NewsDrop July 2023

The EAA Newsdrop Magazine is a publication where you can learn about the latest EAA initiatives.

THE DROUGHT, HERE AND NOW Balanced, science-based approach for a sustainable aquifer.

ISSUE 3 - JULY 2023



The EAA was created to manage the aquifer such that enough water remains in the system to sustain uninterrupted flows emanating from the two major springs – Comal and San Marcos. EAA GENERAL MANAGER’S MESSAGE DURING TIMES OF DROUGHT



Aquifer Storge and Recovery, known as ASR, involves the treatment and injection of clean water into a suitable aquifer for temporary storage and subsequent recovery.

PAGE 10 Over 200 supporters of the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) gathered to celebrate ‘the magic of water’ at a fundraising event benefiting the Edwards Aquifer Conservancy.

More than a month after celebrating its one-year anniversary, the Education and Outreach Center (EOC) is thriving – the number of visitors already surpassed that of 2022.




The Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) has been taking a proactive approach to giving our rain clouds a nudge to be more productive. For over 20 years, the EAA has been involved with a Precipitation Enhancement Program (PEP), also known as cloud seeding. Page 6 . PRECIPITATION ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM (PEP)

Piper PA-24 Comanche airplane used for cloud seeding operations.


San Marcos River.



An aquifer conditions update is reported every month at the EAA board meeting to inform board members and the public about the status of the J-17 Index Well, J-27 Index Well, the Comal Springs and the San Marcos Springs springflows. These index wells and springs are indicators of the health of the aquifer and critical to drought management.

The EAA board meeting takes place every second Tuesday of the month at 4:00 P.M. You can watch the meetings on Facebook Live or click the link below:



By : Roland Ruiz


During times of drought, as we’ve had over the past couple of years, we tend to focus on quantity rather than quality of water in the Edwards Aquifer. And we are justified in doing so because our agency was created to manage the aquifer such that enough water remains in the system to sustain uninterrupted flows emanating from the two major springs – Comal and San Marcos. However, we mustn’t lose sight of the importance of the quality of water in the system and pulsing out of the aquifer through the springs. Having enough water means little if the quality of that water available is compromised beyond its usefulness. So, we strive to achieve both quantity and quality in our effort to manage, enhance and protect the Edwards Aquifer system. They are both necessary to complete the equation of a sustainable aquifer over the long term, and they each must be quantified through sound scientific analysis.

As we look to the future, maintaining this balanced, science-based approach becomes even more important as we anticipate the effects of potentially more extreme weather patterns (drought and flood) due to a changing climate and the unintended consequences of growing population spreading into the aquifer’s vast watershed areas (contributing and recharge zones). This approach is at the core of our “Next Generation, and Beyond” vision. It is premised on the idea that we can leverage the success of our established regulatory programs to establish new, non-regulatory approaches aimed at building partnerships around imaginative thinking about how we manage, enhance and protect the aquifer in more inclusive and innovative ways that hold value for everyone.


These include holistic approaches such as land and soil conservation practices in the most sensitive parts of the contributing and recharge zones to protect and, where possible, enhance both the quality and quantity of naturally occurring recharge to the aquifer. But we must also quantify the benefits of such practices through science and sound data to help qualify the value of this approach for economic development and natural resource protection. Science must lead the way into the future, just as it has helped lead us thus far – from drought to drought and in between – to a more secure and sustainable water resource for all users and uses across our region.

Texas Wild-rice in San Marcos River.

