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The San Antonio River’s Taming Essay

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Updated: Apr 3rd, 2020

Over the past century, San Antonio has developed from a poor city occupied mainly by the Mexican businessmen and white farmers, to a picturesque region that attracts tourists from different parts of the world. The San Antonio River is one of the integral natural resources that the city has used to transform the environment from a disastrous region to a beautiful land.

The San Antonio River has influenced the members of the society in San Antonio to embrace community efforts to mitigate the adverse effects of its initial wilderness status. San Antonio city is built right along the banks of the San Antonio River, and this means that the river is a great source of influence in the development of the environment around the city.

The San Antonio community witnessed the risks posed by living along the banks of a wild river during the first half of the 20th century, and this prompted the erection of countermeasures to mitigate the adverse effects of the floods of the river. Despite the extensive damages and deaths caused by the 1921 floods of the San Antonio River, the community in the city was united by the communal problem as they struggled to develop a long-term solution for the periodical floods (“The Water and Culture Reader” 211).

The influence of the river on the community

The community in San Antonio in 1921 was made of animal farmers, crop farmers, and businesspersons who owned stores in the urban areas. In September 1921, the region had waited for the rains long enough and on the day it finally rained. They did not know that a storm that would change their perspective of the river San Antonio was brewing.

After the storm, the destruction of property and the high number of deaths caused by the resultant floods brought the community together in the development of ideas to eliminate future risks (“The Water and Culture Reader” 211). The event also saw the active collaboration of the people in the community with the army to help in clearing the destroyed property and retrieving dead bodies from the river.

This event gave rise to a revolution in the approaches to safety for the San Antonio community. The prevailing idea was the construction of a dam to tame the river during a similar storm, deepening the trench of the river, and the erection of safety structures along the banks to control the direction of the river.

Being a modest city, San Antonio authorities had limited financial resources to finance the project. This challenge was met by the members of the community through the businesspersons. Business owners pledged to pay a self-induced levy to finance the project after being persuaded by the leaders with promises of the development of a picturesque scenery along the river.

The entire community shared the vision of a beautiful, clean river that would not only foster the development of a serene environment for the community, but also develop business opportunities through tourism. Construction of the dam commenced in 1925, and it took a whole year to be completed. Construction of safety measures along the banks was also incorporated in the project, and by the late 1920s, the San Antonio city was secure from floods.

The cement channeling of the river in San Antonio was completed in 1941. This safety for the city was demonstrated in 1946 when a big storm hit San Antonio. The resultant floods did not cause any destruction in San Antonio, but 10 people were killed in the western stretch of the river.

This emphasized the need for the authorities to extend their safety measures project beyond the river walk. Despite the many challenges that faced the project to channel the river for safety, the San Antonio River is now safer and the community views it as a phenomenon landmark (“The Water and Culture Reader” 216).

From prior experiences with disastrous floods in the San Antonio River, it is apparent that the community in the region took the problem positively, and it influenced them to focus on taming the river. It is also clear that the members of the community were optimistic that the killer river would be transformed into a scenic view in all parts of the city.

The authorities charged with cleaning the river and planting trees and other vegetation covers along the riverbanks upheld their responsibility for the better part of the 20th century (“The Water and Culture Reader” 217). To date, the San Antonio River remains to be the most iconic landmark in the city.

Business stores face the river, and people can take boat rides along the calm waters or take a walk along the river banks as they unwind. The community in San Antonio has been influenced by the magnificent results of their combined efforts to embrace water and forest conservation with relation to the river.

As the San Antonio community increases, the water issues keep rising because the San Antonio Water System still lacks the ability to guarantee the people of long-term supply of abundant fresh water. The rates of pollution in the San Antonio River have increased, and most people in the community fail to take the responsibility of conserving water in the river (Mankad and Tapsuwan 380).

The river is still cleaned regularly, and the safety measures against floods still receive maintenance through the authorities in the city, but the community occupying the city currently seems to be impervious to the dangers of wasting water. The people in the community have to be compelled to join their individual efforts to find a solution to their current and future water problems. It would be sad for San Antonio to turn from a land of floods to a dry and arid city over a span of one century.


Taming the San Antonio River was a project that changed the face of the river from a natural disaster to a scenic natural resource. The 1921 floods that killed many people and destroyed properties in San Antonio were the turning point for the community. The effects of floods united the people to help each other through the ordeal, and it influenced the development of an innovative idea to eliminate the underlying risks of the river.

The people in the impoverished city contributed what they could afford to finance the development of a dam and channeling of the riverbanks to safeguard the land from potential floods. The combined efforts were effective in eliminating the risks of floods in the city.

It is, however, apparent that the contemporary community in the city is facing challenges with the availability of fresh water, which may turn into a crisis in the near future. The people should be compelled to meet their responsibilities to conserve water to safeguard the future of the community in the city. The San Antonio community should be mobilized to integrate their individual efforts to solve their challenges.

Works Cited

Mankad, Aditi and Sorada Tapsuwan. “Review of socio-economic drivers of community acceptance and adoption of decentralized water systems.” Journal of environmental management 92.3 (2011): 380-391. Print.

The Water and Culture Reader. Texas: Fountainhead Press, 2011. Print.

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