protect and restore natural areas.

Participate
Several organizations in the local area, such as,  Keep Austin Beautiful and the Austin Park Foundation coordinate volunteers to care for our natural areas.  Pitch in to be part of the solution by adopting a creek or participating in It’s My Park Day!

Restore the area you control
Evaluate the area that surrounds your home and help your personal environment become a functioning part of the greater environment.  The City of Austin’s Grow Green program is a great place to start learning about plant selection to promote native Texas plants that provide benefits to wildlife such as butterflies and birds.  You can even create a “Backyard Habitat” that can be certified by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

If you live near a creek download our Creekside Homeowners Landscape Design Template.

Spread the word and shift the paradigm
In this increasingly urbanized area, our connection to nature is growing further and further apart.  Communication will play a key role in turning our collective thoughts back to understanding the importance of nature.  Tell a friend what you know and you’ve already doubled the effort.

Observe, learn and enjoy
Inspire the naturalist in you to learn the names, habits and functions of the plants and wildlife in our area.  A fantastic way to appreciate nature is to take the time to observe it and learn about the extraordinary web of interactions that make natural riparian systems function.

We have developed a watershed viewer, so it is easy to find out what watershed you live in and to find out its EII score.

Adopt-a-Creek groups who have an adopted creek section that’s a Grow Zone are encouraged to monitor the area. They select a 300-foot stream segment that best represents the area and conduct annual monitoring of the same sample plots over time. Monitoring takes place within the same month every year to capture long-term restoration progress. Click here to download the Citizen Riparian Monitoring Protocol .

Riparian zones can support plants that are unable to exist anywhere else.  These plants in turn help to keep the riparian zone healthy and functioning properly.  A plant guide for creekside residents can be found at Grow Green’s Creekside Homeowners Landscape Design Template , for a more general streamside restoration plant list check the Riparian Template.  It is important to remember that healthy riparian vegetation can look shaggy and overgrown as it transitions into a mature woodland.

Download our Wetland Plants Field Guide (Web Friendly 7.8MB - High Resolution for printing 238.4MB) to learn more about plants seen in Central Texas creeks and wetlands.

Click here to see a video about how to plant bare root seedlings.

Ready, Set, Plant! is a partnership between the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s Forestry Division, City of Austin Watershed Protection Department and local non-profit TreeFolks, Inc. to plant small native tree seedlings that will not require irrigation.  Planting seedlings will enable us to restore native tree and shrub diversity during drought as well as retain water and improve water quality in Austin’s waterways.

Click here to download this restoration technique's management guidefor volunteer leaders.

Ragweed is a native plant that maybe perceived as undesirable on stream banks. It has some benefits such as reducing the effects of direct sunlight on the soil and it likely reduces soil compaction while increasing soil moisture and organic matter. However, when ragweed growth is very dense it may slow down the establishment of other desirable species. In these cases ragweed stems can be bent at the beginning of their flowering stage in the fall. This technique gives other native plants a better chance of growing while maintaining the benefits that ragweed provides to the soil.

Ragweed

Ragweed

 

Maintenance Schedule (for local groups training by WPD in self-led restoration techniques)

Volunteer info

Profile, age range - appropriate for 10+ years old, with adult supervision
Clothes and safety - Closed toed shoes, long sleeved shirt, pants, individuals who are sensitive to allergens should also wear goggles and a mask

Click here to download this restoration technique's management guide for volunteer leaders.

Background
Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense), Golden bamboo ( Phyllostachys aurea), and Giant Cane (Arundo donax) are invasive grasses that crowd out native plants, particularly in riparian areas. Ecological restoration is a long-term process. Control of exotic invasive species is only a part of this process and must be done gradually, particularly in areas with high densities on exotic invasive plants. Areas infested with Bamboo, Johnsongrass and Giant Cane need to be seeded with native grasses and wildflowers. Tree seedling planting and/or seed bank enrichment are crucial to restore the native plant community, especially in areas with very little growth of native seedlings. In addition, soil amendment is an important component of the restoration process. Johnson grass is very difficult to control due to its long term seed viability and extensive root system. It is easily identified by its wide leaf blade with white stripe down the center. Removal requires manually pulling as much of the root system as possible with continued follow up.

Johnson Grass

Cut Johnson grass to the base of the plant. In areas with gentle slopes (less than 3:1), remove root system if feasible.

Cut Johnson grass to the base.

It is preferable to remove plants in early summer, when it is in full bloom and before seeds have formed. If seeds have NOT formed, removed plants can be laid on the ground as mulch. If seeds are already formed, even if green, bag seed heads and throw them away to minimize reseeding. Golden Bamboo grows by runners and root rhizomes making it difficult to remove. Look for fan like cluster leaves and jointed wood like stems to identify. Giant Cane, “Arundo”, is identified by alternate pointed leaves with parallel veins.

To remove giant cane and golden bamboo, hand pull small plants and cut large plants to the base of the plant. In areas with gentle slopes (less than 3:1) and minor invasions, remove root system if feasible. Cutting these plants once with no plan for ongoing removal of re-growth will not have much impact on the infestation, so plan for monthly follow-up workdays (or every other week if possible) to remove regrowth. Bamboo and Arundo cuttings cannot be left on site; they can readily grow roots and re-establish. All cuttings need to be piled up in an orderly fashion, ready for pick-up. Piles must be not taller than 3’ and must be places at least 5’ apart from each other. This location must be agreed upon through communication with the Parks and Recreation Department prior to the event day.

Maintenance Schedule (for local groups training by WPD in self-led restoration techniques)

Volunteer info
Profile, age range - 10+ years old for Johnsongrass and 15+ years old for Giant Cane and Bamboo (volunteers under 18 years require adult supervision). Volunteers must have received training on identifying Johnsongrass, Giant Cane, and/or Bamboo. Volunteers must demonstrate having ability to safely handle/use hand pruners (training on site is OK)

Clothes and safety - closed toed shoes, adequate drinking water and sun protection
Provided by Parks and Recreation Department

Retrieval of Bamboo and/or Arundo cuttings and/or bags with Johnsongrass. Location for piling removed plants MUST be agreed upon with Park manager PRIOR to event day.

Provided by Watershed Protection Department

Assist with initial site visit to help determine area extent, scope, and potential follow-ups of the project.

Seed BallsClick here to download this restoration technique's management guide for volunteer leaders.

Seed balls are marble sized mixtures of compost, clay, native seeds, and water. They are a cost effective, low maintenance method of re-vegetation which requires little water. Seed balls are scattered directly onto ground and not planted.

  1. Thoroughly mix dry clay (3 parts), compost (2 parts), and seed mix (1 part) specific for the light/moisture conditions of the site.
  2. Sprinkle with water until mixture sticks/binds together like cookie dough.
  3. Take a pinch of the finished mixture and roll (in the palm of your hand) into marble-sized round balls
  4. ‘throw’ or spread the seed balls within the Grow Zone or add them by coir logs

Maintenance Schedule (for local groups training by WPD in self-led restoration techniques)

Volunteer info
Profile, age range - appropriate for 5+ years old, with adult supervision

Clothes and safety - closed toed shoes.

Provided by Watershed Protection Department for official Grow Zones:  Seed Mixes, clay, compost

Click here to download this restoration techinque's management guide for volunteer leaders .

This technique must only be done with WPD staff present or with a non-profit that has had direct training on the technique from WPD scientists. Click here to learn more about techniques used by WPD staff.

Maintenance Schedule (for local groups training by WPD in self-led restoration techniques)

Click here to download this restoration technique's management guide for volunteer leaders.

Plants help improve water quality and anchor soil. While soil is the foundation for plants, without roots to stabilize the soil, bare soil washes into our creeks whenever it rains. Seeds germination rates improve when there is good seed to soil contact.

  1. Rake the ground to loosen the soil.
  2. Spread seeds over the soil at the rate of 30lbs per acre.
  3. Press the seeds in to the ground.

Maintenance Schedule (for local groups training by WPD in self-led restoration techniques)

Volunteer info

Profile, age range - appropriate for 5+ years old, with adult supervision
Clothes and safety - Closed toed shoes, workgloves
Other tools needed - rakes
Provided by Watershed Protection Department for official Grow Zones: Seed mixes

It’s simple- the first step is to stop mowing along the stream edge, allowing vegetation to grow back naturally. While appropriate in some areas for public access and recreation, repeated mowing along the stream bank is not conducive to a healthy riparian zone and creek.

There will be a riparian buffer at least 25 ft wide on each side of the creek, with a variety of plant heights and thicknesses, and frequent open view corridors between 3’ and 7’.  

Ecosystem function can be defined as all of the processes necessary to preserve and create goods or services valued by humans. Healthy functioning riparian zones:

  • Improves the natural and beneficial functions of the floodplain
  • Prevents stream bank erosion
  • Filters storm runoff, removing pollutants before they reach the creek
  • Provides habitat and food for a diverse group of animals
  • Provides shade that cools air and water temperatures
  • Creates a greenbelt forest with diverse tree and plant communities for outdoor enthusiasts
  • Reduces the City’s carbon footprint

Riparian zone restoration attempts to restore the natural process necessary to maintain a high level of ecosystem function. In general, the larger the riparian buffer the more ecosystem functions it can provide.

This image shows the various buffer widths associated with riparian zone function.

This image shows the various buffer widths associated with riparian zone function. Organic inputs into the stream are important sources of nutrients and habitat (width 15-25 ft). Stream stabilization is maintained by riparian vegetation (width 30-60 ft). Water quality is the ability of the vegetation to intercept runoff, retain sediments, remove pollutants, and promote groundwater recharge (width 20-100 ft). Flood control is the ability for the floodplain to intercept water and reduce peak flows (width 60- 500 ft).   Riparian habitat is the ability of the buffer to support diverse vegetation and provide food and shelter for riparian and aquatic wildlife (width 100-1500 ft).