WATCH : Drought Management Message from EAA GM Roland Ruiz watch?v=Oqpv0r_i2eE&t=130s



Whether you’re a water utility, a farmer, or a homeowner, you probably spend a lot of time watching the local weather channel hoping for good news about rainfall during a drought. Well, the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) has been taking a proactive approach to giving our rain clouds a nudge to be more productive. For over 20 years, the EAA has been involved with a Precipitation Enhancement Program (PEP), also known as cloud seeding, by partnering with the Evergreen Underground Water Conservation District (UWCD) to perform cloud seeding operations. The actual cloud seeding is performed by the South Texas Weather Modification Association (STWMA) over Bandera, Medina, Uvalde counties and the outskirts of Bexar County. STWMA is a non-profit organization committed to enhancing rainfall across the South Texas region and is one of five permitted weather modification projects for rain enhancement in the state of Texas. STWMA is headquartered in Pleasanton Texas and its staff meteorologist, Bria Hieatt, surveils the skies for convective storm cells over the EAA’s target area. STWMA airplane pilots stationed in Pleasanton and Uvalde County are directed by Ms. Hieatt on which storm cells need to be seeded during the months of April to September. PEPs are not designed to create rain, but rather, they enhance developing storm cells. A standard cloud seeding operation involves pilots flying Piper Comanche type planes into storm clouds. Using flares, the pilots deposit Silver Iodide or Calcium Chloride materials into the supercooled region of the storm cells.

By : Javier Hernandez, EAA Special Programs Liaison and Marc Friberg, EAA Deputy General Manager



Airplane in action burning silver iodide flares into a storm cell.

Once absorbed into the cloud, the bonding agent forms several ice crystal nuclei by attracting water molecules. Once they become heavy enough, they become rainfall. In 2022, 57 clouds were seeded over EAA targeted counties, and a total of 0.77 inch of additional rainfall was produced. This additional rainfall equated to 283,500 acre feet of additional rainwater and 3,199 acre feet of additional aquifer recharge. Since 2004, a total of 14.13 extra inches of rainfall resulted from the existing PEP, translating into 3,755,200 acre-feet, an average of 197,642 acre-feet per year.


Since its inception, the cost benefit of this program is about $0.70 per acre-foot of additional rainfall and in the last ten years, the cost was approximately $32 per acre-foot of additional recharge making it one of the cheapest programs in the EAA’s conservation/ replenishment toolbox. While the results are not drought-breaking, one extra inch of rainfall is beneficial. In 2014 a cost-benefit analysis was completed by Dr. Jason L. Johson from Texas A&M University, and he determined that weather modification has a significant economic impact on EAA counties. One additional inch of rainfall increased dryland crop revenues, increased cost savings on irrigated acres, and increased grazing land values. At that time the direct economic impact for the EAA target area alone was over $2.6 million.

Piper PA-24 Comanche airplane used for cloud seeding.



Figure 1.

By : Jennifer Adkins Schudrowitz, EAA Aquifer Science Research Supervisor


Aquifer Storage and Recovery, known as ASR, involves the treatment and injection of clean water into a suitable aquifer for temporary storage and subsequent recovery. ASR is generally used to store water during times when rainfall is plentiful, and then the stored water is used during drought. New Braunfels Utilities (NBU) is evaluating ASR (NBU-ASR) in the brackish portion of the Edwards Aquifer. The NBU-ASR Project area is located near the New Braunfels regional airport in Guadalupe County, approximately 5.8 miles east–southeast of Comal Springs (Figure 1) . NBU is targeting a total storage volume that it estimates would be sufficient for use during a severe Edwards Aquifer drought. The NBU-ASR also includes a volume of water to form a “buffer zone” which, ideally, works to prevent the migration of stored injection water during recovery and keeps the surrounding native brackish water out of the recovered water (Figure 2) .

In 2017, the EAA and NBU entered into an Interlocal Cooperative Contract (ICC) authorizing NBU to recharge, store, and recover water from the ASR pending results of a phased investigation demonstrating both the continued feasibility of the project and no unacceptable impacts to Comal Springs flow or Edwards Aquifer freshwater quality. The ICC promotes an effective cooperative approach, and it clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of the operator (NBU) and regulator (EAA) with respect to monitoring and mitigation of potential adverse effects from the ASR. The NBU-ASR project is a multi-phase project. Phase I (the Preliminary Work Phase) was conducted over a period of almost three years and involved efforts to collect detailed information concerning the hydrogeologic suitability of the target storage horizon(s) and to further characterize the brackish portion of the aquifer. Phase I was completed in August 2020. Phase II (the Demonstration Well Phase) involves the permitting, design, construction, and cycle testing of NBU’s demonstration well (ASR-D1) and the design, construction, and observation of up to three additional monitoring wells.

