A Second Chance to Protect Texas’ “Pristine Streams”

Barton Creek

After legislative inaction, Texas’ last few pristine waterways have another opportunity to gain protection!

During the last legislative session, the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter supported HB 4146, which would have banned the dumping of wastewater into stream segments that are especially vulnerable. The bill had broad environmental support, passed through the Texas House with a bipartisan vote, but failed to get a vote in the Senate. 

Now a group of landowners and environmental organizations — including our partners the Hill Country Alliance, Save Barton Creek Association, Friends of Hondo Canyon, Devils River Conservancy, and others — is petitioning TCEQ to protect our pristine streams. Because of their low phosphorus content (below .06 milligrams per liter), these waters are hypersensitive to changes that come from pollution. Rather than allowing businesses to dump wastewater into pristine streams, the proposed rule would encourage potential dischargers to recycle and reuse the water in other ways.

The groups and TCEQ staff have identified 22 pristine stream segments for the proposed rule, including parts of the Llano River, Onion and Barton creeks, Blanco River, Guadalupe River, Frio River, Hondo Creek, Devils River, and more (for a list of all segments, see page 23, Exhibit B, of the petition). These waters are used by Texans for recreation and by wildlife, and many carry important Indigenous legacies. Describing the risk faced by these waters, the groups write:

“The introduction of any treated domestic wastewater effluent … will unquestionably degrade these pristine streams, and can result in unsightly algae blooms and potential loss of aquatic life… . Yet, some businesses, land developers and governmental entities continue to apply for treated domestic wastewater discharge permits affecting these pristine streams. TCEQ’s current rules do not prohibit or discourage this, despite the problematic consequences. TCEQ’s current rules instead invite this.” 

Important exceptions in the new proposed rule would let cities maintain their wastewater treatment and stormwater needs while ensuring the streams remain precious resources for continued community, wildlife, and recreational uses for years to come!

Join us in submitting your comments to TCEQ in support of this much-needed rule change. Comments are due March 29. As Rep. Tracy King of Uvalde said in support of HB 4146 last session, “Our job is to protect those that don’t have a lobby, and these pristine rivers don’t have a lobby…. They have you and I to protect them.”