RIPARIAN ZONE RESTORATION METHODS

There are three generalized approaches to restoring a disturbed riparian environment:

(1) rely completely on passive (spontaneous succession)

(2) exclusively adopt active, technical measures

(3) or a combination of both passive and active techniques toward a target goal (Hobbs and Prach 2008). Passively restored sites exhibit robust biota better adapted to site conditions with increased natural value and wildlife habitat than do actively restored sites (Hobbs and Prach 2008).

Passive restoration requires minimal management and is more cost effective than alternative methods. However, passive restoration is often the slower approach and is more dependent on adjacent site conditions. When relying on spontaneous succession the vegetation community of adjacent sites, an approximate 100 meter distance from the disturbed site, is critical for successful restoration (Hobbs and Prach 2008). In general, passive restoration that relies on spontaneous succession should be employed when environmental disturbance is not very extreme (Figure 1) and no negative results (erosion, water contamination, negative aesthetic perception, etc…) are foreseen (Hobbs and Prach 2008). When site productivity and stress are extremely high or low, active (technical reclamation) may be necessary (Figure 1). The persistence of undesirable functional states is an indication that the system may be stuck and will require active intervention to move it to a more desirable state (Hobbs and Prach 2008). Understanding when passive versus active restoration approaches are warranted can increase chances of success and reduced project costs.

Passively restored sites exhibit robust biota better adapted to site conditions with increased natural value and wildlife habitat than do actively restored sites (Hobbs and Prach 2008). Passive restoration requires minimal management and is more cost effective than alternative methods. However, passive restoration is often the slower approach and is more dependent on adjacent site conditions. When relying on spontaneous succession the vegetation community of adjacent sites, an approximate 100 meter distance from the disturbed site, is critical for successful restoration (Hobbs and Prach 2008). In general, passive restoration that relies on spontaneous succession should be employed when environmental disturbance is not very extreme (Figure 1) and no negative results (erosion, water contamination, negative aesthetic perception, etc…) are foreseen (Hobbs and Prach 2008). When site productivity and stress are extremely high or low, active (technical reclamation) may be necessary (Figure 1). The persistence of undesirable functional states is an indication that the system may be stuck and will require active intervention to move it to a more desirable state (Hobbs and Prach 2008). Understanding when passive versus active restoration approaches are warranted can increase chances of success and reduced project costs.

Descriptive chart showing the process of passive restoration.

Establishing a buffer, with its mix of grasses, forbs/wildflowers, shrubs and trees, allows for a variety of benefits to the surrounding ecosystem:

  • Filters pollutants out of storm runoff before it reaches the creek
  • Limits erosion, protects creek banks and keeps sediment out of the creek
  • Provides shade and maintains moderate water temperatures
  • Provides habitat for a diverse group of animals, both on land and in the water

 

Trash in waterways is an unfortunate byproduct of society.  Whether intentional or accidental, most trash that is dropped on the ground ends up in our streams and river.  There are a variety of options for cleaning it up.  The City of Austin assesses trash quantity using a visual assessment to evaluate severity.  Streamside vegetation has the ability to capture trash floating in the streams, preventing it from going downstream to the Colorado River and Gulf of Mexico.  The City of Austin does perform some trash clean-up but the problem is so extensive that it is impossible to keep all waterways free of trash.   In order to better clean our streams it takes the whole community to take part.  For this reason Keep Austin Beautiful assists Austinites with supplies and support for cleanups.  If large trash such as furniture, appliances, and vehicles are in the stream please call 311 to report it.

What are the vegetative stages of riparian restoration?

Allowing a mowed stream and riparian zone to return to a natural state can take a while.  Remember a forest can be cut down in a day but it takes a generation of care for it to return.

A variety of wildflowers are dominant during different seasons.

Grasses begin to grow taller, protecting the soil from the sun and forming a rich organic layer.

Tree saplings grow in abundance taking advantage of the full sun.

Years after the mowing ends the riparian zone reaches maturity.

There will be a riparian buffer at least 25 ft wide on each side of the creek, with a variety of plant heights and thicknesses, and frequent open view corridors between 3’ and 7’.

It’s happening all over Austin!!

The Watershed Protection Department and Parks and Recreation Department are working together to improve riparian areas in some City parks.

Click here for a map of the sites.

Click on the park name below to see a fact sheet describing the specific efforts at that park .

Bartholomew District Park

Battle Bend Greenbelt

Big Stacy Park, Blunn Creek Greenbelt

Boggy Creek Greenbelt

Bull Creek District Park

Buttermilk Branch Greenbelt

Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park

Crestmont

Dittmar Park

Dottie Jordan Park

Gillis Park

Givens Park

Heritage Oaks

Lady Bird Lake

North Star Greenbelt

Oak Springs

Reed Park

Robert E. Lee

Shoal Creek Greenbelt at Allendale

Tarrytown Park

Willowbrook Reach on Boggy Creek

 

 

Urban wildlife, or “backyard wildlife” is often limited in diversity, however by allowing an area to grow naturally, and reducing the urban characteristics this limitation can be reduced.  Diversity of plants and increased layering, or structuring of plant types can provide the food and habitat for many of the animals that naturalists enjoy such as birds, butterflies, mammals, reptiles and a myriad of small critters.

Birds
Riparian corridors and adjacent woodlands can provide outstanding habitat for birds, both resident and migrating.  Depending on the structure, diversity and health of the vegetation in the corridor, an amazing number of birds can be found here.

  • Chickadees, mockingbirds, warblers, vireos, woodpeckers, titmice, sparrows, towhees, flycatchers, blue jays and wrens, depend on the wealth of insects that live on the grasses, forbs, wildflowers, shrubs and trees.
  • Cardinals, dove, goldfinch, junco, and cedar waxwing gleam and important part of their diet from seed and berry producing shrubs.
  • Hummingbirds drink nectar from some flower-bearing plants and small trees.
  • Eastern screech owls, barred owls, and sharp-shinned hawks, and other predatory birds use wooded areas for their homes and hunting ground.

Butterflies
New leaves in the spring and early summer provide the critical food for the caterpillars that become moths and butterflies.   Flowers from forbs, shrubs and trees provide nectar to many resident and migrating butterflies.  Often caterpillars will only eat a certain type of plant (this is called host-specific relationship) so an increase in the diversity of plants will increase the diversity of butterflies.

  • Skippers, satyrs, wood-nymphs eat grasses and sedges as caterpillars.
  • Swallowtails eat some tree leaves especially citrus, black cherry and willow in addition to herbs such as relatives of dill, parsley and carrot.
  • Monarchs and queens eat milkweeds and milkweed vines.
  • Whites and sulphurs eat relatives of the mustard and legume
  • Admirals, viceroy, sisters and morning cloak eat tree leaves, especially willows.
  • Painted lady and red admirals prefer thistles and nettles.
  • Great purple hairstreak eat mistletoe while other hairstreaks prefer legumes and mallows.
  • Heliconians and fritillaries eat members of the passion-vine family.

Reptiles
Reptiles are a fascinating and beneficial part of riparian function.  The vast majority of reptiles are harmless, and we only have four venomous species in Austin.  Common harmless reptiles include:

  • Gulf Coast toads thrive in riparian woodlands with loose soil, thick leave litter, shade and access to insects for food.
  • Rough earth snake is a very small harmless snake that lives in the soil and leaf litter eating earth worms and slugs, and the non-venomous Texas rat snake helps control the rodent population.
  • Red-eared slider and common snapping turtles must crawl out of the creek to lay eggs in the loose soil of the upper banks in the riparian corridor.
  • Skinks are small lizards that live in leaf litter and eat insects
  • Anoles are medium sized green/brown lizards that are sometimes mistaken for chameleons.

Mammals
The big winner of an improved riparian corridor is our ever-present fox-squirrel, however, the possibility remains for other native mammals to pass through if the corridor is wide enough and long enough.

  • Fox-squirrels are frequent residents of parks and woodlands and primarily live in the trees.
  • Grey squirrel  (aka “rock squirrel”) are less often seen ground squirrels in steep hilly areas that burrow in the soil.
  • Armadillos are crepuscular and nocturnal and may occasionally be found rooting around the loose soils and leaf litter in large riparian corridors.
  • Grey fox are primarily nocturnal and usually stick to woodland areas that are undisturbed.

Small critters in the leaf litter
A myriad of small invertebrates live in the loose soil and leaf litter.  They may be considered to be the most important animals since they often play a vital role in turning dead vegetation into soil and organic matter which plants need.   These include crickets, earthworms, fly larvae, snails, slugs, beetles, etc.  These small critters are also the primary food source for many of the insect-eating animals mentioned above.

Salamanders

 

This video shows how aquatic salamanders respire. This close-up of an Austin Blind Salamander shows red blood cells rapidly moving through capillaries in the salamander’s gills. In this process, the red blood cells pick up oxygen in the water and release carbon dioxide as they move through the gills, just like our lungs when we breathe air.

  • ½” to over 3” long
  • Translucent surface with three pairs of red external gills
  • Pearly-white to lavender colored
  • Square-shaped snout
  • Eye-spots, but no image-forming eyes
  • Eats aquatic macro invertebrates and may eat juvenile salamanders or salamander eggs

The Austin Blind Salamander is known only from Barton Springs, much like the Barton Springs Salamander. However, unlike the Barton Springs Salamander, Austin Blinds are not typically seen near the surface. They occupy the habitat below the surface of the springs, where their unique adaptations likely give them a selective advantage in a world of total darkness and limited food. Interestingly, another large springs in Texas is also home to a pair of spring and cave dwelling salamander species: San Marcos Springs in San Marcos (Hays Co.) has surface-dwelling San Marcos Salamanders (Eurycea nana) as well as troglobitic Texas Blind Salamanders (Eurycea rathbuni).

