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Correction: This email contains a correction to the update on Pristine Streams. While we initially shared a 5 mcg/L stat, the Administrative Law Judge actually approved 50 mcg/L which is not protective of pristine water quality.
- Marisa Bruno, Water Program Manager
Icy oak trees in San Marcos - photo courtesy of Leah Cuddeback

Water Program Updates - February 2023

We're only two weeks into February, and we've already seen a major freeze event, progress on Pristine Streams, and a new water fund announced at the legislature. Meanwhile, drought continues to impact our rivers and springs, and residents in communities like Vanderpool are speaking up about the potential impacts of new developments on aquifer levels. 

As far as events go, it's shaping up to be a busy year and we hope you'll join us in the coming weeks. We are still looking for partners to host events for the Spring Water Revival - so please contact us if you are interested. For more updates, events, and resources, read on below!

Updates and Announcements

Updates on Pristine Streams

On February 8th, the TCEQ Commissioners made two decisions that impact Pristine Streams in Texas.

The first decision involved the Liberty Hill discharge permit and contested case hearing. Following a recommendation from the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that Liberty Hill amend its phosphorus limit to 50 micrograms per liter based on reasonably available technology, the TCEQ commissioners noted that the recommendation failed to account for phosphorus levels that would be protective of the South San Gabriel River. The case has been sent back to the ALJ so that they might determine a limit that is protective. The good news is that this decision signals a shift in thinking at the TCEQ. The bad news is that it unfairly burdens residents with the task of providing (and funding) their own expert witnesses who can speak to protective limits on phosphorus. 

Second, the TCEQ Commissioners unanimously approved a rule change to allow an applicant to apply for a 210 reuse permit at the same time as either a direct discharge (TPDES) or land application (TLAP) wastewater permit. In the words of HCA partner Margo Denke, “this change saves the applicant time in the permitting process, and brings the issue of beneficial reuse to consideration for all applicants right from the start.”

Read more about the decisions from the February 8th hearing in this update from Friends of Hondo Canyon's Margo Denke:

2023 Spring Water Revival

HCA has begun its planning for the second annual Spring Water Revival – a month-long, springtime celebration of water in the Hill Country. HCA will be working with partners across the region to encourage grassroots action in local communities, sharing graphic resources, and helping to make this year even bigger.

We would love to feature more local water-focused events and activities from our partner organizations, such as creek-side picnics, storytelling events and contests, river clean-ups, and educational presentations or panels. If you are interested in hosting or supporting a Spring Water Revival event, please contact HCA’s Water Program Manager, Marisa Bruno at
Image: Click to learn more about the Spring Water Revival.

Upcoming Events

TexS Event + Texas Water Symposium

Wednesday, February 22 |  6:30PM-7:30PM
Join us in person at Schreiner University in Kerrville for a panel discussion on the impacts of drought in the Hill Country. The panel will be led by Tara Bushnoe of the Upper Guadalupe River Authority, and feature business owners Bénédicte Rhyne and Bob Barker, as well as Bandera River Authority and Groundwater District manager Dave Mauk. 
Learn more and register here.

2023 Central Texas Water Conservation Symposium

Wednesday, February 22 |  8:00AM-3:30PM
Join our partners at Central Texas Water Efficiency Network for a symposium that provides water utilities with the information needed to implement successful water conservation programs, effectively engage customers, and plan for the future.
Learn more and register here.

Gathering of Grassroots Water Advocates

Friday, March 24 | 10AM-4PM
The next gathering of grassroots water advocates will take place in Kerrville on March 24th. This biannual event brings together local groups working on water issues for a day of learning, networking, and strategizing. If you're interested in attending this event, please email


Navigating the TCEQ Wastewater Permitting Process

Wastewater is one of the biggest challenges facing the Hill Country’s pristine streams. New and growing entities producing and treating wastewater – from new housing developments to youth camps – need wastewater disposal permits from TCEQ in order to discharge treated wastewater into rivers, apply it to land for irrigation, or reuse it for other purposes. TCEQ has a public participation process for new and amended permit applications, but that process can be confusing and difficult to navigate.

If you want to learn what to do when a new wastewater discharge permit is coming to your part of the Hill Country, check out the video and links on our website.
Click above to watch the recording of the February 1st webinar with Lauren Ice on the TCEQ Wastewater Permitting Process.

Funding Guide for Investing in Water Infrastructure

In our last newsletter, we shared a paper that we co-wrote with the Texas Living Waters Project about the State Revolving Funding and an accompanying 2-minute highlight video. As a reminder, Project Information Forms for this next round of funding are due March 3rd, and HCA is available as a resource to those communities considering applying. 

There are many other funding sources for water infrastructure beyond the SRF. The Texas Water Infrastructure Coordination Committee created a comprehensive TWICC Funding Resources Guide that can help communities locate the right funding source. 

New Report: Flawed Groundwater Planning in Texas

A new report by Vanessa Puig-Williams of Environmental Defense Fund and Carlos Rubenstein, Former Chairman of the Texas Water Development Board and Commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental, looks at the history of Texas' regional groundwater planning process, and some of its flaws.

Beyond making the case for additional funding, increased scientific resources, and better protections for streams and landowners, the report serves as a useful guide for folks looking to better understand the groundwater planning process. Click here to read more from our Partners at Environmental Defense Fund.

What We're Reading

Our next water program newsletter will be published in March. If there are any events, resources, or articles you'd like us to share, please don't hesitate to reach out. 
Thanks for reading!
Marisa Bruno, Water Program Manager
Hill Country Alliance
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