There’s a new field trip spot in town, San Antonio.

In an effort to help local kids (and adults too) visualize the Edwards Aquifer, the region’s largest source of water, the agency that manages it has created and opened an interactive education outreach center.

The Edwards Aquifer Authority held a grand opening for the recently completed center Wednesday on the grounds of Morgan’s Wonderland Camp. The celebration included a traditional Native American water blessing ceremony and comments from EAA staff.

The creation of the center was a three-year, $3 million collaboration between the EAA and Morgan’s Wonderland, said Mike De La Garza, EAA’s executive director of communications and development. De La Garza said the center was conceived and built so quickly thanks to Gordon Hartman, Morgan’s Wonderland founder and owner.

Gordon said the Edwards Aquifer, which provides just over half the city’s water, doesn’t always get the attention it deserves “to ensure that we always have good clean water. The city is growing and we need it,” he said.

“When they came to me with the idea,” he continued, “my initial reaction was ‘That may take forever and we don’t have time for that. This needs to get done now.'”

Debora Trejo, Attorney for the EAA, looks as a San Marcos Salamander under a microscope at the new Education Outreach Center Wednesday. The 2,400 square foot space is filled with interactive installations designed to teach the community about the aquifer and the species that live in and around it.
Deborah Trejo, attorney for the EAA, looks at a San Marcos Salamander under a microscope at the new education outreach center Wednesday. The 2,400-square foot space is filled with interactive installations designed to teach the community about the aquifer and the species that live in and around it. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Showcasing features of the aquifer such as its cave systems, unique animals and porous rock formations, the 2,400-square foot center utilizes innovative technology such as “AquiBots” — child-sized AI robots that will roll up and talk to center-goers — and interactive displays to help immerse visitors in aquifer information.

From its karst theater — a small theater made to look like a real cave, complete with stalactites and stalagmites — to its interactive “cloud maker” where kids can make small tufty clouds of humidified smoke rings, the center is designed for folks of all ages, said EAA General Manager Roland Ruiz.

The center includes the only aquarium exhibit featuring endangered species that live in the Edwards Aquifer, plus live data from the nearby EAA Field Research Park.

“This center gives us a very public platform to engage the greater public,” Ruiz said. “The Edwards Aquifer itself is underground, you can’t see it … how do you explain and tell someone about this natural resource and why it’s so important without being able to actually show it? Well, this gets about as close as you can.”

The center is free and open to the public, open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. To plan your trip, go to the center’s website and click on the “visit us” tab.

Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett is the Science & Utilities reporter for the San Antonio Report.