Unfortunately, because their habitat is not readily accessible by humans, and they are only occasionally observed in the springs, very little is known about the natural history of these animals.

Sunken Gardens Spring in Zilker Park. This is the site where the Austin Blind Salamander (Eurycea waterlooensis) was first collected. They have also since been found in Parthenia Spring in Barton Springs Pool and in Eliza Spring.

  • Aquatic its entire life
  • Needs flowing water with a fairly consistent temperature of 70ºF
  • Thought to spend all or most of its life in the aquifer
  • Occasionally individuals observed at the surface; may have been washed through the spring outlets
  • Eggs have been observed in captivity, but not in the wild

All three Eurycea salamanders that inhabit Austin springs are members of the family Plethodontidae, which is the largest family of salamanders.  They are within the sub-family Spelerpinae, which includes four genera: Eurycea, Gyrinophilus, Pseudotriton, and Stereochilus.  A total of thirteen species are now described from this group of (mostly) perennibranchiate salamanders that inhabit central Texas.

Very little was known about any of Austin’s endemic brook salamanders prior to the 1990s, even though they consisted of three very different species.  Prior to discovery and formal description of each species, the majority of  brook salamanders (genus Eurycea) found in spring-fed surface streams throughout the Edwards Plateau of central Texas (including the Jollyville Plateau) were considered Eurycea neotenes, the Texas Salamander.  In the mid-1990’s, biologists undertook studies to understand the ecology (the relationships between the salamander and its environment) and evolutionary history (e.g., the genetic relationships between the salamander and other species) of this group of salamanders.  Through those studies, biologists discovered that the Texas Salamander was, in fact, comprised of several genetically distinct species. The true range of the Texas Salamander is actually restricted to the springs and caves of Bexar, Comal, and Kendall Counties.  Two of the newly discovered species were Austin’s own E. tonkawae, the Jollyville Plateau Salamander2, and E. sosorum, the Barton Springs Salamander1.

The primary reason so many different species across a relatively broad geographic range were considered conspecific (the same species) is that all of the Edwards Plateau species are very similar in appearance.  Before the invention of methods to examine DNA and protein molecules, differences in physical appearance, or “morphology,” were the basis for distinguishing one species from another. At that time there was no evidence to classify the Edwards brook salamanders as separate species. Once scientists learned how to test molecules and use the results to identify and group species based on their genetic relationships (the science of molecular systematics), the unique genetic characteristics of each species of salamander became apparent, and each could be classified.

Of course there were some exceptions to this prior “lumping” of different species under one name.  Most notably are the subterranean species, Austin Blind Salamander, Blanco Blind Salamander, and the Texas Blind Salamander, who exhibit very obvious and extreme differences in the morphology of their bodies and heads.  For one, they are “blind,” or to be more specific, they lack an image forming eye. They also tend to have larger, shovel-shaped heads.  These features are believed to confer an advantage for living in complete darkness, although scientists still debate the origin of troglomorphic characters as “regressive evolution” or resulting from natural selection.  Before the discovery of the Austin Blind Salamander in Barton Springs, the members of this group were considered to be in a different genus altogether (Typhlomolge) because of their extreme morphology.  But once again the molecular data2,3 allowed biologists to learn that these species are genetically similar enough to the other Edwards Plateau species to be included in the genus Eurycea.

A cladogram showing the evolutionary relationships of the central Texas Eurycea salamanders.  Species that occur in Austin are highlighted in grey.  Branch lengths do not reflect genetic distance or substitution rate.  Note that none of the species in Austin are each other’s closest relatives; thus illustrating the complex and interesting evolutionary history of this group.  From Chippindale et al. 2000 and Hillis et al. 2001.

Range map of all the central Texas Eurycea salamanders.

 

 

Most of what we know about the life history of Austin Eurycea is based on observations made of the salamanders while in captivity. While many of these observations are of the Barton Springs Salamander, some characteristics (such as courtship) are thought to be common to the whole group. Courtship behavior involves a series of steps called a “tail-straddling walk,” which is characteristic of the family (Plethodontidae) of salamanders to which central Texas Eurycea belong. In the “walk,” the female straddles the male’s tail and rubs her chin on the base of his tail as he walks slowly forward; he stops at times and undulates his tail, possibly dispersing pheromones or showing her the location of his spermatophore. He eventually deposits a spermatophore that she will pick up in her cloaca. The eggs will be fertilized as they pass through the oviduct as they are being laid. After courtship, the female may wait months or a year or more before she lays her eggs. It is not known whether multiple males sire a single clutch of eggs.

The female (white eggs are noticeable in her abdomen) follows the male, he undulates his tail, possibly showing her where he has deposited his spermatophore.

All three species are thought to lay their eggs in the aquifer below the surface (especially so for the Austin Blind, who rarely visits the surface). This is because only a few eggs have ever been found in the wild; those eggs were thought to have accidentally washed up on the surface of the spring. Egg-laying events have only been observed in captivity.

On average, a female lays 15 eggs in a clutch. The eggs are laid singly and this process can take 12 hours or more. The ova are white and are surrounded by several layers of a clear capsule that is permeable for gas exchange. The capsule protects the embryo and is sticky, which presumably allows the female to lay the eggs on rocks in flow.

This is a time lapse video of embryo development for the Barton Spring Salamander. Notice the development of the eyes, gills, front limbs, and the heart beating in the throat area. This individual developed the back limbs after hatching.

The eggs hatch in 3-4 weeks. Hatchlings are ~½” total length (snout to tip of tail), often without fully formed limbs. Juvenile salamanders become sexually mature at about 11 months (50mm total length) and grow to about 3 inches as adults. Salamanders can continue to reproduce to an age of at least eight years.

Good longevity data is currently only available for captive salamanders, although an ongoing mark-recapture project on the Jollyville Plateau Salamander should provide substantial data on survival in the wild for that species. A female Barton Springs Salamander was collected as an adult in 1996. She is thought to be the oldest wild-caught salamander in the program, but the exact age is difficult to determine because the hatch date of an adult collected in the wild is unknown. A male that hatched in captivity in 1997 is the oldest captive-raised salamander in the program.

The salamanders are one-half inch in length when they hatch and grow to about 3 inches in total length as adults. They have a muscular tail used for swimming. They do not spend much time swimming in the water column, however, and instead walk along the substrate*. They have 4 toes on their front feet and 5 toes on their back feet. The color variation for the Barton Springs Salamander includes shades of pink, purple, brown, orange, red as well as white spots called iridophores. The Austin Blind Salamander is generally lavender or purple with white iridophores.

This is a cleared and stained specimen of E. sosorum. The “clearing” process makes proteins transparent while the “staining” stains all cartilage blue and bone red. This is a very useful technique to allow researchers to study the bone structure of an amphibian without destroying the connective tissue.

The Barton Springs and Jollyville Plateau salamanders have eyes with image-forming lenses to help them see predators and prey. In contrast, the Austin blind salamander only has eyespots that may help it detect light. It cannot see and does not need eyes in the darkness of the aquifer.

Notice the color variation between the individual Barton Springs Salamanders shown in the video of the animals in the wild (see section on Austin Blind).

 

 

 

Central Texas Eurycea are aquatic their entire lives. This video shows how aquatic salamanders respire. This close-up of an Austin Blind Salamander shows red blood cells rapidly moving through capillaries in the salamander’s external gills. In this process, the red blood cells pick up oxygen in the water and release carbon dioxide as they move through the gills, just like our lungs when we breathe air.

These photos were taken of the same individual Jollyville Plateau Salamander, but several months apart spanning a dry period. Notice the drastic difference in gill size. Salamander gills will change in size in response to their environment over time. Large bushy gills help in an oxygen-poor environment, such as when the springs go dry and they must retreat underground to follow the water table.

*substrate-the rocks and sediment on the bottom of the stream

 

Most of what we know about the ecology of Austin’s aquatic salamanders is from studies conducted by the City of Austin on the more easily accessible surface populations. Their diet, like most salamanders, is entirely carnivorous. Based on field observations, fecal content analysis, and new radio-isotope data, they eat a variety of prey that is likely based on both what is available and what fits in their mouth. This includes a variety of snails (Gastropoda), seed shrimp (Ostracoda), copepods (Copepoda), amphipods, insects (such as midge, mayfly, and damselfly larvae, aquatic beetles, etc.), flatworms (Planaria), segmented worms (Annelida), and others.

Amphipods in Eliza Spring.

Barton Springs Salamander eating Amphipods

Predatory Fish

Relationships between the salamanders and their predators are not well understood. Some evidence suggests freshwater sunfish and basses opportunistically feed on salamanders. In the past, many salamander habitats were too shallow to harbor these fish species. Now these fishes have more available permanent and stable habitat in salamander streams because of direct and indirect stream channel modification by humans (e.g. dams creating Barton Springs Pool). Predatory fish presence may hinder dispersal where unnatural intermittent pools intercept the stream pathways that were once more shallow riffles or runs. Recent evidence clearly shows that chemical cues from predatory fish can negatively affect salamander activity.

Crayfish are common in both shallow and deep waters and can be found in nearly every salamander habitat.    Crayfish are generalist predators, eating a variety of things from fish and tadpoles to plants and detritus, and have been observed feeding on juvenile Barton Springs Salamanders.

So, it is not unlikely that they are also a common Jollyville Plateau Salamander predator. Interestingly, the burrows created by crayfish may be beneficial in some ways to Jollyville Plateau Salamanders. One theory is that crayfish burrows may act as a path for salamanders to retreat through dense sediment and gravel to reach subsurface waters during dry periods.

