A pool of clear water, Barton Springs averages a cool 70 degrees year-round under the beautiful shady Texas trees of Austin's Zilker Park. It's more than just a popular swimming destination. It's connected to the greater Austin area in countless ways – and that's what documentary filmmaker Karen Kocher is trying to convey with her interactive project called "Living Springs." 

"The project is trying to explore all of the many ways that the springs touch peoples’ lives,” Kocher explains. "Just about every community can connect to the springs in a different way, and yet most people think of the springs primarily as a recreational resource." 

The whimsical website separates video clips according to different topics, showing not just the rich history of the pool itself but also how Barton Springs continues to contribute to science, attract spiritual events and inspire art. 

"I think that technology can really be used to get people excited about the environment," Kocher says of this project, which stemmed in part from an interactive CD-Rom she created in 1997. Using technology to help communicate environmental messages, Kocher hopes to reach out to the younger generation to inspire them to think more deeply about the effects of their everyday actions, ultimately changing human practices to put cleaner water in the aquifer that feeds the springs. 

Barton Springs SalamanderPolluted water is just one threat — another is the over-pumping of the aquifers that feed these springs as the city grows. This over-pumping could lead to the extinction of the federally endangered Barton Springs salamander, an eccentric-looking species that can only be found in these waters. 

Part of the problem is that visitors simply aren't aware of the vibrant life that exists beneath the waters. "Most people don't wear goggles," Kocher says, "and they have no idea it's a complete ecosystem." 

With a team of tech-savvy locals, other documentary filmmakers and paid interns, "Living Springs" brings the information to the public, and aims to inspire them to look at the springs in a new way.

In addition to educating the public, Kocher says that the documentary also serves to supplement conservation efforts. 

"I very much see the project as providing the activist community a resource that they can draw on, so when they are in front of a legislative panel, or when they're reaching out to communities, they have this resource," Kocher says.

Dive right in to the interactive documentary to learn more about the springs. You can make a donation by visiting the project's fundraising site.

Related stories on MNN:

Photo credit (salamander): Dee Ann Chamberlain