Pristine Streams

Home 5 Our Work 5 Water Resources 5 Pristine Streams
An aerial photograph shows a dramatic view of a massive gravel mine rising out of the woods next to a neighborhood and natural scenery - like a tan-colored scar on the land.

Clean, clear pristine rivers and streams in Texas support the state’s vibrant tourism and recreation-based economies and contribute known value to the lands that surround them, both public and private. Wastewater is the last thing we need in our remaining pristine streams.

Currently, advocates are working on a strategy to change the rules at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the entity in charge of overseeing environmental regulations. With a new rule in place to protect the specified stream segments, applicants who once may have sought a wastewater discharge permit will be directed to apply for a Texas Land Application Permit (TLAP) and to consider the addition of a Chapter 210 Reuse Authorization for one or more other beneficial uses.

The rule would protect several of the Hill Country’s most iconic streams, including portions of the Blanco, Llano, and Nueces Rivers, as well as smaller streams like Barton, Cypress, and Hondo Creeks. Supported by landowners, community groups, conservationists and local governments, this proposal is a fair, balanced and necessary action to protect the last pristine streams in Texas.

Timeline of recent advocacy for Texas’ Pristine Streams

TCEQ Commissioners sit at the front of the room during the meeting on March 30, 2022 - Credit: Sydney Beckner

Photo of TCEQ Commissioners at dais during the public hearing on the Pristine Streams Petition on March 30, 2022. – Credit: Sydney Beckner

2022 – Rules Change Petition

October: Potential TCEQ rules change could smooth the path for water reuse in Texas. On September 22, the Commission voted to approve publication of a rulemaking that would “amend Section 210.5 related to the requirements to obtain an authorization for the use of reclaimed water. This change would clarify under Section 210.5(a) that an application to obtain an authorization under Chapter 210 may be submitted concurrently or any time after submittal of an application for a permit to treat and dispose of wastewater.”

We have a long way to go to conserving, protecting, and even enhancing our water resources all across the Hill Country—especially when it comes to the discharge of treated wastewater into pristine streams. But the good news is that the collective voices of so many Hill Country residents and landowners calling for the conservation of water resources are being heard in Austin!

August : A public meeting has been scheduled to discuss a path forward to protect the less than 1% of pristine stream segments in the state.

March : At the public hearing on the Pristine Streams Petition, the TCEQ Commissioners heard testimony from a number of concerned citizens across the state on how protecting these few remaining streams is important. However, the Commissioner’s ultimately denied the Petition in a 2-1 vote, but as Chairman Jon Niermann acknowledged during the meeting, “The waters at issue here are state treasures,” and opened his door to a public meeting just on this topic. HCA and our partners have taken the Chairman up on his offer and look forward to the meeting scheduled in August of this year.

January : A broad coalition of landowners and advocacy organizations filed a petition to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to accept a new rule that prohibits wastewater discharge into 22 stream segments where the addition of phosphorus will degrade water quality. A public hearing was scheduled for March.

2021 – Legislative efforts

During the 86th Texas Legislative session, HB 4146, known as the “Pristine Streams Bill”, unanimously passed the House Committee on Environmental Regulation with bipartisan support. Unfortunately, the bill championed by Rep. Tracy King and supported broadly by environmental and landowner organizations, died in Calendars without being heard in the Senate. While this effort failed to become law, this bill made it further than any previous bill on wastewater discharge ever had, a success worth celebrating.

Learn More

Wastewater is the last thing we need in our pristine streams!

Clean, clear pristine rivers and streams in Texas support the state’s vibrant tourism and recreation-based economies and contribute known value to the lands that surround them, both public and private.

Sky Lewey River Protection Fund

Sky Marshal Jones-Lewey (May 26, 1958 – May 31, 2022) dedicated her life, work, and passion to protecting Texas’s rivers and in doing so, touched the hearts and minds of thousands of Texas landowners, paddlers, and river advocates. Several important campaigns that Sky championed remain unrealized. One of the most urgent is to protect Texas’ few remaining pristine streams. In partnership with Sky’s incredible family, including her children Jeff and Julie Lewey, the Hill Country Alliance established the Sky Lewey River Protection Fund. This fund will be used to ensure that Sky’s legacy continues and the work to protect her Nueces River – and all the rivers of our state – carries on.

“Everything we do on the land is eventually reflected in a river. That’s why it’s so important to think about the whole landscape, how big and little pieces fit together.”

– Sky Lewey

Geographic map shows all the rivers and streams segments in Texas with segments that would be covered by the proposed petition in dark blue.

If proposed new rules are accepted, the stream segments shown in dark blue would be protected from further degradation due to wastewater discharge. Map by Robin Gary, Wimberley Valley Watershed Association.

Explore affected stream segments

The map at left highlights 22 stream segments and 1,373 miles of natural, pristine waterways. These are some of Texas’ most beloved places and are in need of protection. The below stream segments would be covered under the new rule change petition. These stream segments deserve special protection because they naturally carry very low levels of phosphorus. The addition of even highly treated domestic wastewater effluent carries levels of phosphorous and other nutrients that far exceed the natural levels found in these Texas streams.

  • North Fork Red River
  • South Fork San Gabriel River
  • North Fork San Gabriel River
  • Llano River
  • Middle Concho/South Concho River Onion Creek
  • Barton Creek
  • Lower Blanco River
  • Upper Blanco River
  • Cypress Creek
  • Johnson Creek
  • North Fork Guadalupe River
  • South Fork Guadalupe River Medina River above Medina Lake Upper Sabinal River
  • Upper Nueces River
  • Upper Frio River
  • Hondo Creek
  • Seco Creek
  • Devils River
  • Lower Pecos River
  • San Felipe Creek

Past Advocacy on Pristine Streams

email banner shows a man kayaking a clear river on a bright, sunny daySubmit a comment for Pristine Streams today!

The TCEQ Commissioners meet Wednesday, March 30 to make a decision on the Pristine Stream Petition. Make sure they hear from you! Filed January 31, this petition requests the TCEQ to accept a new rule that prohibits wastewater discharge into 22 stream segments where the addition of phosphorus will degrade water quality.

hidden

Resolutions of Support

On March 8, 2022 the City of Blanco approved a resolution in support of the Pristine Streams Petition.

On March 8, 2022 Edwards County approved a resolution in support of the Pristine Streams Petition.

On March 14, 2022 Real County approved a resolution in support of the Pristine Streams Petition.

On March 15, 2022 the City of Bandera approved a resolution in support of the Pristine Streams Petition.

 

Recent Water Quality News

An ode to Texas’s disappearing swimming holes

I lived through the golden age of Texas swimming holes. Having spent my youth submerged in chlorinated pools in and around Fort Worth, I moved to Austin in 1973 and discovered Hippie Hollow before it was a county park and Barton Creek before a mining executive...

read more

Opinion: It’s time for a water session at the Legislature

There are now over 30 million Texans. The state crossed that landmark in mid-2022, gaining the most new residents of any state in the nation, with projections of an additional 25 million people living in Texas by 2050. All that growth is taking its toll on the state’s...

read more

How to prevent the next water crisis

Cities and farmers in Central Texas used to pump groundwater from the Edwards Aquifer much more freely—draining local springs and rivers and depriving several endangered species of a habitat. In the 1990s, the Sierra Club sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on...

read more