Monitoring wells will be installed at Zilker and Garrison parks this winter to provide data on the water levels and quality of multiple aquifers. This data will help monitor impacts on endangered species—the Austin and Barton Springs blind salamander.

Two-minute impact

The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District is installing the wells, and drilling for Garrison Park began Jan. 18. Drilling at Zilker Park will begin in late January or early February, BSEACD spokesperson Shay Hlavaty said.

The Garrison well is located on the northwest side of the Garrison Park Municipal Pool and will collect Edwards Aquifer water level and quality data. The Zilker well, located south of Barton Springs, will be a multiport well, meaning it will monitor multiple aquifer zones.

Drilling may cause sediment and fluids to enter caves that feed the springs but will not harm swimmers, fish or salamanders, according to a news release.

The wells will be flush to the ground and permanent. Work on each will take about two to three weeks to complete.

Diving in deeper

Monitoring wells are installed in the ground and are used to observe groundwater, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

BSEACD officials will study flow, dissolved oxygen levels and other features of groundwater in the Barton Springs area. This data can show the impact on springflow as well as the health of the Austin and Barton Springs blind salamanders, which are federally endangered species.

Dissolved oxygen, or the amount of oxygen present in water, is crucial to the species’ survival, and low water levels can decrease the amount in the water. If the data shows a large decrease, BSEACD officials may decide to manually increase the dissolved oxygen in the groundwater that discharges at Barton Springs, according to a news release.

BSEACD and city of Austin officials are required by the Texas and United States Fish and Wildlife Services to protect the salamanders.

Quote of note

"[BSEACD] strives to continuously grow our understanding of the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer and its groundwater dynamics, and these monitoring wells are part of our ongoing research efforts," Hlavaty said in an email. "Our team has worked closely with the city of Austin to ensure we meet all the local city ordinances along with state and federal requirements to protect the general public, and the Barton Springs and Austin blind salamanders.

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