The clear, icy waters of Barton Springs make Austin a special place, but the spring waters flowing start the journey from miles away.
Even though most of the recharge zone is far from town, the city has spent millions to protect it. One of those zones is a 606-acre tract in Hays County off RM 967. Now, part of that area is slated for a 1,000 home subdivision and wastewater treatment facility.
"The recharge zone is where the water gets into the Edwards Aquifer. It's where the aquifer is exposed at the land surface," David Johns with the Watershed Protection Department said. "Most concerning to us was going to have irrigation of treated wastewater over the recharge zone."
That treated sewage would flow right into the underground water supply.
"Water in this area can reach Barton Springs in a matter of days,” Johns said. “We knew that any sort of pollutants that might enter the aquifer as this piece of property was developed would show up on Barton Springs."
With city leaders fighting the project, developers have now agreed to scrap their plans and sell the property at a price of just over $18 million.
"It's not just a raw piece of land out in the country somewhere,” Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said. “It's a piece of land that's had things in place to make it develop-able land which makes it more valuable."
The money comes from bonds that voters approved last year.
"With this acquisition--this 600 acres or so--we will have protected nearly 30,000 acres of land in the Barton Springs zone," Johns said. "In a hundred years---people are going to wish 'Why didn't we do more of it?'"
The City of Austin already owns nearly 30,000 acres in the recharge zone, which amounts to about 30 percent of the area that is now protected from development.