Other large invertebrates have been observed feeding on salamanders. Giant water bugs (Lethocerus uhleri) are large ambush predators (up to 65mm) and have been seen at several monitoring sites preying on salamanders, ranid tadpoles, and mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis).

Damselfly larvae of the genus Archilestes are long and slender ambush predators that prey on very small juveniles if given the opportunity.

Cannibalism has also been documented in this species.  Adults have been observed regurgitating the remains of juvenile salamanders when captured.  This in part helps to explain why juveniles are often found in areas where adults are not, such as in very shallow water on the edge of the stream.

Unlike the surface populations, cave-dwelling Jollyville Plateau salamanders are the top predators of that ecosystem.  The downside, however, is that prey availability is much lower.  Because all troglobitic organisms live in total darkness, there are no primary producers, so they must rely on nutrient input from the surface.  The salamanders likely feed on available troglobitic and troglophilic (can live inside and outside caves) crustaceans and insects and potentially accidental prey washed into the caves during rain events.

 

Because the Barton Springs Salamander and the Austin Blind Salamander are federally endangered species, the City of Austin must have a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue the operation of Barton Springs as a recreation area. The permit is issued under the Endangered Species Act Section 10(a)(1)(B) and is referred to as an incidental take permit. The City’s first incidental take permit was issued in 1998 and would have expired in October 2013.

The federal permit is based on conservation measures described in a Habitat Conservation Plan. The Barton Springs Habitat Conservation Plan details the actions the City will conduct that adversely affect the Barton Springs Salamander and the Austin Blind Salamander and their habitats, and how the impact of those actions will be reduced or compensated to protect both species. The plan can only cover actions by the City in and around Barton Springs that may affect the Barton Springs Salamander or the Austin Blind Salamander and does not involve any actions associated with the federally threatened Jollyville Plateau Salamander in northwest Austin or actions outside of the City's jurisdiction in the contributing zone of the Edwards Aquifer.

City salamander biologists revised and expanded the Habitat Conservation Plan for Barton Springs in July 2013 after a 2-year process involving citizen input and extensive coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The current incidental take permit from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service was issued in September 2013 and will expire in 2033.

You can download a copy of the City’s incidental take permit and associated habitat conservation plan here.

Scoop the Poop

In Your Yard...

  • Remove pet waste from your yard..it will still wash to the creek
  • Place a Scoop the Poop sign in your yard to remind your neighbors

While Walking Your Dog

  1. Bring It!  Carry a scooper bag
  2. Scoop It! Use your baggie as a glove to scoop
  3. Toss It!  It belongs in the trash

In Parks...

  • Look for bag dispensers in City parks, pick up pet waste, and toss the bag in the trash
  • Call 3-1-1 if the box is empty

Organize a

To report a violation in City parks, public areas, or private property, call 3-1-1 for more information.

To report unsanitary conditions caused by accumulation of pet waste in an animal enclosure, contact the Health Department, 512-978-0300 - Health Dept. Division of Environmental Health.

Contact by email

 

City Ordinance

§ 3-4-6 DEFECATION BY A DOG OR CAT.

"An owner or handler shall promptly remove and sanitarily dispose of feces left on public or private property by a dog or cat being handled by the person, other than property owned by the owner or handler of the dog or cat."

Potential fine: Up to $500

Pet waste contains viruses and parasites that can live for months.  If not disposed of properly, pet waste poses a health risk to people and also pollutes our water when it washed by rain and irrigation water into creeks and rivers.

Shade Tree Mechanic

  • Home mechanics and hobbyists interested in the program may request an onsite evaluation of their current practices by contacting Patrick Kelly, Environmental Compliance Specialist Sr. with the Pollution Prevention Reduction Team via email or 512-974-2230.
  • The Shade Tree Mechanic Program also reaches out to home mechanics that are recommended for the program by a neighborhood association, Austin Police Department officer or a spills team investigator that witnesses discharges of automotive fluids from a residence. A Pollution Prevention Reduction representative will then attempt to make contact with the responsible party to provide education and invite them to enroll in the program if they are interested.

What are my obligations as a participant?

  • Simple. Those that agree to participate in the program and receive the free bucket are expected to be responsible in their automotive repair practices.
  • Participants must be willing to provide minimal personal information (Name, address and email)
  • Participants may be contacted periodically and at the end of each fiscal yearonce a year to perform a follow up visit, or conduct a brief survey to assist us in assessing the overall success of the program and its effectiveness at reducing pollution associated with automotive repair.
  • Tell your friends about the program so we can keep it growing.

What else can I do to help?

  • Recycle your used oil
  • Report any pollution or spills 24 hours a day through the pollution hotline at 512-974-2550
    • Mark Storm Drains
    • Subscribe to be emailed when volunteer events are created like planting native plants along Grow Zones or creating a rain garden at a school.
  • A representative of the Pollution Prevention Team will come out to perform an assessment, provide recommendations and determine eligibility
  • Eligible participants will receive a free oil change bucket specially designed to capture waste oil and secure for transport to any used oil drop off location

Recycling Bucket Instructions

1. Remove the bucket lid. It is designed to be the drain pan for the oil change.

Remove the bucket lid. It is designed to be the drain pan for the oil change.

 
 

2. Slide the lid beneath the oil filter to prevent spillage. Place the filter directly into the lid. Then place the lid beneath the drain plug to capture the used oil.

Slide the lid beneath the oil filter to prevent spillage. Place the filter directly into the lid. Then place the lid beneath the drain plug to capture the used oil.

 

3. Fully drain the used oil into the lid & replace the drain plug. Prime the new oil filter and install. Refill the engine with fresh oil.

Fully drain the used oil into the lid & replace the drain plug. Prime the new oil filter and install. Refill the engine with fresh oil.

 

4. Remove the filter from the lid and place open end inside the bucket. Tip the lid and pour the oil into the bucket.

Remove the filter from the lid and place open end inside the bucket. Tip the lid and pour the oil into the bucket.

 

5. Replace the lid onto the bucket keeping the lip within the rim of the bucket to prevent drips.

Replace the lid onto the bucket keeping the lip within the rim of the bucket to prevent drips.

 

6. Firmly press the lid

Firmly press the lid

 

 

7. Take automotive waste to Household Hazardous Waste or one of many oil recycling locations

 

Shoal Creek Restoration: 15th-28th Streets

Storm Drain Marking

  • The program runs year-round, so participants can sign-up to participate whenever is convenient for their schedule.
  • The program provides the supplies needed, including maps, storm drain markers, safety vests, etc.  The equipment is loaned for one month.
  • Request an appointment with the program coordinator– located at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Rd, 11th Floor.  Please give the program coordinator at least 2 weeks advanced notice and list a few date/time options for the orientation (5-10 minutes long)
  • Meet with the program coordinator at your appointed time, check out supplies, and sign paperwork.
  • Mark drains and record information
  • Return supplies and information to the program coordinator within one month of checking out supplies.

Who Can Participate?

  • Anyone! This volunteer program is great for groups or individuals.
  • Volunteers ages 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

Send the following information to the program coordinator:

  • The number of people who will mark drains (and note if any participants are under age 18)
  • The area of town most convenient for you (name a street intersection) or if you are willing to work anywhere there is a need
  • Possible times/dates to set up a 5-10 minute appointment to review the process and sign paperwork.

Waste

Vehicles

  • Home Eco Mechanic - For do it yourself earth-wise vehicle maintenance
  • Austin Clean Water Partners - Local automotive repair and fueling business that go the extra mile to protect our environment.
  • Use a car wash, or wash your vehicle where the soap and water flow into the grass

Lawns

Notify the City about pollution problems, including leaks, spills, and dumping.  Pollution Hotline - 512-974-2550

Stormwater Management

Using physical and biological treatment mechanisms, biofiltration uses an organic filtration media with vegetation to remove pollutants. As with sedimentation/filtration systems, runoff is first diverted into a sedimentation basin, where particulate pollutants are removed via gravity settling. This is followed by filtration through an 18" layer of vegetated media.

Biofiltration systems are considered to provide a level of treatment equivalent to sedimentation/filtration, and also provide extended detention that enhances baseflow and reduces stream erosion. Biofiltration systems are not allowed in Barton Springs Zone (BSZ) watersheds as a stand-alone water quality control, as they are not capable of achieving a non-degradation level of treatment.

Because of the vegetation, biofiltration systems can be aesthetic amenities and may be eligible for landscape credit (unlike sedimentation/filtration systems). To ensure proper management of the pond system, filtration media, and vegetation, an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan is required.

The current design criteria is similar to that for sedimentation/filtration systems, and two design alternatives are available. In “full” sedimentation/filtration systems the entire water quality volume is held in the sedimentation basin, which then slowly discharges runoff to the filtration basin via a perforated riser pipe. The alternative “partial” sedimentation/filtration design foregoes the perforated riser pipe, and distributes the water quality volume between the filtration basin and a sediment chamber, the latter separated from the filtration bed by a vegetated hedgerow. The “full” design is required when the City of Austin is responsible for maintenance.

Design guidelines for biofiltration can be found in Section 1.6.7.C of the Environmental Criteria Manual. For information on the biofiltration media, go to biofiltration media guidance. Also available is a list of potential suppliers.

Alpine Wet Pond

  • Constructed: 1998
  • Watershed: East Bouldin
  • Location: Between Alpine and Pickle Streets, one block west of Congress Avenue.
  • Pond Size: 0.8 acres
  • Pond Watershed: 57 acres
  • Impervious Cover / Drainage Area: 64%
  • Pond Goal: Water Quality Protection
  • Pollutant Removal: An estimated 25,000 lbs. Total Suspended Solids (TSS) removed annually

Map of Alpine Wet Pond.

