2000 Progress Report: Development of an Urban Watershed Rehabilitation Method Using Stakeholder Feedback to Direct Investigation and Restoration Planning

EPA Grant Number: R827147
Title: Development of an Urban Watershed Rehabilitation Method Using Stakeholder Feedback to Direct Investigation and Restoration Planning
Investigators: Matlock, Marty D. , Kenimer, Ann L. , Neill, William H. , Peterson, Tarla Rai , Samuelson, Charles D. , Whitten, Guy D.
Institution: Texas A & M University
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: October 1, 1998 through September 30, 2001 (Extended to March 31, 2003)
Project Period Covered by this Report: October 1, 1999 through September 30, 2000
Project Amount: $838,767
RFA: Water and Watersheds (1998) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Water and Watersheds


This project has developed and is testing a method for restoring the ecological integrity of urban watersheds that combines ecology, engineering, and social science. Research is being conducted on two streams in the San Antonio metropolitan area. Research questions include: Can a risk-based watershed model linked with two eco-indicators in a regressive ecological risk assessment for a complex watershed quantify the uncertainty associated with ecosystem rehabilitation? Will stakeholders' understanding of non-point source pollution (NPS) issues, ability to use scientific information about watershed management strategies, and communication competence improve as a result of a Collaborative Learning (CL) intervention? A watershed model of ecological risk assessment is being developed. Models of stakeholder knowledge levels and environmental attitudes are also being developed.

Two integrated eco-indicators are being used to evaluate and communicate risk to the stakeholder group. This risk-based model is used to initiate discussions between stakeholders and scientists in an iterative process that results in an informed and stakeholder-driven action plan for watershed rehabilitation. This project provides a more sophisticated framework for the guidance and evaluation of watershed-level decision making on total maximum daily loads (TMDLs).

Progress Summary:

Update on Stakeholder Collaborative Learning Meetings. An approach known as Collaborative Learning (CL) is being used to structure and facilitate stakeholder group activities among large, heterogeneous groups. Collaborative Learning workshops with the Salado and Leon Creek stakeholder councils were held monthly in November and December 1999, January through July 2000, and September 2000. Recruitment of stakeholders from less represented groups in the Salado and Leon Creek watersheds continued throughout this year. Individual interviews have been conducted with CL participants, and these interviews have been transcribed. Group interactions during CL meetings also have been recorded and transcribed.

Update on Surveys. Analysis continues of the large sample phone survey which was administered in Year 1. We are looking at issues of representation and implementation (e.g., issues of trust, participation, efficacy and optimism). The analysis of these data was also used to inform the Collaborative Learning process through presentation of preliminary results to the two stakeholder councils in February 2000.

Two surveys of the Salado and Leon Creek stakeholder groups participating in the CL workshops were conducted during this year. The first pretest survey was administered at the initial CL meetings in November and December 1999. This pretest survey instrument contained an overlapping set of questions with the previous large-sample phone survey that was conducted of the Bexar County population in March-May 1999. These survey data allow for direct comparisons between the large sample phone survey of Bexar County residents and the stakeholder groups participating in the CL meetings. Preliminary analysis of the survey data was completed this year. A second follow-up survey was administered to both stakeholder groups in February 2000. This survey focused on specific issues identified by stakeholders in previous CL meetings. Respondents rated the importance of these issues to them personally and then prioritized them. Preliminary analysis of these survey data was completed during the next reporting period.

Update on the Ecological Investigation. Field investigations of ecological processes were initiated in August 1999. Two sites were selected on two streams (one upstream and one downstream) flowing through San Antonio, Texas. Periphyton response to nutrient loading (nitrogen and phosphorus) was measured at each site in situ using the Matlock Periphytometer. The survival, growth, and MMS of bluegill acclimatized in ambient stream water were also measured at each of the four sites. Field data collection continued in February and August 2000.

Update on Modeling Activities. Geographic data has been compiled from a variety of sources (USGS, TNRCC, EPA, NASA) to develop input data files for BASINS-HSPF. Calibrating BASINS-HSPF in Salado Creek has been completed in collaboration with the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) and Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC). Calibration data is currently being developed for Leon Creek.

Future Activities:

Collaborative learning meetings will be held in October, November, and December 2000. The December meetings will complete the CL phase of this project. Members of the ecological and social science teams will build a simplified simulation model of the watersheds that CL participants will use to deepen their understanding of the systemic nature of the processes involved in watershed restoration. CL participants in the two watershed councils will present their recommendations to the Mayor of San Antonio and to other relevant agencies. The Mayor will facilitate this process by attending the final CL meetings in November and December 2000 to hear the Council recommendations and discuss how their recommendations, as well as ongoing citizen participation, can be integrated into a city-wide plan to develop greenbelts throughout the city and a county-wide plan to improve management of flooding.

Final post-test survey of the stakeholder groups will administered at the December 2000 meetings and follow-up work will continue into 2001 to obtain final survey data from CL participants who were absent at December meetings. Statistical analysis of survey data will be conducted during 2001 to assess the effectiveness of the CL program in meeting project objectives. Follow-up interviews with stakeholder group members will be conducted in June and July, 2001. Data from individual interviews with stakeholders and CL workshops will be analyzed to identify critical social processes and communication practices.

Data from the summer 2000 ecological investigation continues to be analyzed. Winter periphytometer and MMS assays are currently scheduled for January 2001. Preparation of the final report will be completed this year.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 13 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

ecosystem, stakeholder, complex systems, restoration., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Water & Watershed, Restoration, State, Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration, Environmental Engineering, EPA Region, Watersheds, Social Science, stakeholder groups, social science research, community involvement, urban watershed rehabilitation method, decision making, community-based research, non-point source pollution, conservation, management alternatives, Region 6, Texas (TX), ecological recovery, integrated assessment, game theory, aquatic ecosystems, environmental rehabilitation, non-point sources, water quality, public policy, ecology assessment models, sociological, watershed restoration, aquatic habitat protection , community values, restoration planning

Relevant Websites:

The team assisted the local project partner, the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), in establishing and maintaining the following Web site:


Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2001
  • 2002
  • Final Report