| Case Study: San Jacinto River Authority's source water protection program
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Case Study: San Jacinto River Authority's source water protection program

San-Jacinto-Lake-Conroe-SWPW-Case-StudyThrough collaborative engagement with stakeholders to address water quality concerns, the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) in southeast Texas has emerged as a leader in successful source water protection. With a focus on preserving the quality of Lake Conroe, a significant regional water reservoir, SJRA has developed a comprehensive source water protection program that combines regulatory measures, education and outreach initiatives. (Pictured right: Lake Conroe)

A Multi-Faceted Approach to Source Water Protection
The core of SJRA's success lies in the Lake Conroe Watershed Protection Plan, a comprehensive strategy designed to uphold the reservoir's pristine water quality conditions. Shane Simpson, water quality tech III at SJRA's Lake Conroe Division, explains, "The plan's primary goal is to maintain the reservoir’s current excellent water quality conditions and, when possible, improve the reservoir’s water quality." 

Collaborative Engagement for Effective Outcomes
A central pillar of SJRA's source water protection program is its collaborative engagement with stakeholders from various sectors. Local government agencies, non-profit organizations, federal entities and concerned citizens were actively involved in the creation of the Lake Conroe Watershed Protection Plan (WPP). This collaborative approach facilitated the incorporation of diverse perspectives and enabled the establishment of a comprehensive plan that addresses a spectrum of water quality concerns.

Beyond the planning phase, SJRA continues to work with stakeholders on a wide range of projects. "Since the creation of the WPP we have worked with many of the stakeholders around the lake on a multitude of water quality issues such as, stormwater, trash cleanup, invasive species management and environmental education," said Simpson.

Stricter Regulations and Preventive Measures
San-Jacinto-Hands-On-SWPW-Case-StudySJRA's program encompasses a wide array of strategies to prevent contamination and maintain water quality. Stricter regulations for On-Site Sewage Facilities (OSSFs) have been implemented. "Each system is required to have an inspection from a licensed maintenance provider three times a year,” said Simpson. “The water quality in Lake Conroe will be protected to a greater extent when each OSSF has been maintained to the proper standards." By establishing a robust tracking, monitoring and enforcement program, SJRA's stringent regulations contribute significantly to safeguarding the reservoir's water quality and protecting both human health and the environment.

Innovative Strategies for Cleaner Stormwater
In new developments, stormwater control strategies play a pivotal role in reducing pollutants entering Lake Conroe. "The SJRA requires any new development using Lake Conroe as a detention source to obtain a 'Letter of No Objection,'” said Simpson. “Developers must meet specific requirements, including the incorporation of water quality Best Management Practices to mitigate non-point pollution." This innovative approach to stormwater management ensures that each construction project contributes to the overall health of the reservoir. By tailoring strategies to various development types, SJRA effectively curbs pollution at its source, preserving the integrity of the water supply.

Empowering the Public Through Education and Outreach
Another pivotal component of SJRA's program is its emphasis on public outreach and education. Through social media campaigns, school tours, environmental events and local magazines, SJRA effectively communicates responsible water use and pollution prevention. "SJRA’s public communications team has done a great job at reaching out and educating the public on water quality topics," said Simpson. These initiatives not only inform the community but also engage residents actively in protecting the water source.

An example of innovative community involvement is the Stormwater Inlet Marking Program. Volunteers are engaged to mark stormwater inlets that discharge directly into Lake Conroe. "The program gives local communities a chance to become involved in protecting Lake Conroe by simply installing educational markers on stormwater inlets," said Simpson. This hands-on approach not only raises awareness but also instills a sense of responsibility within the community.

The SJRA's Source Water Protection Program stands as a model of proactive, collaborative and holistic water source preservation. With a blend of stringent regulations, innovative strategies, and robust public engagement, SJRA's approach exemplifies the power of collective action in safeguarding drinking water sources.