After giving the San Antonio River an F grade in the public trash category for the second year in a row, the San Antonio River Authority is partnering with the city to launch a campaign to promote cleaning up the waterway’s banks.

The results of the second annual San Antonio River Basin Report Card released Friday rated the San Antonio River and its related creek system a B overall, unchanged from last year’s inaugural report. The report measures the health of San Antonio’s river basin on 12 different indicators, such as instream inflows, paddling standards, and park usage, which earned As this year.

But the continuing issue of litter washing into the river and polluting it prompted river authority officials and city leaders to announce the cleanup campaign, called “Don’t Let Litter Trash Your River” at a morning press conference. It was followed by a panel discussion about the new campaign, the waterway’s existing cleanup efforts, and the river’s integral role in the city’s ecology moderated by San Antonio Report Editor Robert Rivard.

The $475,000 outreach campaign includes TV spots and VIA bus wraps promoting river cleanup efforts, and asks residents to download and use the Litterati app, a data tracking app that denotes areas high in litter in communities. Residents are encouraged to go out to these areas, document the trash they see on the ground by snapping a photo, and then cleaning it up correctly, said San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson, who appeared at the press conference to promote the campaign.

Residents interested in cleanup efforts can get involved by joining the river authority’s River Warrior volunteer program or by picking up trash as part of National Public Lands Day this Saturday at Olmos Park from 9 a.m. to noon.

Over the coming months, the river authority and its partners at the San Antonio River Foundation are hoping to see local businesses commit both funds and time toward efforts to clean up the river, said Frates Seeligson, executive director of the San Antonio River Foundation.

“What we can do is we can engage with the business community, and encourage them to support the effort,” Seeligson said. “We plan to reward those businesses that do join us through highlights on our social media.”

As a part of this campaign, the San Antonio River Authority hopes to see local businesses commit to working toward a trash-free San Antonio River by taking a public pledge, said Minna Paul, education and volunteer engagement coordinator for the river authority, during the panel discussion.

It will take businesses and residents alike to make the river cleaner, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

“No matter where it occurs, litter in our community ends up in our San Antonio River through the creekways, through the river itself,” Nirenberg said. “So we’re asking everyone to be aware of that, and to help us deal with the issue. It’s important for us to take pride in our community, in our city, but also in the quality and ecology of our San Antonio River.”

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg speaks during the press conference announcing the new campaign against litter in the San Antonio River.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg speaks during a press conference announcing a new campaign against litter in the San Antonio River. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Trash in the river is bad for wildlife and hurts the waterway’s natural ecology, explained Steven Schauer, SARA’s director of external communications. Not only does trash look ugly, but it leads to an overabundance of bacteria in the river, making the water stink and be less safe for fish, birds, and other animals, Schauer said.

“The river is a source of endless fascination for all of us,” Rivard said during the panel discussion. “It’s why we live here, it’s why there’s a city here.”

Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett is the general assignment reporter for the San Antonio Report.