NBU Groundbreaking Ceremony.


Figure 2.

Phase II effectively began with cycle-1 testing in October 2020 and is projected to extend through 2024. ASR cycle testing is a long-term testing plan in which about 10% of the planned total storage volume is injected in stages which are followed by subsequent periods of withdrawal. For the NBU-ASR project, there are three planned cycles, each completed within approximately one calendar year. The cycle testing process for the NBU-ASR project will end with cycle-3 recovery and will ideally result in an established freshwater “bubble” in the target storage zone with a surrounding buffer of mixed water. Cycle-3 recharge began in January 2023. To date, the aquifer has responded to cycle-testing as expected based on historical data and hydraulic response modeling. Phase III (the ASR Project Expansion Phase) will begin no earlier than January 2026 and would involve expansion into a full-scale ASR facility. Monitoring of the Aquifer system and the NBU-ASR, which was implemented at the start of Phase II, will be maintained through the end of testing and beyond if the project is fully developed. Distinguishing between system-wide (non-ASR) changes and ASR-related changes in the Aquifer is critical to effectively monitoring and mitigating potential adverse impacts to the freshwater zone and Comal Springs.

The EAA and NBU have worked collaboratively to establish a monitoring strategy that accounts for non-ASR pressure changes so that potential ASR-related problems can be identified, while non-ASR-related effects do not hinder operations by triggering unwarranted mitigation responses. The two main components relevant to the NBU-ASR monitoring program are water levels and water quality. Sensitive water quality and pressure parameters with known temporal stability are monitored in near real-time. Thus, the monitoring system is capable of indicating aquifer system changes with enough time to effectively implement any needed mitigation measures. The near real time water level and conductivity monitoring is supplemented with annual to bi-annual water quality sampling of monitoring wells. The EAA encourages a wide range of aquifer management and conservation strategies to enable sustainable management of the Edwards Aquifer. Evaluation and development of the NBU-ASR is ongoing and the EAA will continue to provide regulatory oversight and work collaboratively with NBU as they conscientiously develop and explore alternate supply sources in support of long-term water management objectives.


NBU’s first ASR well.



About That Night It Rained A Thousand Drops…

By : Nikki Young, EAA Senior Community Engagement Administrator

On the morning of May 13, 2023, our award-winning rainwater harvesting system at the Edwards Aquifer Authority Education Outreach Center (EOC) was in full effect. By evening, the skies cleared as over 200 supporters of the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) gathered to celebrate ‘the magic of water’ at the Night of a Thousand Drops, the inaugural signature fundraising event benefiting the Edwards Aquifer Conservancy (EAC), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with the sole purpose of supporting the critical work the EAA does to manage, enhance, and protect our Edwards Aquifer. The enchanting evening that produced a STORM of engaging entertainment, delicious food, a salacious water tasting, and a SHOWER of great conversation and inspiration was held at the EOC at Morgan’s Wonderland Camp, which was the perfect setting for an event dedicated to the conversation of our most precious resource. Mother Nature seemed to be putting on its own show of support, after rains fell in the morning, but ceased by the time attendees arrived who were determined to support the raising of much-needed funds for the EAC. All agreed that the stormy weather served as a reminder of the importance of ground water and the journey that each rain drop makes to benefit us all. As the night progressed, the DOWNPOUR of donations continued like a steady rain through winning super silent auction bids, wishing well pledges, and via sales of our “heads or tails” game, fine water pull, and live watercolor portraits. In addition to subsidizing guest admissions to the EOC, 100% of the proceeds raised from the event will carry out all EAA-authorized programs, projects, and special initiatives.