RELATED ISSUES:
This pond was built in an existing City flood detention pond. The pond forebay appears separated from the main pool but is hydraulically connected by a pipe running under the earthen berm. The berm protects a wastewater line which runs under the detention pond.
 
Alpine Wet Pond

Barton Hills Sedimentation/Filtration Pond

  • Constructed: 2007
  • Watershed: Barton Creek
  • Location: Remote area of Zilker Park
  • Pond Size: 1.36 acres
  • Pond Watershed: 15 acres
  • Impervious Cover/Drainage Area: 74%
  • Pond Goals
    • Pollutant attenuation to Barton Creek and Barton Springs Pool
    • Permanent erosion control

Map of Barton Hills Sedimentation/Filtration Pond

RELATED ISSUES: This project was a major retrofit project prompted by findings of elevated levels of pollutants, including Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). It is located in a tributary leading down to Barton Creek which discharges approximately 300 feet above Barton Springs Pool. The project consisted of the removal of contaminated sediment, construction of a sedimentation/ filtration pond and the rerouting of storm water to a drainage ditch downstream of Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park.

  • Coal Tar Ban
  • Barton Springs Algae
  • Barton Springs 2003 Pool Closure

Barton Hills Sedimentation/Filtration Pond

Beckett Meadows Wet Pond

  • Constructed: 2003
  • Watershed: Williamson Creek
  • Location: Behind the Will Hampton Branch Library in Oak Hill, adjacent to Dick Nichols Park
  • Pond Size: 0.6 acres
  • Pond Watershed: 66.5 acres
  • Impervious Cover/Drainage Area: 45%
  • Pond Goal: Water Quality Protection
  • Pollutant Removal: 14,500 lbs. Total Suspended Solids (TSS) removed annually

Map of Beckett Meadows Wet Pond

RELATED ISSUES: A stormwater detention facility is located upstream of the pond and the stormwater ultimately flows into a recharge feature (Old Farm Sink) of the Edwards Aquifer which is located immediately downstream of the water quality pond.

Becket Brochure

Beckett Meadows Wet Pond

A mother and four duckings.

This Black-bellied Whistling-duck family are among the many wildlife that have resided at the wetpond. Photo by Sharon Vlack-Greene

Betty Cook Pond.

  • Constructed: Rehabilitation of the existing pond occurred in 2005-2006
  • Watershed: Little Walnut
  • Location: In Dottie Jordan Park in the Auburndale neighborhood of University Hills
  • Pond Size: 1 acre
  • Pond Watershed: 106 acres
  • Impervious Cover/Drainage Area: 77%
  • Pond Goals
    • Maintenance dredging
    • Stabilization and regrading
    • vegetation and repair of the dam structure and outlet
  • Pollutant Removal: 60,000 lbs. Total Suspended Solids (TSS) removed annually

Betty Cook Pond

RELATED ISSUES: The project was performed in conjunction with the Austin Clean Water Program project to repair sewer lines in the area.

Betty Cook Pond.

Central Park Pond

  • Constructed: 1998
  • Watershed: Waller Creek
  • Location: Behind Central Market and the apartments at 38th Street and Lamar Avenue
  • Pond Watershed: 173 acres
  • Impervious Cover / Drainage Area: 54%
  • Pond Goal: Water Quality Protection
  • Pollutant Removal: 50,000 lbs. Total Suspended Solids (TSS) removed annually

Map of Central Park Wet Pond.

RELATED ISSUES:
Central Park is a joint public/private enterprise between the State of Texas and a private developer, Barshop & Oles Company. As part of the 39-acre mixed-use development, more than ten acres were set aside for a park and other public spaces.
 

Central Park Wet Pond

Convention Center Wet Pond with Austin Skyline in background.

  • Constructed: 1996
  • Watershed: Waller Creek
  • Location: South of 3rd Street between Red River and IH35
  • Pond Size: 8500 sq. ft. Pond Watershed: 35 acres
  • Impervious Cover/Drainage Area: 99%
  • Pond Goals: Water Quality Protection
  • Pollutant Removal: 5,600 lbs. Total Suspended Solids (TSS) removed annually

Map of Convention Center Wet Pond

RELATED ISSUES: Unlike other COA wetponds which have clay liners, this pond has a concrete basin.

Convention Center Wet Pond

 

Gillis Park Sedimentation/Filtration Pond

  • Constructed: 1997
  • Watershed: East Bouldin
  • Location: Gillis Park, south of Oltorf at 1st Street
  • Pond Watershed: 66 acres
  • Impervious Cover / Drainage Area: 66%
  • Pond Goal: Water Quality Protection
  • Pollutant Removal: 13,000 lbs. Total Suspended Solids (TSS) removed annually

Map of Gillis Park area.

Gillis Pond Full.

Stormwater is directed to the sedimentation/filtration pond where contaminants are removed before the water is discharged into the East Bouldin Creek.

Overhead shot of Lundelius McDaniel

  • Constructed: Future Project
  • Watershed: Williamson Creek
  • Location: South of intersection of Brodie and Wm. Cannon
  • Pond Watershed: 200 acres
  • Impervious Cover / Drainage Area:
  • Pond Goals: Water Quality Protection
  • Pollutant Removal:

Detail map of Lundelius McDaniel

RELATED ISSUES: This project will construct a water quality control to treat runoff from approximately 200 acres in the Barton Springs Recharge Zone in the Williamson Creek watershed. Stormwater runoff from the area is currently untreated and flows to Dry Fork tributary a short distance above Dry Fork Sink, a major recharge feature. Dye tracings from Dry Fork sink show that runoff entering the sink can reach Barton Springs in less than 30 hours. The properties where the control will be built were acquired through two settlement agreements.

Mopec Steck Wet Pond full of water.

  • Constructed: 1998
  • Watershed: Shoal
  • Location: East side of Mopac Hwy, south of Steck Avenue
  • Pond Watershed: 78 acres
  • Impervious Cover / Drainage Area: 66%
  • Pond Goals:
    • Flood Detention
    • Water Quality Protection
  • Pollutant Removal: 30,000 lbs. of Total Suspended Solids (TSS) removed annually

RELATED ISSUES:
By 2005 Water Hyacinth had completely infested the wet pond. This plant is illegal and invasive (Invasive Plants). WPDRD solicited bids from a private contractor to remove the infestation and monitoring of the pond will continue for several years to ensure the plant does not return.

Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is an exotic nuisance plant that grows in freshwater. It is a floating plant which varies in size from a few inches to over 3' tall. Water Hyacinth have showy lavender flowers and rounded and leathery leaves attached to spongy and sometimes inflated stalks. The plant has dark feathery roots.

Mopec Steck Wet Pond full of water.

Oak Springs Pond

  • Constructed: Detention Pond- 1980,Water Quality Pond - 2006
  • Watershed: Boggy Creek
  • Location: Near the intersection of Oak Springs Drive and Tillery Street, just west of Airport Boulevard
  • Pond Watershed: 182 acres
  • Impervious Cover/Drainage Area: 30%
  • Pond Goals:
    • Water Quality Protection
    • Wildlife Habitat
  • Pollutant Removal: 48,000 lbs. of Total Suspended Solids (TSS) removed annually

 

Map of Oak Springs.

RELATED ISSUES:
The pond introduces a wet pond system within an existing detention pond, near the former site of a natural wetland.

A duck on the edge of the water at Oak Springs Pond.

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)  Sedimentation Filtration Ponds

  • Constructed: 2006
  • Watershed: Williamson Creek
  • Location: One pond at each quadrant of I-35 and Ben White
  • Pond Watershed: 29 acres for four ponds
  • Impervious Cover/Drainage Area: 85%
  • Pond Goal: Water Quality Protection
  • Pollutant Removal: 23,000 lbs. of total suspended solids (TSS) removed annually

Map of Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)  Sedimentation Filtration Ponds

RELATED ISSUES:
This project was initiated at the request of an Austin Transportation Study Water Quality Task Force as a response to citizen concerns regarding the TxDOT tunnel being built under IH35 to capture runoff from the Ben White/IH35 expansion. Citizen concerns focused on the lack of treatment and potential for pollutant runoff prior to discharge into Williamson Creek. Four sedimentation/filtration basins, one at each corner of the Ben White/IH35 intersection have been constructed to treat approximately 29 acres of primarily highway runoff. A bioretention pond will be constructed for treatment of the small storm runoff and will be located upstream of where the tunnel outfalls into the creek. This mitigation plan was approved and the Austin Transportation Study Policy Advisory Board authorized STP 4C funds to match the City's contribution to the project.

View of Sedimentation Filtration Ponds under a fly over.

 

Upper Shoal Water Quality Pond.

  • Constructed: 1997
  • Watershed: Shoal Creek
  • Location: Located at the intersection of US 183 and Mopac
  • Pond Watershed: 900 acres
  • Impervious Cover/Drainage Area: 66%
  • Pond Goals:
    • Water Quality Protection
    • Flood Water Detention
  • Pollutant Removal: 328, 000 lbs. of Total Suspended Solids (TSS) removed annually

RELATED ISSUES:
The water quality pond was built as a retrofit within an existing detention pond.

Upper Shoal Water Quality Pond

Integrated pest management (IPM) is an environmentally-sound method of controlling pests (weeds, diseases, insects or others). Pests are identified, action thresholds are considered, all possible control options are evaluated, and selected control(s) are implemented. Control options used to prevent or remedy unacceptable pest activity or damage include:

• Biological - recognize, encourage, and/or introduce beneficial predators in your landscape • Cultural - plant native, pest-resistant plant varieties, and give them proper light, water and nutrients • Mechanical - hand-pick insects, or use traps, barriers, or water blasts to infected areas • Chemical - use botanical, mineral, and insecticidal soap or synthetic chemicals

Choice of control option(s) is based on effectiveness, environmental impact, site characteristics, worker/public health and safety, and economics. IPM takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options.

