Texas is home to some of the most remarkably beautiful bodies of water. My fondest memories include staying cool in the Texas heat on the Frio River, floating down the San Marcos River, and jumping into Jacob’s Well. With the recent drought, lack of rain and the way many rivers and watering holes have dried up, it’s becoming more and more clear that these Texas gems are in danger. If we want future generations to be able to experience them too, there are so many things we need to do to ensure that happens.
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Why Are Our Rivers & Swimming Holes so Low?
The drying up of Texas rivers is a complex issue rooted in a combination of environmental changes and human activity. Prolonged periods of drought driven by climate change are reducing the amount of surface water available. Meanwhile, increased demand for water with limited regulation on usage is depleting underground aquifers that feed many of these rivers.
Additionally, the disruption of natural landscapes by urban development can alter the course of rivers and affect their flow. These factors, among others, are contributing to the dwindling of our beloved Texas rivers. Yet, we can be part of the solution.
How Can I Help?
Wear River-Safe Sunscreen
You may have heard of reef-safe sunscreen, but what about sunscreen that doesn’t affect our rivers? We should be applying the same rules to protect our rivers.
Traditional sunscreens often contain chemicals that can harm aquatic ecosystems, including oxybenzone and octinoxate. River and reef-safe sunscreens typically avoid these harmful ingredients and instead use mineral-based alternatives like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are less damaging to marine life. These ingredients provide effective UV protection but do not dissolve in water, reducing the potential harm to rivers and reefs.
These do tend to be the sunscreens that leave that annoying white tint on your skin, but at least it’s a sign that you’re thinking about the environment.
Most of all, know your ingredients! Some can say they are “reef-safe,” but it’s not a regulated term, meaning it’s not guaranteed these products are actually reef-safe. You can read here about what makes a product like sunscreen reef-safe.
We tried our best to triple reference sunscreen brands that were safe, but please do your due diligence and read the labels. Some sunscreens we found were:
- Hawaiian Tropic Skin Nourishing Milk Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
- Badger Reef Safe Sunscreen, SPF 40 Sport Mineral Sunscreen
- Mineral Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30
Additionally, encourage your local shops to carry river-safe sunscreen and discontinue the use of harmful sunscreens. I like to walk into shops and ask if they carry river-safe mineral sunscreens just to see what they say. Hawaii even banned sunscreens that aren’t reef-safe and I hope we’re not far behind.
Of course, in addition to this, layers are your best friend when it comes to sun protection! Consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat to shield your face and neck from harmful UV rays. Opt for sunglasses with UV protection to protect your eyes. Don’t forget to choose swimsuits with long sleeves or rash guards to provide extra coverage for your arms and torso. These additional layers of protection will help reduce your reliance on sunscreen and keep your skin safe from the sun’s harmful rays.
Water conservation is another key factor in protecting our rivers. The less water we use, the less strain we put on our rivers. Simple steps such as turning off the tap while brushing, fixing leaks promptly, and using water-efficient appliances can make a big difference.
Yet, our individual efforts alone will not suffice. To truly protect our rivers, we must actively advocate for more sustainable policies at the community level.
Why do Homeowners Associations continue to mandate lush green lawns, exacerbating water scarcity, when our rivers bear the brunt of it? Why do large corporations get a free pass on unregulated water usage? We need to challenge these practices.
By getting involved with local city boards and pushing for stricter regulations on water use, we can amplify the importance of water preservation. It is crucial that we take up the mantle of environmental stewardship, becoming the voice for our rivers and waters, and advocating for the systemic change required to safeguard our precious water resources.
Get Involved in Educational Efforts
Educating yourself and others about the importance of river conservation can also have a significant impact. Attend local workshops, share educational materials, and encourage your community to get involved in conservation efforts.
Taking the steps towards active participation in local initiatives like Texas Runs on Water and the Watershed Association can make a considerable impact on water conservation efforts.
Texas Runs on Water is a statewide campaign that educates the public about the importance of water conservation. Getting involved could mean anything from sharing their educational resources on social media to participating in their events.
The Watershed Association is an organization that works to protect water through land conservation and education across the Hill Country. You can join both, get involved in their projects, or at the very least, use their website, newsletter, and social media platforms as opportunities to learn more.
Help Clean Up
Volunteer for local river clean-ups. These events not only help keep our rivers clean, but also create a sense of community while raising awareness about the importance of protecting our natural resources.
In fact, we have to go beyond simply not littering. This could involve picking up trash left by others, refraining from creating new trails in protected areas, and respecting wildlife and their habitats. By committing to leave each place better than we found it, we act as responsible stewards of our environment, ensuring that our rivers, forests, and parks remain beautiful and healthy for future generations.
Remember, every little step counts towards keeping our Texas rivers and bodies of water safe. Let’s all do our part to ensure these natural treasures are preserved for generations to come.
Our Favorite Texas Swimming Holes
If you’re looking to experience the magic of Texas swimming holes and rivers this summer, the destinations included below are some of our favorites!
Just remember to keep the forementioned things in mind and leave these natural treasures better than you found them. Future Texans will thank you!