Litter's Journey to the River

Updated: Aug 2



Litter finds its way into the San Antonio River daily impacting the enjoyment of all San Antonio residents who take advantage of the green spaces along the river’s banks. The question of how it gets there seems simple.


Charles Blank, River Aid San Antonio executive director, said, “because we live on this massive watershed, from the highest points around us all that water runs down to one point through our storm drains into our river and it brings all the trash, all the dog poop, everything down into the river.”


You can also stop litter by changing your behavior. Simple things like picking up the dog poop from your backyard can have an impact.


One can see a wide variety of items in the creeks being washed downstream. Everything from mattresses, car seats, and shopping carts can be spotted in the water or dry creek beds. Pollutants like car oil and dog poop also wash down into the creeks and river during rain events.


San Antonians can’t put the entire burden of cleaning up the parks, streets, creeks, and river on organizations like San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department or the San Antonio River Authority. Volunteering with organizations like River Aid San Antonio is a critical part of keeping the San Antonio River clean.


There are many reasons having a clean river is important. The river supports a diverse array of wildlife. It allows residents to enjoy recreational opportunities.


“Having a clean river is about the most important thing a city can have. You need clean water for obvious reasons,” Charles Blank, River Aid San Antonio executive director, said, “We’re not drinking out of the river because we can’t but it’s connected to our aquifer, it seeps down through the limestone. Some of it gets filtered out but we can contaminate it (the Edwards Aquifer) if we don’t stop going down this slippery slope of naivety of how we’re affecting the water.”


“Really if you think about the river, it’s our river, it’s the community’s river, and I don’t know how you would put a price point on a river but it’s certainly worth billions of dollars. It’s the most expensive thing I own. So, you might as well take care of it right,” he added.


Litter has more than just a visual and health effect on San Antonio. A study done in 2017 for Texans For Clean Water, showed that litter and illegal dumping costs $6.5 million to mitigate. This economic impact is felt by every San Antonio resident in the fees and taxes they pay.


An informational sign in Roosevelt Park explains to visitors why they can't swim in the San Antonio River. Photo: Chris Belcher

San Antonio residents and visitors can do their part to help keep the river clean. Change the behaviors that impact our water. Volunteer to help pick up litter in a creek or along the river.

Volunteers can make a difference in the community. RASA had its Salado Creek Clean-up event today. About 30 volunteers showed up to clean 1.6 miles of Salado Creek along the Salado Creek Greenway part of the Howard Peak Greenway Trails System.


Athena Santos, a RASA volunteer, was there today picking up litter with the other volunteers.

Santos had this to say about why she volunteers to clean up trash from the water shed.


“I just feel like because we live here it’s a representation of San Antonio. We have to keep our city pretty and not just say oh this is a pretty trail. If you go further down the trail you’re going to see the actual trash and this is what we’re cleaning up this morning.”


The efforts of RASA volunteers are having an impact. They removed over 2,000 pounds of trash from Salado Creek this morning according to Blank. But more help for the water shed and the San Antonio River is still needed. The more residents volunteer to help the more trash gets removed. Even making small changes like using re-usable shopping bags, recycling plastic bottles, and picking up litter around your neighborhood makes a difference.


San Antonians interested in joining RASA’s efforts can get information on upcoming events on (3) River Aid San Antonio | Facebook or https://www.instagram.com/riveraid_sa/ . Residents can also volunteer with the San Antonio River Authority’s River Warrior Program or San Antonio Parks and Recreation’s Volunteer Program.