Learn more about Integrated Pest Management.

Click here to download a Green Stormwater Infrastructure Maintenance Manual.

Non-Required Vegetation

The City of Austin requires landscaping for development. Additional non-required vegetation, especially trees, can help reduce stormwater runoff and enhance groundwater recharge by breaking the impact of raindrops and improving soil structure. A tree's effectiveness in this capacity is correlated with the size of the crown and root zone area.

There are numerous environmental and stormwater benefits to additional vegetation. Non-required vegetation can act as a natural stormwater management area by filtering particulate matter, including pollutants, some nutrients, sediments, and pesticides, and by absorbing water. A study done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Urban Forest Research found that a medium-sized tree can intercept 2,380 gallons of rain per year (Center for Urban Forest Research 2002).

Non-required vegetation is eligible for water quality credit, in terms of pervious area (impervious area reduction), if it meets the criteria described in Section 1.6.7.G of the Environmental Criteria Manual. However, it is not eligible for credit in the Barton Springs Zone (BSZ)watersheds.

Unlike conventional centralized stormwater management systems, rain gardens may employ multiple controls dispersed across a development, and may be incorporated into the landscape to provide aesthetic as well as ecological benefits.

Rain gardens can be designed to provide a level of treatment equivalent to sedimentation/filtration, and also provide extended detention that enhances baseflow and reduces stream erosion.

The City of Austin requires landscaping for development. Additional non-required vegetation, especially trees, can help reduce stormwater runoff and enhance groundwater recharge by breaking the impact of raindrops and improving soil structure. A tree's effectiveness in this capacity is correlated with the size of the crown and root zone area.

There are numerous environmental and stormwater benefits to additional vegetation. Non-required vegetation can act as a natural stormwater management area by filtering particulate matter, including pollutants, some nutrients, sediments, and pesticides, and by absorbing water. A study done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Urban Forest Research found that a medium-sized tree can intercept 2,380 gallons of rain per year (Center for Urban Forest Research 2002).

Non-required vegetation is eligible for water quality credit, in terms of pervious area (impervious area reduction), if it meets the criteria described in Section 1.6.7.G of the Environmental Criteria Manual. However, it is not eligible for credit in the Barton Springs Zone (BSZ)watersheds.

Non-required vegetation requires an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan.

  • Non-Structural Controls are Best Management Practices (BMPs) that do not involve a structured, or engineered solution. They include such measures as education, site planning, and stormwater management regulations. Because it is usually easier and more effective to prevent pollution before it occurs, non structural BMPs are very cost-effective. These measures limit or eliminate pollutants before they end up in the stormwater.
  • Non-structural controls include:  non-required vegetation, vegetated filter disconnect, integrated pest management, and regulations.

Porous Pavement includes a load-bearing, durable concrete surface together with an underlying layered structure that temporarily stores water prior to infiltration. Porous Pavement is a water quality control best management practice (BMP) using the storage within the underlying structure or sub-base to provide groundwater recharge and to reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff.

To ensure proper functioning of porous pavement, no off-site runoff is allowed and proper subgrade conditions must exist.

Porous pavement is currently only allowed for pedestrian use and not for parking lots, stormwater hot spots, or areas where land use or activities generate highly contaminated runoff. Since porous pavement is an infiltration practice, it should not be applied at stormwater hot spots due to the potential for ground water contamination.
Environmental Criteria Manual 1.6.7.E of the Environmental Criteria Manual

A rain garden is a vegetated filtration and/or infiltration system that has a contributing drainage area not to exceed two acres, and a ponding depth not to exceed twelve inches.

Unlike conventional centralized stormwater management systems, rain gardens may employ multiple controls dispersed across a development, and may be incorporated into the landscape to provide aesthetic as well as ecological benefits.

Rain gardens can be designed to provide a level of treatment equivalent to sedimentation/filtration, and also provide extended detention that enhances baseflow and reduces stream erosion.

Rain Garden FAQs
Can rain gardens be used in the Barton Springs zone as a stand-alone water quality control?
No – Rain Gardens are not allowed in Barton Springs Zone (BSZ)watersheds as a stand-alone water quality control, as they are not capable of achieving a non-degradation level of treatment. The use of a Rain Garden as a water quality control is limited to Commercial and Multi-Family developments only.

Are rain gardens eligible for landscape credit?
Yes - Because of the vegetation, rain gardens can be aesthetic amenities and may be eligible for landscape credit (unlike sedimentation/filtration systems).

What is an IPM plan?
IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management.  To ensure proper management of the pond system, filtration media, and vegetation, an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan is required.  www.austintexas.gov/ipm

Where can I find design guidelines?
Design guidelines for rain gardens can be found in Section 1.6.7.H of the Environmental Criteria Manual.  Click here for guidelines and resources for small scale green stormwater infrastructure.

Where can I learn more about biofiltration media?
The rain garden filtration media is the same as that used for biofiltration systems. For information on the biofiltration media go to the Biofiltration Media guidance document.

Where can I find a list of potential biofiltration media suppliers?
Click here for a list of potential biofiltration media suppliers

Rooftops can generate large volumes of runoff which, when discharged to paved surfaces and landscaped areas, can generate large pollutant loads. Rainwater harvesting systems can capture this runoff before it is discharged, thus preventing pollution while also putting the captured water to beneficial use, such as landscape irrigation or cooling water.

Rainwater harvesting is eligible for water quality credit only for commercial development. The amount of credit will depend on the size (water quality volume) and drawdown time of the system. Rainwater harvesting systems can provide equivalent treatment to a sedimentation/filtration system, or be designed to meet a non-degradation level of treatment required in Barton Springs Zone watersheds. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan is required if the captured rainwater is applied to vegetation.

Design guidelines for rainwater harvesting can be found in Section 1.6.7.D of the Environmental Criteria Manual.

The Water Conservation staff of the City of Austin Water Utility is available to provide input on how to achieve cost-efficient design and equipment selection that will also help reduce water and wastewater costs.  

Under the SOS regulations, certain watersheds in Austin allow no increase in pollutant load to receiving streams. Retention irrigation ponds capture stormwater in a holding pond and use the captured volume for irrigation of the surrounding landscaped areas rather than allowing direct release to receiving streams. There is virtually no discharge of runoff off-site and it mimics the undeveloped watershed conditions by allowing infiltration of smaller rainfalls. Retention irrigation systems have excellent pollutant removal efficiency.

Environmental Criteria Manual 1.6.9 (Guidance for Compliance with Technical Requirements of the SOS Ordinance)
 

 

Sedimentation/Filtration systems are the primary stormwater treatment device used in Austin. Runoff is first diverted into a sedimentation basin, where particulate pollutants are removed via gravity settling, followed by filtration through an 18” layer of sand. These systems can achieve removal rates of 40-90% for suspended solids, heavy metals, and organics. Properly operating systems will typically capture 90% or more of all runoff from the contributing drainage area, and release it at a slow rate that enhances baseflow and reduces stream erosion.

Sedimentation/filtration systems are not allowed in Barton Springs Zone (BSZ)watersheds as a stand-alone water quality control, as they are not capable of achieving a non-degradation level of treatment.

Two design variations are allowed in Austin. In “full” sedimentation/filtration systems the entire water quality volume is held in the sedimentation basin, which then slowly discharges runoff to the filtration basin via a perforated riser pipe. The alternative “partial” sedimentation/filtration design foregoes the perforated riser pipe, and distributes the water quality volume between the filtration basin and a sediment chamber. The latter is then separated from the filtration bed by a gabion wall or other porous structure. The “full” design is required when the City of Austin is responsible for maintenance.

Design guidelines for full and partial sedimentation/filtration ponds are provided in Section 1.6.5.of the Environmental Criteria Manual (see 1.6.5.A for “full” systems and 1.6.5.B for “partial” systems).

  • Structural water quality controls may consist of engineered and constructed filters, chambers, basins, or ponds which are designed to treat stormwater runoff by settling, filtration, flotation, absorption, and/or biological processes. The City of Austin Land Development Code establishes the need for structural controls to enhance water quality and the Environmental Criteria Manual provides guidelines for both the design and long-term maintenance of these facilities.
  • Structural controls include: biofiltration, porous pavement, rain garden, rainwater harvesting, retention irrigation ponds, sedimentation filtration ponds, vegetated filter strips, and wet ponds.

A low impact development (LID) technique for reducing the impact of stormwater is to "disconnect" impervious areas by routing runoff to a vegetated filter strip. This will promote infiltration, sediment deposition, and filtration of pollutants.

This water quality control is similar to vegetative filter strips described in Section 1.6.7.B of the Environmental Criteria Manual . It will however typically be smaller in order to fit into spaces too small for a full-sized water quality control, but still large enough to provide some treatment. The amount of water quality credit will vary with the size of the filter strip and its drainage area characteristics (size and impervious cover). Vegetative filter strips for treatment of disconnected impervious cover can provide partial treatment equivalent to a sedimentation/filtration system but are not acceptable as a primary method in Barton Springs Zone (BSZ) watersheds, where a non-degradation treatment level is required.

As with other vegetative water quality controls an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan is required.

Design guidelines for this control can be found in Section 1.6.7.F of the Environmental Criteria Manual.

