Barton Creek and Ecotherapy

The Barton Springs Pool contains some of the freshest spring water straight from the Edwards Aquifer. Brigid Shea, the Travis County Commissioner, made a guest appearance to speak to GEO371T students regarding the fight against Freeport-McMoRan, a mining company that sought the rights to unrestricted development in the Barton Creek watershed area. Hundreds of Austinites testified against the company in court, and even more Austinites rallied outside city hall, demanding the protection of the Barton Creek watershed. Efforts by Austinites and environmental justice organizations, such as the Save Our Springs alliance, resulted in the unanimous decision against Freeport and the passage of the Save Our Springs Ordinance on August 8th, 1992 which would protect the watershed from future similar developments. The experience demonstrated to students how the famous saying “you can’t fight city hall” could not be any more false, as avid protests from citizens helped prevent a previous resource from exploitation.

GEO371T students discussed the vulnerability of The Edwards Aquifer to environmental changes. The Edwards Aquifer is a highly porous and permeable karst aquifer, making it an extremely effective aquifer. However, it is sensitive to drought and contamination. The class learned about how this feature of the aquifer causes it to follow the climate’s natural drought periods. Additionally, the importance of protecting this aquifer was emphasized, as Austin relies on it for a great deal of their municipal water supply. This is why environmental protection laws, such as the Save Our Springs Ordinance, are especially important towards their conservation.