Improving our Creeks and Rivers Through Water Sample Analysis

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San Antonio River Authority staff at our regional environmental laboratory

Did you know that the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) has a nationally accredited, Regional Environmental Laboratory that helps support our agency’s commitment to safe, clean, enjoyable creeks and rivers?

The laboratory began operating in 1966 with the sole focus of supporting River Authority wastewater treatment plant operations. Through the decades, the laboratory has expanded its scope of testing services to include surface water, stormwater, and molecular science bacterial source tracking. In addition to ongoing daily analysis, the River Authority laboratory places an emphasis on research and development of new analytical techniques and methodology to further expand the capability and efficiency of the laboratory.

Read along to learn more about the work that takes place inside our laboratory and what you can do to help us improve the health of our creeks and rivers.

How does the River Authority lab work to support the agency’s efforts?

Senior Water Quality Scientist Zachary Jendrusch performing the CBOD/BOD analysis in support of our wastewater treatment plants.

The River Authority owns and operates five wastewater treatment facilities within our service district and the laboratory supports these treatment plants by conducting analyses on the water they discharge, which is commonly referred to as effluent. The testing done in the lab ensures that the effluent from these facilities is within criteria set by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Chemical tests performed determine the amount of Ammonia, Total Suspended Solids, Carbonaceous, and Biochemical Oxygen Demand in the samples. Analyzing water samples for these various parameters allows treatment plant operators to assess the effectiveness of the treatment methods used. High levels of these parameters indicate poor water quality and can negatively impact the biological communities found in creeks and rivers. We also perform microbiological analyses to confirm that the bacteria levels are below the limit for TCEQ surface water quality standards. Each of these tests are performed daily.

Clean Rivers Program Support

Benjamin Guerra (PT Water Quality Scientist) preparing solutions for chlorophyll/pheophytin analysis in support of the Clean Rivers Program.

Part-Time Water Quality Scientist Benjamin Guerra preparing solutions for chlorophyll/pheophytin analysis in support of the Clean Rivers Program.

In addition to supporting the efforts of our wastewater treatment plants, we also support other internal and external projects. The River Authority field team is responsible for collecting samples for the TCEQ’s Clean Rivers Program (CRP), which are submitted for analysis by the River Authority laboratory.  

The data that is produced by the lab helps to inform stakeholders, the TCEQ, and River Authority staff. It is used to create a picture of the historical, present, and future health of the San Antonio River and its ecosystem.

How can I learn more and what I can do to help improve water quality?

pet waste

Since data can be overwhelming when viewed as a whole, the River Authority has recently unveiled the Water Quality Web Viewer. This tool offers a graphical representation of the data that is produced for the CRP.

Ready to do your part? Don’t flush wipes and always dispose of Fats, Oils and Greases (F.O.G.) in the trash, not the drain. These are two simple ways you can help wastewater treatment facilities operate more efficiently and improve water quality. You can also pick up after your pets and properly dispose of your trash to help keep our creeks and rivers clean.

Be River Proud and join us in our efforts to improve the health of our creeks and rivers!

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