Aquifers and Streams: Texas Aquatic Science- Chapter 7

Have you ever seen a naturally occurring spring,…
where water is flowing out of the ground like magic? Where does that water comes from? Well, it comes from an underground reservoir
where the water can be contained in porous rock or sand, or even a complex network of
underground caverns and cracks. These underground places are called aquifers. You see, when
it rains these aquifers gradually fill with water. Some even become pressurized. And some
aquifers give rise to springs- a place where underground water emerges through ground faults
and cracks leading to the earth’s surface. Here, a unique aquatic ecosystem can be created
providing life to a whole host of rare invertebrates, fish, and amphibians. Texas has more than three thousand springs,
some of which are among the largest in the world. And springs also create the headwaters
for many of our rivers. Aquifers are an important source of water
for humans, supplying about 60% of the water we use. And no matter where you are in Texas,
you’re likely standing over an aquifer, possibly hundreds or even thousands of feet below. Because aquifers are deep underground most
aquifers contain little or no large animals and no plants, but major springs in Texas
can be teaming with life. Some even contain species found nowhere else. For example, Barton
Springs, located in Austin, is the only place where the Barton Springs and Austin blind
salamanders live. And Texas Wild Rice along with the San Marcos gambusia can only be found
in the San Marcos Springs and river community just downstream. In fact you can get your
own close up look at how a natural spring functions by riding in the glass-bottom boat
at San Marcos Springs. Like most important natural features in our
state, aquifers and springs are at risk from human intervention, contaminants from pollution,
overuse by agriculture or our own neglect to conserve water. Not to mention the weather
threat of long droughts in Texas that have already caused many of our springs to stop
flowing. We just need to be water wise. You can think
of Groundwater in an aquifer as money in your bank account. Each time you put money in,
the amount of money you have grows. When you take money out, your bank account goes down
and stays down until you put more money in. Aquifers grow when nature puts water in through
rainfall, snow, and other precipitation. By protecting our springs, rivers and streams,
we help aquifers continue to store water for generations to come.

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