In addition to showing monetary support, gala guests had the chance to explore over a dozen interactive exhibits and learn about the groundbreaking research and conservation efforts for our “Next Generation” plan that will positively impact our community for years to come, as well as applaud recipients of the first ever Edwards Aquifer Champion awards. In conclusion, the Night of a Thousand Drops was a resounding success that demonstrated the power of community and the unwavering commitment of individuals and organizations to be stewards of the Edwards Aquifer. A huge debt of gratitude goes towards the sponsors, donors, staff, and volunteers who made it all possible. Those unable to attend, but would still like to show your support can either make a donation online or by mail to:

Participating for the third year, the Edwards Aquifer Conservancy was awarded $10,000 for its fundraising efforts during the past year. Champions fore Charity is an integral fundraising element of the Valero Texas Open, the annual PGA Golf Tournament held in April at the TPC Golf Course of the JW Marriott in San Antonio, Texas. Nonprofit organizations such as the Conservancy are encouraged to raise funds and have them matched with a 7 percent gift incentive. 151 charities participated in 2023, with the overall gift incentive payout for all organizations coming in at $14 million. “We’re extremely pleased to be part of the Champions fore Charity event,” says Mike De La Garza, Executive Director of the Edwards Aquifer Conservancy. “We’re able to leverage the funds we raise, and increase them, because the 7 percent match makes every gift that much more valuable. We thank Valero Energy and Champions fore Charity for everything they do!” EDWARDS AQUIFER CONSERVANCY NETS $10,000 FROM 2023 CHAMPIONS FORE CHARITY FUNDRAISING

Edwards Aquifer Conservancy C/O Nikki Young 900 E. Quincy San Antonio, TX 78215


Attendees gathered to celebrate.




Fine water sampling at the Gala.



GOALS FOR GUIDANCE The Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan (EAHCP) is currently in the process of renewing the Incidental Take Permit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As part of that process, the existing components of the EAHCP conservation strategy needed to be reassessed, new elements recommended, and modifications discussed. The Biological Goals Subcommittee was asked to not only reexamine the current EAHCP biological goals but also to create a big picture for other subcommittees to work toward. “This was a bit of a different type of exercise for this subcommittee,” noted Kevin Mayes, Chief of Inland Fisheries Science and Policy at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We were challenged with taking a step back and a broader view in developing the biological goals that would lead to specific objectives developed by another group to meet the overarching goals,” Mayes said. In doing so, we had four tasks to complete,” Mayes continued, “We were to read and understand the current federal handbook that guides HCP planning, eview the existing EAHCP biological goals, make recommendations on changes in direction for existing biological goals and then finalize a report that all ITP renewal contractors, stakeholders and committees could work from,” said Mayes.

By : Olivia Ybarra, EAA Habitat Conservation Program Coordinator II

Fountain Darter.

Subcommittee colleague, Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Texas State University, Dr. Kimberly Meitzen, added that the first set of biological goals were developed under different guidelines created by a large coalition of HCP stakeholders prior to the EAHCP’s implementation. “In staying true to how the first set of biological goals were advanced, it was important for us to replicate that diverse set of viewpoints represented on the subcommittee,” said Meitzen. “While we did pare down the number of committee members, we had representatives from the San Marcos River Foundation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas State University, City of San Marcos and two current EAHCP Science Committee members,” Meitzen said, “Ultimately, our committee landed on creating species specific and habitat-based goals.” As an example of the broader type of thinking this report encompassed, Mayes pointed out that Goal #1 of the report addressed the water quality and quantity needed to maintain habitats for endangered species and the protection of other ecosystem elements such as aquatic and riparian vegetation. He said there were no individual species identified, but rather the entire group of protected animals living in the Edwards Aquifer fed habitats in New Braunfels and San Marcos.


Biological Goals Developed by Subcommittee Members

Goal 1: Conserve the quality and quantity of springflow and maintain suitable ecosystems within the Plan Area to provide for the resiliency of the Covered Species. Goal 2: Promote community engagement and awareness of the EAHCP, support land and water conservation, and mitigate anthropogenic stressors and natural disturbances within the Plan Area that will benefit the Covered Species. Goal 3: Conserve habitats, diverse native submerged aquatic vegetation assemblages, and resilient fountain darter populations in the Comal and San Marcos spring and river systems. Goal 4: Conserve and manage resilient Texas wild rice populations in the San Marcos spring and river system. populations of Texas blind salamander, Comal Springs dryopid beetle, Peck’s cave amphipod, Edwards Aquifer diving beetle, and Texas troglobitic water slater in the Plan Area. Goal 6: Conserve habitats to support resilient Comal Springs riffle beetle populations in the Plan Area. Goal 7: Conserve San Marcos spring and river habitats and resilient San Marcos salamander populations in the Plan Area. Goal 5: Conserve habitats to support resilient

San Marcos Salamander.

