MY River POV: Michelle Garza

The River Authority
Apr 15, 2022
General

The "My River POV" series provides readers the opportunity to learn about the unique insight and experiences of the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) staff and their personal connection to the San Antonio River in hopes of inspiring stewardship of area creeks and rivers.

Front facing view of Environmental Data Specialist Michelle Garza

 

Michelle Garza, Environmental Data Specialist

Raised on the outskirts of San Antonio, I grew up in a small, modest, rural neighborhood off Highway 16 in Von Ormy. My love for the river came from trips to Concepcion Park, a city-owned park in San Antonio, and fishing trips on the Medina River. My parents were in a church softball league, and we were brought on many trips to the park. As my parents played softball, my five siblings and I would venture and explore the park and run through the trails among the trees and brush found along the backside of the park. Before long, we'd find ourselves down at the banks of the San Antonio River, staring into the water and looking for small fish or turtles. We'd even wade in the water, trying to cool off on those hot summer days.

Concepcion Park rendering

Concepcion Park near the San Antonio River

It wasn't until I came to work at the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) in 1991 that I questioned the safety of wading and swimming in the river and its tributaries as a child. Pollution comes from various sources. During rainfall events, nonpoint source pollution, such as runoff carrying pollutants from driveways, streets, and parking lots, is washed into our streams and rivers and negatively affects the river's water quality. Learning about the harmful effects of this pollution grew my passion for protecting and preserving the river. I wanted to work for an agency whose mission included the protection of the constituents living along and within the boundaries of the San Antonio River Watershed and the preservation of its ecosystems for future generations to enjoy. I realized how my actions and those from the community contributed to the health of our waterways.

Trash covers the river bank after rain event

A typical sight: litter along the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River after a rain event. Nonpoint source pollution is a significant threat to the health of the San Antonio River Watershed.

Working as an Environmental Data Specialist, I've had the opportunity to analyze and visualize surface water quality data to improve water quality. I've participated in various monitoring projects and efforts, including the Clean Rivers Program. In this program, the Environmental Sciences Department staff and contracted partners routinely monitor and assess the San Antonio River and its tributaries. This information is used to help create the San Antonio River Watershed Water Quality Viewer. This viewer is an accessible online tool where you can 1) view monitoring stations, 2) explore water quality data and how it relates to your environment, 3) learn why your actions matter, and 4) view summarized assessments of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ) Integrated Report.

San Antonio River Authority Water Quality Viewer

The River Authority's San Antonio River Watershed Water Quality Viewer

My love for the river and its tributaries has grown stronger as the years have passed. Concepcion Park isn't the only space that has been transformed into a beautiful park with many natural amenities. Many River Authority parks, trails, and opportunities to access the San Antonio River and enjoy the environment, aquatic life, birds, and wildlife have come to fruition. I enjoy visiting the Museum Reach and Mission Reach of the San Antonio River walking paths, the John William Helton Nature Park in Floresville, and the Jackson Nature Park in Stockdale. The Jackson Nature Park is especially great for hiking, getting close to nature, and picnicking with friends and family. The best part of it all is that I'm one of many blessed with the opportunity to work for an agency that strives to make our rivers safe, clean, and enjoyable.

Jackson Nature Park

Jackson Nature Park in Stockdale, TX