AUSTIN -- It's a delicate situation with part mother nature and part pet owners to blame. Fecal bacteria levels now exceed state standards at four Austin creeks.
West Austin's Reed Park may not be the biggest, but it's the perfect escape for six-year-old Rhys Carter, whose favorite part runs right through the middle in the form of a creek.
"I really like it," said Carter. "I like to sort of look at it and see if there's any fish."
Looking is fine, coming into contact with the water, not so much.
The South Branch of Taylor Slough is now contaminated by high levels of fecal bacteria.
"I'm grossed out," Carter said.
Environmentalists have found the same problem in several other creeks, including Waller, Walnut and the Spicewood Branch of Shoal Creek, which all fail to meet state water quality standards. Wildlife droppings and small wastewater plant leaks are just part of the problem.
"People bring their dogs here to play which is great," said Aubrey Carter. "But they forget to clean up after their dogs."
"We know that this is a city-wide issue," said Chris Herrington with Austin's Watershed Protection Department, who's now turning to the community for help.
"It's not only against the law and punishable by fine, but they're contaminating this water that then kids will come and recreate in and making the parks less suitable or even our streets less suitable."
Biologists say the raised levels of bacteria shouldn't be a cause of alarm just yet, saying the amount found in the Austin creeks equals that of about a teaspoon in an entire swimming pool.
Officials aren't closing access to the water just asking people to stay out.
As for Rhys, "So now to touch it [water] I'm just going to stick a stick in there," he said.
A smart move, keeping him coming back to a favorite park.
The city is hosting a public meeting to discuss the bacteria problem. It's set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 28th at the office of Watershed Protection located in Room 325 at 505 Barton Springs Road. Free Parking is available.