Meitzen added that the current Springflow Protections Measures are critical conservation strategies being successfully utilized to protect species during droughts. The committee ensured that those key program elements had a place to integrate into the ITP renewal application. Goal #2 stands out from the others in that the direct human impact on environmentally sensitive habitats is addressed. The Biological Goals Subcommittee considered the mitigation of these impacts important to incorporate as a biological goal due to the expected increase in the human population surrounding the Edwards Aquifer and spring systems. “Creating awareness and engaging citizens in the EAHCP work is essential if we expect the scientific work to be pursued properly,” Meitzen said, “All community members can play an active role in conserving water from the Edwards Aquifer, especially when we’re in drought conditions like we’ve experienced over the past couple of years. In the Comal and San Marcos Springs communities, we have to seriously look at how recreation affects the ecosystem. The committee wanted to ensure that these programs continue and have some room for expansion. That was our thinking for Goal 2.” “The EAHCP staff, led by Olivia Ybarra, really helped keep us focused on constructing the big picture for the report’s goals as well as helping us manage time by providing recaps of the meetings,” Meitzen said, “The work sessions were efficient and effective due to Chairman Mark Enders’ leadership and the committee members very much appreciate all the behind the scenes work that got us to a solid biological goals report,” Meitzen said. “From a big picture standpoint, the EAHCP is fundamentally the most important decision making and implementation tool that exists for conserving Edwards Aquifer spring flow and the species populations and habitats that are dependent on this precious resource. The ongoing work involved in the Incidental Take Permit renewal process is critically important to protecting and managing this resource for future generations including the region’s growing population and all the karst, aquatic, and riparian life forms dependent on Edwards Aquifer spring flow,” Meitzen concluded.

Biological Goals Subcommittee Members: Chair, Mark Enders (Stakeholder Committee); Rachel Sanborn (Stakeholder Committee); Kimberly Meitzen (Stakeholder Committee); Kevin Mayes (Stakeholder Committee); Jacquelyn Duke (Science Committee); Charlie Kreitler (Science Committee).



Students enjoy the new pavilion.


More than a month after celebrating its one-year anniversary, the Education and Outreach Center (EOC) is thriving. Not only has the number of visitors already surpassed that of 2022, but we have expanded and innovated our programming and celebrated special events. One such special event was our celebration of Endangered Species Day in May. Our mascot, Karston the Texas Blind Salamander, made an appearance at the EOC to welcome guests. Children and adults alike broke into smiles at Karston’s waves and high fives. But this was only the beginning of the fun. Throughout the day, guests of Endangered Species Day participated in various activities. Activities included 1) exploring our hands-on exhibits, including our cloud caster and aquariums, 2) painting Aqui-flags, 3) completing a scavenger hunt for native plants and animals, and 4) observing the chemical reaction of acid on limestone. A school group of 100 students also visited on Endangered Species Day. It was a busy day. In fact, the entirety of May has been incredibly busy. In May alone, the EOC received over 1200 students on field trips. It has been the EOC’s busiest month and the education team on-site has handled it magnificently. Students leave with smiles on their faces and the words this was fun.

By : Sarah Valdez, EAA Senior STEAM Outreach Educator


Art activities with EOC volunteers.

