The Austin area lies above one of the most productive aquifers in the country, the Edwards Aquifer. However, the aquifer is also very vulnerable to pollution that can travel through porous limestone layers from activities on the surface. 

The Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer stores and moves water from just north of the town of Kyle, north to its major discharge, Barton Springs, located in the heart of Austin. The City of Austin proposed bonds in 1998 that were approved by voters to purchase and manage land in this segment's watershed for water quality protection. Voters have continued to support the Water Quality Protection Lands, approving several more bonds to purchase land to protect water.

The mission of the Water Quality Protection Lands (WQPL) program is to purchase land and conservation easement in the Barton Springs contributing and recharge zone to provide for the conservation and maintain the safety of part of the City's water supply. The objective is to produce the optimum level of clean, high quality water from these lands to recharge the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer. Currently, the WQPL program manages more than 28,000 acres.

Get Involved

The Water Quality Protection Lands offer recreation and education opportunities through the Slaughter Creek Trail and guided hikes and volunteer activities on other parts of the WQPL. Community groups, including Austin Ridge Riders, have worked to plan, build, and manage the public Slaughter Creek Trail on the WQPL’s Mary Gay Maxwell Management Unit. Learn more by visiting the Slaughter Creek Trail Facebook page. Sign up for guided hike and volunteer events on other parts of the WQPL at

  • Learn more about the WQPL at