The Pedernales River flows over 100 miles from Kimble County until it merges with the Colorado River at Lake Travis. It covers a watershed area of nearly 1,300 square miles, across six Central Texas counties — Kimble, Kerr, Gillespie, Blanco, Hays and Travis. It supplies drinking water for thousands of people. It fosters a sensitive ecological system — including 19 rare plant species and dozens of fish species. It also feeds numerous watering holes and recreation areas, including nearly 9,000 acres of parkland, in areas such as Hamilton Pool Preserve, Milton Reimer’s Ranch Park, Westcave Preserve, Pedernales Falls State Park, LBJ National Historic Park and others.
The Pedernales River is at a cross-road as rapid growth in the Austin region spreads west into the Hill Country and extended droughts and potential climate change reduce rainfall, recharge, and spring flow, negatively affecting the river’s character and health.
Some studies have been conducted on the Pedernales, but 1962 was the last time a comprehensive evaluation was made — over 50 years ago. Obviously, a lot has occurred in half a century. That’s why The Meadows Center coordinated a long needed research project on the Pedernales River watershed as part of a broader program to answer the question: “How Much Water is in the Hill Country?”
With funding from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, The Meadows Center and local volunteers conducted a “blitz” at 931 sites encompassing the entire Pedernales River - from west of Fredericksburg to east of Johnson City – to learn about the surface and groundwater resources and the threats to the watershed’s continued sustainability in the summer of 2015.
The Hydro-Blitz was followed up by intensive water quality testing at 100 sites chosen from the initial 931 sites. A 32 ounce water sample was taken from each site and submitted to the Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center/Texas State Department of Biology laboratory for analysis by graduate student Saj Zappitello and Biology professor Dr. Benjamin Schwartz. They analyzed each sample’s water chemistry and evaluated water quality indicators. See resources below for a link to Saj Zappitello's report.
After the second sampling was complete, The Meadows Center’s staff analyzed the data to create a detailed report of their findings. The report is now available to the public, as well as, local and state authorities to help develop informed recommendations for managing the water to ensure there is enough for future generations. A link to the report can be found below.
Currently, The Meadows Center is conducting a new gain-loss study with a hydro-geologic component to document the groundwater - surface water interaction to understand how the watershed has changed and potential impacts to water supplies and springs.
How You Can Help
Are you a Landowner?
Landowners are critical to making this project work. Throughout August and into September, our researchers hope to gain access to as many private lands as possible within the watershed to document important aspects of the watershed. So we need landowners’ help in this time-sensitive matter.
Our project-partner organization, Hill Country Alliance, currently has a strong network of 800 landowners within the watershed, but we still need more landowners contact us for this study.
If you have a well on your property that you’re willing to have measured, email the Pedernales Project Manager, Jenna Walker, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512.245.9148, as soon as possible!
The George and Cynthia Mitchell Foundation
The Hill Country Alliance
The Hill Country Underground Water Conservation District
Blanco Pedernales Groundwater Conservation District
The Nature Conservancy
Texas Master Naturalists
Texas State University, Department of Biology
…And volunteers, landowners and sponsors like you!