1. Non-reader Scavenger Hunt In a continued initiative to be accessible to all ages and ability lev els, we have introduced a scavenger hunt for non-readers. A visual map around the building leads to exciting discoveries, such as thermometers, native plants, and limestone! This scavenger hunt highlights the same items as our scavenger hunt for read ers, allowing everyone to participate. 2. Outdoor Pavilion and Hike A short 5-10 minute hike behind the EOC, we have a new pavilion. The pavilion is located in the Field Research Park. Students have a rare opportunity to enter an area that is actively being researched. Once at the pavilion, students engage with the scientific method, observing their surroundings and asking questions. What might provide a suitable habitat for a lizard? A bird? 3. New Programming: Live Animal Interaction with Tom Kinsey and Puppet Show by The Astonishing Mr. Pitts Two new programs have been incorporated into the EOC field trip experience. A) Tom Kinsey from Learn Nature leads students in interactions with live animals such as rat snakes, doves, and even cockroaches, B) The Astonishing Mr. Pitts performs a puppet magic show. Science is woven into each trick and the magic word is, of course, Aquifun! 4. A Night of a Thousand Drops Gala In May, the EOC hosted its first gala. It was a fun-filled evening of native animal interactions, fine water tasting, and silent auctions. One lucky winner even came away with Spurs tickets and signed jerseys. Thank you so much to everyone who came out for the gala. We really appreciate the support! With the close of the school year, the number of school visits will drop some, but we expect and hope to receive many guests throughout the summer. The EOC will be open Monday-Fridays and the first and third Saturdays of the month. Our education team looks forward to welcoming you!

Schedule a visit:



The EOC Native Plant Demonstration Garden is in full bloom. Recent rains have ensured that all the colorful plants are ready for the summer. In the spring, Volunteers from the Alamo Area Texas Master Naturalist chapter swooped in to prune back all the dead plant matter left from the winter and even moved some plants around to accommodate for new growth. Volunteer Nicki Apostolow removed some of the Cedar Sage which was taking over and did a quick check-up on all the other plants around the EOC. A patio planter which was falling apart was removed to prepare for a dry hot summer. Volunteers will be back at the end of the season to collect seeds and prep the garden for a winter slumber. Texas Bear Grass, which was sparse in the garden, had to be moved because it was being crowded out by Cedar Sage. A new Nolina Texana (Texas Bear Grass), which is sometimes hard to find in nurseries, was introduced bringing the number of specimens in the garden up to three. The only plant that never quite took off was the Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) and it has been hard to find. It will be reintroduced to the EOC Native Plant Garden soon. Of special interest in the garden this month was the abundance of “walking stick” insects and katydids. The hardy little insects amazed crowds of school children who marveled at the size and camouflage ability of these creatures. The walking sticks seemed to prefer hiding in the Buckeye and Mexican Plum trees in the garden while the katydids clung to the walls of the building. A new decorative wishing well has been placed into the garden. The wishing well was put together by EOC staff and originally created for the Night of a Thousand Drops Gala held on May 13, 2023. It will now reside in the EOC Native Plant Demonstration Garden. The 20,000 gallon rainwater catchment system remains at least ¾ full ensuring that there will be enough water to sustain the EOC Native Plant Demonstration Garden through the summer and beyond. Look for new signage and an interpretive map to adorn the walls of the EOC this summer. Visitors will be able to identify the plants using a series of colorful botanical illustrations. Be sure to visit the EOC Native Plant Demonstration Garden this summer for your garden inspiration!

Cedar Sage.

Edwards Aquifer Authority 900 E Quincy St • San Antonio, TX, 78215

WATCH : Click QR code or go to Hosts Ann-Margaret and Brent hit the road to interview Robert Mace, in San Marcos,TX, aboard a glass bottom boat!


The mission of the EAA is to Manage, Enhance and Protect the Edwards Aquifer. The Edwards Aquifer Authority is a regional water management agency that regulates with integrity, transparency, respect, and commitment to sustainability of the aquifer. NewsDrop is a production of the EAA Communications and Development Department with helpful assistance from the following EAA Staff: Brent Doty; Damon Childs; Javier Hernandez; Jennifer Adkins-Schudrowitz; Marc Friberg; Mark Hamilton; Olivia Ybarra; Paul Bertetti; Roland Ruiz; Scott Storment.


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