The San Marcos River: Where the drought deals out distress
The city of San Marcos entered its current drought in March 2022 and entered stage four restrictions in June 2023. After generous rains, restrictions have been brought back down to stage two, but San Marcos’ lack of water has affected many aspects of its community.
The first when it comes to affected groups is the San Marcos Youth Baseball and Softball Association (SMYBSA) along with San Marcos Parks and Recreation. According to San Marcos Parks Operations Manager Bert Strateman, SMYBSA had to postpone and relocate its season and practices, which threw the league into disarray.
“We’ve had to stop play out there because of cracks in the plane surface,” Stratemann said. “We have been addressing those cracks for the past month and a half as they’ve started to pop up.”
Strateman said San Marcos Parks and Wildlife services took long strides to try and repair playing surfaces, but their efforts were to no avail.
“We’re trying everything we can, but really, the best solution to the problem is rain,” Stratemann said. “And not just the little showers we’ve been having here and there. We need a nice, good soaking that we haven’t had in about a year now.”
It’s not just the baseball fields under strain, though.
Many facilities in San Marcos are experiencing difficulties with the dry weather. According to Strateman, repairing cracked water pipes and fixing irrigation systems in San Marcos’ facilities has cost the Parks and Recreation department a pretty penny this year.
“On all of our irrigation systems across the city, we have spent almost $100,000 this year working on irrigation,” Stratemann said. “Our irrigation systems around the community, not just baseball but all of our facilities, are part of parks and recreation’s responsibility to work on.”
The effects of the drought don’t stop at little league, though. Sewell Park, one of Texas State’s beloved water features, offers a place to escape from school and work for its teachers and students year-round. Since the drought, however, the park’s activity has slowed down.
Texas State Outdoor Center employee and accounting junior Joseph Tejada said in a hot summer, the Outdoor Center usually has people come in for rentals on a heavy and consistent basis. However, due to the lack of water, rentals and overall activity at Sewell Park have slowed down.
“As the summer is ending and the weather is changing, people don’t want to come to the park cause it’s too cold,” Tejada said. “Even the water is too shallow right now, so they don’t enjoy it as much.”
According to the United States Goelogical Survey (USGS), the San Marcos River usually flows at a consistent level of about three and three-quarters feet throughout the year. Since San Marcos’ dry spell in early August, however, levels have dropped and remained below three and a half feet for longer than four months.
Low levels like these haven’t been seen in decades.
Further, students and teachers aren’t the only ones impacted by the conditions of this river. James Kahla, a recreation studies senior, said San Marcos’ unique species of plants and animals are also affected by these dry conditions.
“The thing that I notice most is habitat degradation,” Kahla said. “The lower that the river gets, the more that our wild rice becomes exposed, the more people want to have more space within the river, because the rivers lower. So they start going into some of those places that we’ve marked off.”
Texas Wild Rice, formally known as Ziziania Texana, is a rare species of aquatic rice that is endangered, according to US Fish & Wildlife Services. Further, other species such as the San Marcos Gambusia are at risk of being labeled extinct, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Overall, the drought’s effects have spread wide and impacted many. For more information on preservation and drought protocols, visit https://www.sanmarcostx.gov/3704/Conservation-Drought.