The Great Springs Project (GSP) is a conservation nonprofit creating a greenway of protected lands and groundwater recharge zones between San Antonio and Austin, from the Alamo to the Capitol. This will be achieved through the permanent conservation of 50,000 acres of land over the Edwards Aquifer recharge and contributing zones which will be connected by over 100 miles of spring-to-spring trails, linking four iconic springs in Central Texas: Barton Springs, San Marcos Springs, Comal Springs, and San Antonio Springs.
Project Description & History
GSP was started in 2018 in response to the increasing scarcity of Texas groundwater resources as groundwater is pumped faster than can be replaced by rainfall, threatening to cause springs and rivers to run dry. In the Texas Hill Country in particular, these realities are magnified by explosive population growth and rapid land fragmentation. Booming development along the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio threatens to increase strain on Central Texas’ vulnerable water supply without coordinated action. The project is expected to be completed in time for Texas’ bicentennial in 2036.
The Great Springs Project seeks to create and conserve a greenway of protected lands between San Antonio and Austin, from the Alamo to the Capitol. This will be achieved through the permanent conservation of 50,000 acres of land over the Edwards Aquifer recharge and contributing zones which will be connected by over 100 miles of spring-to-spring trails, linking four iconic springs in Central Texas: Barton Springs, San Marcos Springs, Comal Springs, and San Antonio Springs. Over two million people throughout the four-county corridor will be impacted by the Great Springs Project. Benefits include increased access to nature, recreational opportunities via an interconnected trail, and clean and abundant water supplies.
The Great Springs Project Economic Benefits Report estimates Land & Water benefits of $19,240,000 annually from the project. These benefits include water quality and quantity protection, flood mitigation, stormwater management, pollination, wildlife habitat, agritourism, agricultural commodities, preservation of farms, ranches, and forestlands, and carbon sequestration.
The land conservation activities in the Great Springs Project provide significant species habitat protection by preventing habitat destruction and fragmentation. The Edwards Aquifer is home to over 40 species of highly adapted subterranean species, including eight aquatic species and nine non-aquatic species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified as threatened, endangered or petitioned. The completed Great Springs Trail will result in more people walking and bicycling, reducing healthcare costs for the region. Annual estimates include $1,200 newly active people, with healthcare cost savings per person that becomes physically active of $1,603.
Over $11 million dollars in transportation benefits to the region are a result of reduced traffic congestion costs of $890,000, reduced vehicle crash costs of $2,880,000, reduced road maintenance costs of $1,900,000, and household vehicle operation cost savings of $5,350,000. It is estimated that the Great Springs Trail will host 1,900,000 annual pedestrian trips and 1,620,000 annual bike trips, resulting in 3,520,000 total pedestrian annual walking and biking use. Analysis estimated that the 3.5 million walking and biking trips on the trail system would reduce annual vehicle miles traveled by 12.9 million miles.