The San Antonio River Authority will soon be accepting applications for the Watershed Wise Grant and the Watershed Wise Rebate programs. These programs provide funding for the construction of on-site stormwater management projects using a variety of low impact development (LID) methods.

The goals of the programs are to generate awareness about the negative impacts that stormwater runoff has on creeks and rivers, while assisting commercial properties in reducing stormwater runoff, a River Authority news release stated.

“As more natural surfaces are paved and developed, less water during storms percolates into the ground and instead flows over impervious surfaces, picking up pollutants, and carrying them to creeks and rivers,” the release continued. “This untreated rainwater is known as stormwater runoff. The pollutants picked up by stormwater include, but are not limited to, oil, fertilizers, bacteria, heavy metals, gasoline, and sediment.”

LID is a design method that manages stormwater runoff by mimicking natural hydrologic processes, the release stated. “LID includes the use of structural best management practices (BMPs) such as rain gardens, bio-swales, cisterns, and green roofs.”

In a Wednesday phone interview with the Rivard Report, River Authority Community Relations Coordinator Clarissa Perez expanded on the successes of the program.

“This is actually the third year for our Watershed Wise Grant program,” Perez said. “We started it in fiscal year (2014-2015). The first year we had two schools win the grant. The next year there were four winners and this year we are awarding the grant to three schools.”

The grant program is open to any public school within Bexar, Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad County, Perez said. Up to four schools can receive the prize in a given year at a maximum of $22,000.

“We encourage schools to apply. Whenever we do have a school win the grant, student participation is amazing,” she added. “We have kids doing percolation tests or designing rain gardens. We also send educators to teach kids about runoff. We’re really happy with this program.”

The rebate program is in its second year.

“In the past year, we’ve been able to award $100,000 to Confluence Park,” Perez said. “We’ve also had Leon Valley City Hall, the DoSeum, and the City of San Antonio Development Services Department win grants to build parking lots with permeable pavement.”

Permeable pavement combines a variety of sustainable materials that allows rainwater to move through its surface instead of collecting pollutants and running off into the river, useful for areas such as parking lots where oil and other pollutants are left from cars. Other contaminants pose dangers as well.

“After a storm event, we typically see higher amounts of E. coli in our water source as well as fertilizers and nutrients used in our personal lawns,” Perez said. “These excess nutrients are considered pollutants for our water source.”

The River Authority also uses the rebate process to teach people about onsite runoff management. The minimum for the rebate is $15,000 with a maximum of $100,000.

Applications for the Watershed Wise Rebate program will be accepted starting Thursday, Sept. 1 with a deadline on Jan. 31, 2017. The Watershed Wise Grant program will start accepting applications on Sept. 8 with a due date of Dec. 31.

Once the applications open, you can apply for the rebate program here and the grant program here.

Top image: The Watershed Wise Grant program led to the construction of a rain garden at Ferdinand Herff Elementary School. Photo Courtesy of the San Antonio River Authority.

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Former intern James McCandless is a recent St. Mary's University graduate. He has worked with the San Antonio Current and Texas Public Radio.