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.
Polluted 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.
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Photo credit (salamander): Dee Ann Chamberlain