Be River Proud

River Health

What Makes a River Unhealthy?

What Makes a River Unhealthy?

You might be asking yourself, what human activities degrade our river’s health and why are those threats important? Well, thank you for asking, and you’ve come to the right place to find out! 

Threats to the San Antonio River
Trash and debris in the San Antonio River

The threats to the health of the San Antonio River are mounting as our city grows.

San Antonio River with towering trees

We all live in a watershed, an area of land where all of the rain that falls on it, flows to a particular creek or river based on elevation features of the area.

San Antonio River Basin Watershed map

Bexar, Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad counties have many watersheds that drain to creeks or rivers, but all of them eventually flow into the San Antonio River.

Stormwater on a San Antonio street

Stormwater  runoff is rainfall that has fallen onto hardened surfaces, such as streets, roofs, compacted ground, and driveways, and then picked up the various pollutants that are on those surfaces, and carried them into the storm drain and stream systems. Those pollutants include, but are not limited to, oil, fertilizers, bacteria, heavy metals, gasoline, and sediment.

River Walk littering sign

Did you know that, in San Antonio, stormwater does not drain into a sanitary sewer system to be cleaned; it flows directly into our creeks and rivers, untreated, through a network of streets and storm drains?

Fish killed by polluted water

Polluted water in the San Antonio River harms more than just fish and wildlife in our local area. Runoff from our watersheds flows all the way to San Antonio Bay. Thus, water from the San Antonio River has direct impacts on the health of wildlife in the bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Young fish being released into a creek

But there is hope! The San Antonio River Authority is committed to reducing the polluted stormwater  runoff that drains into our creeks and rivers. Improved water quality allowed for the release of juvenile Guadalupe Bass into the river.


Stormwater going down a street drain

To do that, the River Authority utilizes and recommends Low Impact Development (LID).  LID is a sustainable land planning and engineering design approach to managing stormwater runoff as close as possible to the source. This emphasizse the use of on-site natural drainage features, maintains or enhances the site’s hydrologic characteristics after development, reduces overall imperviousness, and polishes stormwater for quality.

Bioretention in a garden

Examples of  LID features, also known as Best Management Practices (BMPs) are Cisterns and Bioretention.

River Authority volunteers picking up trash along the San Antonio River.

There are several key components of a sustainable  watershed, and these components are not mutually exclusive. – They all work together to create a healthy watershed.  And, there are human behaviors that have positive impacts on the river’s health and others that impact rivers negatively.