A vegetative filter strip is an innovative water quality control in which runoff is routed as sheet flow through a mildly sloped, well-vegetated area, thus promoting infiltration, sediment deposition, and filtration of pollutants. Because of the need to maintain sheet flow, filter strips are typically used to treat small drainage areas, or areas with low impervious cover. These treatment systems can be used in both Barton Springs Zone (BSZ) and non-BSZ watersheds, but those in BSZ watersheds must be larger. To maintain the proper functioning of these systems the vegetation must not be cut too short (minimum 3” for turfgrass and 18” for bunchgrass), grass clippings must be removed out of the filter strip, and an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan is required. Design guidelines for vegetated filter strips are provided in the Environmental Criteria Manual (Section 1.6.7 Alternative Water Quality Controls)

Waller Creek Tunnel

The cost for construction is $106 million. The overall program cost is $146.5 million and includes land acquisition, engineering and project management. The tunnel project is funded through the Waller Creek Tax Increment Financing Zone.

The tunnel will be constructed 60 to 70 feet underground using a roadheader, which cuts through rock. The access for the excavation necessary for the tunnel will be between Fourth and Fifth streets, a central point along the approximately one mile route of the tunnel. As a result, the excavation will not require trenching. Further, individuals on the surface will likely not realize excavation is taking place far below them.

The tunnel will operate as an "inverted siphon." During normal flows, water will move slowly through the tunnel and sediment will fall to the bottom of the tunnel. The sediment will be removed from the tunnel during normal maintenance activities. Trash will be collected at the tunnel inlet and at screened storm drains. During dry conditions, water will be pumped from the tunnel at the inlet and discharged into Waller Creek to maintain a constant flow in the creek, improving water quality and the appearance of the creek.

The tunnel will capture, carry and discharge Waller Creek flood waters into Lady Bird Lake. This will significantly reduce the 100-year floodplain and provide flood relief for nearly 28 acres of land. The tunnel will also alleviate the problem of stream bank erosion. The project will result in construction of a new Parks and Recreation Department boat facility, improvements to Waterloo Park and surface improvements adjacent to the creek side inlets.

All permitting will be attained prior to issuing construction contracts. The project team will be attaining Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Army Corp of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) - which administers NEPA requirements in Texas via the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) - permits and any others required during the commission phase of the project.

The State of Texas assumed the authority to administer the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program in Texas on September 14, 1998. NPDES is a federal regulatory program to control discharges of pollutants to surface waters of the United States. The TCEQ Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) program now has federal regulatory authority over discharges of pollutants to Texas surface water, with the exception of discharges associated with oil, gas and geothermal exploration and development activities, which are regulated by the Railroad Commission of Texas.

To review the agency's TPDES application components for authority to administer the NPDES program, the approval letter from the Environmental Protection Agency authorizing Texas to administer the program and other documents related to the application, go to TPDES Application for NPDES Authorization webpage on the TCEQ website.

The flooding problem must be addressed first before any surface amenities can be constructed. Once the risk of flooding is reduced, future plans call for restoring the ecology of the creek, improving adjacent parks and open spaces and enhancing pedestrian and bicycle connections between LBL, UT and East Austin.

Waller Creek can quickly go from calm conditions to a raging torrent during a storm event. Over the years, the creek has experienced several devastating floods, and there have been fatalities, most recently in 2007. The lower portion of the creek ranks among the City’s worst in terms of flooding, water quality and erosion. Homes, businesses and parts of some downtown parks adjacent to Waller Creek are currently at risk for severe flooding. Along with the flood problem, the area also suffers from severe stream bank erosion and from large amounts of visible trash.

The Waller Creek Tunnel Project will put hundreds of people to work, including engineers, construction managers, electricians, truck drivers, plumbers, computer specialists, safety inspectors, general laborers, traffic control specialists and landscapers, to name a few.

Watershed Detectives

Watershed Engineering

You can look this up on FloodPro, an online tool that shows floodplain maps, models, rainfall amounts, elevation certificates and floodplain map revision information. Questions? Call 512-974-2843 or send an email.

 

 

 

We look at a number of factors, including safety and cost. Some questions we ask are: 

  • What is flooding? Is it a house, a yard or a street that is flooding?
  • Are there multiple properties in the same area that are flooding?
  • Is there a safe way in and out of the neighborhood during a flood?
  • Could improvements to the City’s infrastructure help with this problem? Would increasing the capacity of the storm drain system or raising the roadway help?
  • Is there a cost-effective solution?
  • Is the problem potentially life threatening?
  • Is there a nearby erosion or water quality issue that could also be addressed with a project?
  • Is the flooding likely to happen again?

Keep monitoring the situation and get ready to potentially evacuate or move to the second floor or roof. The flooding may get much worse very fast. In Austin, our creeks can rise several feet in just a few minutes. Keep in mind that the road providing access to your home may become impassible before water enters your house. Leave before the road is flooded. Do not attempt to drive or walk through a flooded road.

If there’s time, the following steps can help limit damage:

• Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary. • Move valuables, such as important papers, jewelry, and clothing to upper floors or higher elevations. • Fill bathtubs, sinks, and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach and rinsing. • Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills, and trash cans inside, or tie them down securely.

Find out what to include in an emergency preparedness kit.

There may be many reasons:

  • There may not be a cost effective solution at this time.
  • The problem may be strictly between private property owners. Without a drainage easement, the City cannot do anything to address a drainage issue.
  • We may not know about the issue.
  • We may have a project planned, but it could still be in the planning or design stages.
  • The issue may not be as urgent as other drainage problems.

 

In our Master Plan, we identified enough projects to keep us busy until 2040. With so much need, we must carefully prioritize which projects get done first. For more information about how we prioritize projects, please see the answer to “How does the City decide which flooding situations to address first?” 

Call 3-1-1. The Watershed Protection Department will send someone to document the flooding. This helps us understand where projects are necessary.

Call your homeowners insurance company and follow their instructions to file a claim and repair your house. A separate flood insurance policy is required to cover damages due to flooding. Here are some precautions: • Check for structural damage before entering your house. Don’t go in if the building might collapse. • Do not use matches, cigarette lighters, or any other open flames, since gas may be trapped inside. Use a flashlight. • Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety. • Look out for snakes and other animals. • Be careful walking around. Look for nails, broken glass or other hazards. Floors may be slippery due to mud. • Document the damage with photographs. • Clean right away. Throw out food and medicines that may have come in contact with flood water. • Boil water vigorously for five minutes until local authorities proclaim your water supply is safe. • Before you start repairs, contact the Development Assistance Center at 512-974- 6370 about possible permitting requirements.

Download this FEMA publication to find out more about repairing your home: Repairing Your Flooded Home.

Development is not allowed to cause additional flooding to other properties. Any time impervious cover is increased, there is the potential for increased stormwater runoff. Impervious cover includes roofs, parking lots, streets, driveways and other areas where the landscape cannot absorb rainfall. To combat this problem, the City of Austin requires all new developments to ensure that they will not adversely  impact downstream properties. Developers are required to either provide on-site flow controls or pay fees for regional flood control projects. 

A watershed is the area of land that drains to a particular location. In Austin, watersheds typically refer to the land draining to one of our larger creeks.

The 100-year storm is an event that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. To put that in perspective, during the span of a 30-year mortgage, there is a 26% chance that a 100-year event will occur.

The amount of rainfall necessary to produce a 100-year storm is partially dependant on the duration of the storm. If the rain falls over the course of 3 hours, it takes about 6 inches for it to be classified as a 100-year rainfall. But if those same 6 inches fall over the course of 3 days, it would be considered a much smaller rainfall event. The standard 100-year design storm for the City of Austin has a duration of 24-hours and produces a total rainfall of over 10 inches. To learn more about rainfall return periods in Austin, see section 2 of the Drainage Criteria Manual.

 During a large storm, it is normal for the intensity to vary widely across the city. In September 2010, Tropical Storm Hermine produced rainfall totals equivalent to a 100-year storm over portions of the Bull Creek watershed. However, other areas of Austin did not experience as severe a storm. Keep in mind that even if a large storm has recently occurred, there is the same percent chance of an equally large storm occurring the following year.

Turn Around - Don’t Drown. Approximately 75% of flood fatalities occur in vehicles. Try to avoid driving during heavy rainfall. If you must drive, look for water over the road, avoid low water crossings, and turn around if a road is barricaded or if there is water over the roadway. Keep in mind that at night, during heavy storms, it may be difficult to see that a road is flooded.

There are many other dangers during a flood as well. In general, stay away from creeks and drainage infrastructure during rainfall.  

There is more information about flood safety on our Flood Safety and Preparedness page.

 

In the right circumstances, almost any road can flood. The ones listed below are the ones that flood most frequently:
• W. 12th St. from Lamar to Shoal Creek Blvd.
• W. 32nd St. at Hemphill Park
• E. 38 1/2 St. between Grayson and Airport Blvd.
• Adelphi Ln. between Scribe Dr. and Waters Park Rd.
• E. Alpine Rd. between Willow Springs and Warehouse Row
• Burleson Rd. between U.S. 183 and FM 973
• Carson Creek Blvd. between Cool Shadow Dr. and Warrior Ln.
• Colton-Bluff Springs Rd. by Alum Rock Dr.
• Convict Hill Rd. between Flaming Oak Place and MoPAC
• David Moore Dr. north of Sweetwater River Dr.
• Delwau Ln. at Shelton Rd.
• W. Dittmar between Loganberry and S. Congress
• Joe Tanner Ln., near Hwy. 290
• Johnny Morris Rd. between FM 969 and Loyola Ln.
• Lakewood Dr., 6700 block
• W. Monroe St. between S. First and Roma St.
• McNeil Dr. between Camino and Burnet
• Nuckols Crossing at Teri Rd.
• Parkfield Dr. from Thornridge to Mearns Meadow
• Possum Trot between Inland Place and Quarry Rd.
• Old Bee Caves Road, near Hwy. 290
• Old San Antonio Rd. between FM 1626 and IH 35
• Old Spicewood Springs Road, between Loop 360 and Spicewood Springs Rd.
• O’Neal Ln., between MoPAC service road and Waters Park Rd.
• Posten Ln., 7900 block
• River Hills Rd., off Cuernavaca
• Rogge Ln. between Ridgemont and Delwood Dr.
• Rutland from Mearns Meadow to N. Lamar
• Spicewood Springs Road, between Loop 360 and Old Lampasas Trl.
• Springdale Rd. from Ferguson to Breeds Hill Dr.
• Wasson Rd. near S. Congress Ave.
• Waters Park Rd. between 183 and MoPAC

Watershed Protection Department

A watershed is the area of land that drains to a particular location. In Austin, watersheds typically refer to the land draining to one of our larger creeks.

