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  • Chris Belcher

SARA Battles Litter in the San Antonio River

The San Antonio River Authority is in a constant battle against litter arriving in the San Antonio River. Litter’s Journey to the River, showed how litter comes from its sources down the waterways into the San Antonio River.

SARA is one of the San Antonio organizations including volunteer organizations such as River Aid San Antonio working to stop and reduce the amount of litter in the river. SARA has staff members responsible for cleaning up litter once it makes it to the river. They also rely on volunteers such as the River Authority’s River Warriors.

Litter in the water along the San Antonio River. Photo: Chris Belcher

Kristen Hansen, SARA’s manager of Watershed and Parks Operations, said, “Our volunteers are very important to helping mitigate the amount of litter that gets into the river and along the watershed. We work with not only the River Warriors, we work with a lot of corporations that are interested in coming out for a day of service, we work with Boy Scout groups, and Girl Scout groups, and everybody in between.”

These volunteers help remove a lot of litter from the San Antonio River.

Hansen said, the River Warriors, “usually pick up five to six hundred pounds a day,” on weekends when they’re working along the banks of the river.

“In 2020, the River Authority picked up about 125,000 pounds of litter and about 50 to 60 tires,” said Hansen.

Outdoor enthusiasts such as fishermen also contribute to litter getting in the river when they discard of items such as empty bait containers along the riverbank. Photo: Chris Belcher

Hansen wants the volunteers to take the lessons they’ve learned about the amount of trash they see back to their families and friends.

“They’re educated during their litter pick up and they bring that back to their friends and family to tell them about what experiences they had in hope to prevent them from littering as well,” she said.

Hansen says it’s important to keep the litter out of the river for a couple of different reasons.

Kayakers paddling down river on the Mission Reach section of the San Antonio River Sept. 4. Photo: Chris Belcher

“It’s definitely unsightly along the banks but also, anytime there’s aquatic species, fish and any other sort of animals, we don’t want them eating the Styrofoam cups and other litter that we find on the banks of the San Antonio River,” Hansen said, “So, any time we can stop litter from entering the river or pick it up as quickly as possible that’s best for the environment and the animals.”

An Egyptian Goose stands on the concrete wall of a river spillway along the San Antonio River. Photo: Chris Belcher

Hansen also had some tips for San Antonio residents on how they can help prevent trash from getting into the river.

“One of the things we ask the public to do is when you put your trash out for pick-up, make sure the top is on your trash. Make sure that you set it in a place where it doesn’t dump over if there’s wind,” Hansen said, “Because as soon as that happens it’s on the street, the rain comes and washes it into the storm drains. Then it ends up in the San Antonio River.”

Discarded litter lies on the ground near a trash can in Labor Street Park, Friday. Photo: Chris Belcher

“We ask people to be mindful of how they dispose of their trash,” she added.

San Antonians can take those first step by making sure their trash can has a lid, doesn’t dump over and disposing of their trash properly. They can also volunteer with the River Warriors or other groups keeping litter out of our waterways.


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