Learn How to Spot and Report Pollution in Shoal Creek

March 11, 2024  | By Shoal Creek Conservancy

Did you know that there is a wastewater (sewage) line in the middle of Shoal Creek? Aging, urban infrastructure like this leaves water quality and wildlife in Shoal Creek vulnerable. On January 10, 2024, a wastewater line break occurred near 12th Street, and around 15,000 gallons of wastewater entered the creek. Luckily, the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department was quickly notified of the spill by someone walking along the Shoal Creek Trail, and there was minimal resulting damage to the creek. The spill was contained, an old wastewater line was removed, the main pipe was repaired, 7,000 gallons of water was pumped out of the creek, and fish were relocated downstream. Because of how swiftly the trail user reported the issue and how quickly Watershed Protection and Austin Water acted, there were no reported fish deaths and no issues of permanent damage to the creek due to the spill.

If you’re wondering how you can take action to help ensure spills or other contaminants are addressed quickly, check out the following resources. The City of Austin Watershed Protection Department has a 24-Hour Pollution Hotline that you can call if you spot (or smell) pollution in the watershed such as motor oil, sewage, paint, construction debris and more. They also created a quick guide outlining the steps for identifying and reporting pollution. If you aren’t sure what you should be looking out for, refer to their Water Quality Color Guide that details possible sources of unusual-looking water in our creeks. If you suspect a leak, Austin Water offers information about reporting water leaks at home or in the community.


Austin Water conducts regular maintenance and inspections to identify deteriorating pipes and infrastructure to prevent spills like those that occurred on 1/10/2024 or 3/14/2023. This work is very important for the health of Shoal Creek and other Austin waterways. But, citizens are often the first to discover spills and should report what they observe as soon as possible. YOU can be the difference between a quick response or an environmental emergency.

If you ever notice pollution in Austin creeks (murky water, odd colors or smells, oily sheen, dead fish, etc), please immediately call Watershed Protection’s 24/7 Pollution Hotline, 512-974-2550.  If you see a water leak, please call Austin Water’s 24/7 dispatch line, 512-972-1000.

You can also submit photos and details to the City of Austin via the 311 app or phone line, and to Shoal Creek Conservancy via this Report Form.

Thank you for being the eyes and ears of our precious waterways!