Texas State University in San Marcos announced plans for a $10 million dollar water research facility on August 24. The university is already home to the River Systems Institute which studies water resources and related environmental concerns.
The Institute will be renamed the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment in recognition of the $1 million donation from the Meadows Foundation, based in Dallas. It is expected that the foundation will make additional gifts over the next few years, bringing their total contribution to $5 million.
The university will seek additional funding to ultimately reach the $10 million dollar goal. The money will be used for fellowships for graduate students, hiring additional faculty and further research.
Texas State is the ideal location for a facility such as this due to the fact that the San Marcos Springs, the second largest spring in the Southwest, is an integral part of the university’s campus. These springs are the origin for Spring Lake and the San Marcos River which flows across university grounds and on through the city of San Marcos.
These water features are not only inspiration to researchers and students, they are also a popular destination for residents of the area. While you cannot swim in Spring Lake for recreational purposes, the Aquarena Center offers glass bottom boat tours of the lake where you are allowed a clear view of the springs bursting forth from the bottom of the lake.
In the past, Aquarena Springs was a popular tourist destination that featured underwater mermaids and Ralph the swimming pig. The San Marcos River is a popular spot for swimming and tubing for both students and locals alike.
From an ecological perspective, the lake and river are home to five endangered species and are, therefore, environmentally protected. The five are:
Texas Wild Rice
San Marcos Salamander
San Marcos Gambusia
The existence of these endangered species not only provides outstanding research material but assures that the lake and springs will not be allowed to be developed or changed in a detrimental manner. It is believed that this is the only location in the country where so many endangered species are found in such a small area and some only exist in these springs and their waters.
As a result of the above considerations, Texas State is the ideal location for a water resources and environmental research facility. “I don’t know of any other university in the world that has a major spring in the middle of campus,” Andrew Sansom, the center’s director, told the Austin American-Statesman.
“It’s a source of inspiration for our students and a huge research laboratory and educational opportunity.” Denise Trauth, president of the university, stated that “Water is a core value at Texas State, and the Meadows Center is uniquely poised to be a leader in this country on that topic by combining research, stewardship, education and service”.