Watershed Youth Education

We have developed a watershed viewer, so it is easy to find out what watershed you live in and to find out its EII score.

AISD 5th grade teachers that have been trained and attended a week of Earth Camp led by City staff may participate in Teacher-Led Earth Camp! To schedule contact Susan Wall

The four Earth Camp Field Guides are available below for you to download. They require Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing. If you are scheduled for Teacher-Led Earth Camp, an Assistant will bring the field trip materials. If you would like to purchase materials, reference the "Materials" PDF file.

Field Trip Guide Contents * required when leading Teacher-Led Earth Camp

Edwards Aquifer/Barton Springs

Scavenger Hunt *only print the Lesson for the Park you will visit

Green Classroom

Macroinvertebrate Activities

McKinney Falls

Weed & Feed

There are some good options that allow you to have beautiful lawns AND clean water.

Lawn Care Solutions

Fertilizer Solutions

Weed Control Solutions

Combined products are usually not a good mix – the best time to treat weeds is NOT usually the best time to fertilize

• Spreading weed killer over the entire lawn is usually overkill
• Some lawn weed killers can stress and damage turf if applied during warm   weather
• Using an herbicide over the entire lawn can harm nearby trees
• Herbicides can be tracked into the house by pets or on shoes

Weed and Feed products include both fertilizers and weed killers. In most cases, using this combined product is environmentally-unsound.

Youth Education - Generation Zero

AISD 5th grade teachers that have been trained and attended a week of Earth Camp led by City staff may participate in Teacher-Led Earth Camp! To schedule contact Susan Wall

The four Earth Camp Field Guides are available below for you to download. They require Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing. If you are scheduled for Teacher-Led Earth Camp, an Assistant will bring the field trip materials. If you would like to purchase materials, reference the "Materials" PDF file.

Field Trip Guide Contents * required when leading Teacher-Led Earth Camp

Edwards Aquifer/Barton Springs

Scavenger Hunt *only print the Lesson for the Park you will visit

Green Classroom

Macroinvertebrate Activities

McKinney Falls

¡Mandemos la basura al bote, Austin!

¿De dónde viene la basura a ir?

  • agua de lluvia lava los contaminantes cuesta abajo hacia el punto más bajo en la zona - el arroyo o lago. La basura es el contaminante más grande y más visible urbana arroyo.

¿Cuánto tiempo dura la última camada?

  • Los científicos han aproximado o la longitud de tiempo diferente tipos de basura por última vez en nuestros vertederos. En muchos casos, la basura se mantiene por más tiempo de lo que hacemos!
Material de duración de tiempo
cigarrillo Butt 2-5 años
Tin Can (sopa / vegetariana) 50-80 años
Latas de aluminio 200-500 años
Jarra de plástico de 1 millón de años
StyrofoamTM Desconocido Copa tal vez para siempre!
Vidrio desconocido Botella tal vez para siempre! Meses bolsas de plástico, cientos de años (medida que se descomponen, pequeños trozos tóxicos filtrarse en los suelos, lagos, ríos y los océanos)
   

 

¿De dónde viene la basura a ir?

  • agua de lluvia lava los contaminantes cuesta abajo hacia el punto más bajo en la zona - el arroyo o lago. La basura es el contaminante más grande y más visible urbana arroyo.

¿Cuánto tiempo dura la última camada?

  • Los científicos han aproximado o la longitud de tiempo diferente tipos de basura por última vez en nuestros vertederos. En muchos casos, la basura se mantiene por más tiempo de lo que hacemos!
Material de duración de tiempo
cigarrillo Butt 2-5 años
Tin Can (sopa / vegetariana) 50-80 años
Latas de aluminio 200-500 años
Jarra de plástico de 1 millón de años
StyrofoamTM Desconocido Copa tal vez para siempre!
Vidrio desconocido Botella tal vez para siempre! Meses bolsas de plástico, cientos de años (medida que se descomponen, pequeños trozos tóxicos filtrarse en los suelos, lagos, ríos y los océanos)
   

 

El agua de la lluvia arrastra la basura al punto más bajo – a los arroyos o a los lagos.   La basura es el contaminante más grande y más  visible de nuestros arroyos en la ciudad.

 

Materiales Hechos
Colillas de cigarrrillos Toman de 2 a 5 años para desintegrarse.  Se considera que un 20% de la basura son las colillas de cigarrillos que contaminan con sus materiales tóxicos nuestra agua.  Si usted fuma, disponga de las colillas de los completamente apagadas en el bote de la basura o en un cenicero. 
Latas de comida (sopa o vegetales) TaToman de 50 a 80 años para desintegrarse.
Latas de aluminio Toman de 200 a 500 años para desintegrarse. Las latas de aluminio que se reciclan se convierten en latas nuevas,  y regresan a las tiendas en 60 días.  ¡Recicle por favor!  
Botellas de plástico Toman un millón de años para desintegrarse y derraman un químico dañino BPA (Bisphenol A) en nuestra agua cuando se desintegran.  Cada año se tiran 26 billones de botellas de plástico.  ¡Por favor recíclelas!
Vasos de Unicel Se desconoce el tiempo que toman en desintegrarse – ¡puede que permanezcan como basura para siempre!  El aceite que se encuentra en los vasos de unicel nunca se descompone.
Botellas de Vidrio Se desconoce el tiempo que toman en desintegrarse – ¡puede que permanezcan como basura para siempre! La energía que se ahorra al reciclar UNA botella de vidrio puede iluminar un foco de luz de 100-watts por cuatro horas, o dar energía a una computadora por 30 minutos.   ¡Por favor recíclelas!
Bolsas de Plástico Toma desde unos meses hasta cientos de años para desintegrarse.  Al desintegrarse las bolsas de plástico dejan partículas tóxicas pequeñísimas que se incrustan en la tierra.  ¡Esas partículas que llegan a los arroyos y los ríos siguen su camino  hasta el Golfo de Mexico!
Excremento de Mascotas El excremento puede contener giardia, lombrices, salmonela, parásitos  y otros virus.  Cuando se deja en el piso, el excremento de las mascotas se convierte en una amenaza para la salud de los humanos e impacta la calidad del agua cuando éste es llevado por la lluvia hacia los arroyos y el río.  ¡Recoja el popó!

 

Los científicos opinan que la basura perdura de acuerdo a los diferentes tipos de ésta.  ¡Muchas veces la basura perdura más tiempo que nosotros!

 

Tipo de Basura                                 Duración
Colillas de cigarro                            2 a 5 años
Latas de sopa o vegetales             50 a 80 años
Latas de aluminio                            200 a 500 años
Envases de plástico                        1 millón de años
Vasos de unicel                                ¡Se desconoce – tal vez para siempre!
Botellas de vidrio                              ¡Se desconoce – tal vez para siempre!
Bolsas de plástico                           Meses – miles de años (al pudrirse los pedacitos se filtran en la
                                                             tierra, los lagos, los ríos y los océanos)

  • Causa contaminación (la descomposición del plástico, colillas de cigarrillos, baterías, aceite de motor, pintura y cualquier otra basura tóxica)
  • Disminuye los niveles de oxígeno al pudrirse en el arroyo
  • Destruye los hábitats acuáticos
  • Daña a los animales que viven en el agua
  • Disminuye el valor de las propiedades
  • Atrae otro tipo de crímenes
  • Le da mal aspecto a la ciudad
  • Le cuesta dinero a los pagadores de impuestos para que se limpie la Ciudad

El viento y la lluvia llevan los contaminantes al arroyo o al lago, los cuales son los puntos más bajos del área.  La basura es el contaminante más grande y visible en los arroyos urbanos.

  • 250 toneladas de basura se eliminan del lago Lady Bird cada año.
  • Más de 7,000 voluntarios recogieron  cerca de 4000 bolsas de basura el año pasado a lo largo de 250 millas de vías pluviales y a través de Keep Austin Beautiful (la Asociación de Mantengamos a Austin Hermoso).
  • Se recogieron más de 6200 toneladas de basura y escombros de las avenidas  – ¡un equivalente a unos 4,150 autos medianos!
  • En el índice de puntuación de la basura, el 29% de los arroyos de Austin han recibido una calificación de  “más o menos” o “malo”.

¡Recoge el Popó!

Para reportar una violación en parques de la Ciudad, áreas públicas, o la propiedad privada, llame al 3-1-1 para más información.
Para informar sobre las condiciones insalubres causadas por la acumulación de desechos de las mascotas en un recinto de animales, póngase en contacto con el Departamento de Salud, 512-972-5600 - Departamento de Salud División de Salud Ambiental.

Ordenanza de la Ciudad

§ 3-4-6 defecación de un perro o gato.

"El dueño o manejador retirará prontamente y sanitariamente deshacerse de las heces que quedan en propiedad pública o privada por un perro o un gato a cargo de la persona, con excepción de los bienes de propiedad por el propietario o gestor del perro o del gato."
Potencial de bien: Hasta $ 500

PET de desecho contiene virus y parásitos que pueden vivir por varios meses. Si no se desechan adecuadamente, desechos de animales representa un riesgo para la salud a la gente y también contamina el agua cuando se lava por la lluvia y el agua de riego en los arroyos y ríos.