Recommendations and Conclusion


  • Bacteria continues to be the most widespread and pervasive pollutant in the region.
  • 63% of streams throughout the H-GAC region are impaired by elevated levels of bacteria.
  • 9% of segments show significant improvement in bacteria levels compared to 2% showing degradation.

Dissolved Oxygen (DO)

  • Depressed DO levels are a concern in over 52% of streams in the region.
  • 6% of streams show significant improvement in DO levels compared to 4% showing degradation.


  • Concerns for nutrients continue to rise.
  • 52% of streams throughout the basins contain nutrients at levels higher than the screening criteria.
  • 4% of area streams show significant improvement compared to 39% showing rising nutrient levels.

Chlorophyll a

  • 39% of streams in the region exceed the state recommended chlorophyll a screening criteria.
  • 31% of area streams show increased chlorophyll a compared to 2% showing improvement.

PCBs and Dioxins

  • PCBs and Dioxins in fish tissue continue to be of great concern in coastal Bays and Estuaries as well as in other tidal segments.
  • PCB and Dioxin levels exceed standards in 48% of tidal waters
  • There has been no change in PCB or Dioxin levels in the bays and estuaries or tidal segments in the region.
  • Encourage the addition of water quality features (ex. rain gardens, rain barrels) to stormwater systems.
  • Promote and encourage Low Impact Development (LID) in growing urbanized areas.
  • Encourage Water Quality Management Plans or similar projects for agricultural properties.
  • Utilize regional best management practices (BMPs) and on-site sewage system facilities (OSSF) databases to prioritize problem areas.
  • Offer educational webinars and workshops that can be accessed remotely in order to reach a larger demographic.
  • Work with local agencies to implement management measures recommended in the Bacteria Implementation Group (BIG) I-Plan for Bacteria Reduction.
  • Expand the BIG geographic area to increase connectivity of BMPs with neighboring watersheds.
  • Continue to support watershed protection planning and implementation of Watershed Protection Plans (WPPs) throughout the region.
  • Work with the TCEQ Standards Team on the development of nutrient standards for water bodies.
  • Continue to expand routine water quality monitoring by adding new local agencies to the Regional Water Quality Monitoring Network.
  • Continue to expand Texas Stream Team monitoring in priority areas.
  • Begin working with USGS and EPA to develop guidelines for the monitoring of emerging pollutants.
  • Work with local partner and contract labs to lower detection limits for nutrients.

Interested stakeholders, including the Clean Rivers Program (CRP) Basin Steering Committee, had the opportunity to review and comment on the draft Basin Summary Report (BSR) in February 2016. Stakeholder comments focused primarily on formatting of the watershed summaries including rewording table headings for clarification, using consistent terminology and acronyms throughout, repositioning graph legends to improve readability, and making adjustments to watershed maps for consistency. Stakeholders also requested specific information be included on the ArcGIS interactive watershed map, including land cover data, and permitted outfall locations.

Local stakeholders expressed concern that ambient monitoring is not adequate for demonstrating success in the reduction of various pollutants throughout the region. Therefore, many stakeholders have shown greater interest in the development of watershed protection plans (WPPs) and subsequent BMP monitoring that will show improvements in a much shorter time frame and more distinct area. H-GAC is working with local stakeholders in the development of numerous WPPs and TMDLs. CRP monitoring is the foundation upon which each of these plans is expanding their monitoring efforts.

CRP provides the majority of the data used in analyses for the Texas Integrated Report of Surface Water Quality (IR) for Clean Water Act Sections 305(b) and 303(d) (IR). It provides the basis for most of the WPP and TMDL work throughout the state; yet, CRP Partners received five percent less in funding than was allocated in 2001. It is recommended that funding for CRP partners return to at least the 2001 levels but should be increased to reflect inflation that has occurred since 2001 (nearly 34%). CRP partners strive to streamline programs, eliminate duplication, and work efficiently. If budgets are not adjusted to compensate for higher costs, CRP partners will be forced to reduce the ambient monitoring that is done in their basins. H-GAC has already cut special studies that stakeholders have prioritized to be able to fund baseline ambient monitoring done in their basins.

H-GAC recommends that limited nonpoint source (NPS) monitoring be funded under CRP. While routine monitoring shows overall trends in water quality, smaller scale NPS monitoring will allow CRP to better assess the success of NPS controls in individual watersheds that would otherwise go undetected using routine ambient data. The ability to assist local MS4 permit holders determine if actions they have taken to reduce NPS are working would be a great benefit.

Stakeholders throughout the region have asked about emerging pollutants making the news and becoming more prevalent on a regular basis. The US Geological Survey (USGS) is doing work on emerging pollutants and has inquired about partnering in new monitoring initiatives to develop a baseline of data for targeted areas of the region. H GAC recommends that TCEQ begin working with USGS and EPA to develop guidelines for this new monitoring.

CRP has always done an exceptional job collecting high quality data. H-GAC will continue to collect high quality ambient data to establish water quality trends to better identify problem areas. The biggest challenge is to determine which factors have the greatest impact on water quality variations in our watersheds. H-GAC’s CRP efforts, in coordination with other water resource programs, continue to work toward identifying the primary factors impacting regional water quality conditions. Through the development and implementation of the low impact development (LID), on-site sewage facility (OSSF), and BMP databases, we will begin to have quantifiable information regarding the impact of BMPs in our watersheds. The BMP, LID, and OSSF databases are continuously updated to reflect current projects and facilities. This data is then merged through GIS to provide more meaningful spatial analysis of problem areas.

Elevated levels of bacteria continue to be a priority for the region. Bacteria’s relationship with nutrients, TSS, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and other parameters needs additional correlative research. H-GAC has been and will continue to work on WPPs and TMDL/I Plans that address bacteria problems. Current examples include the BIG’s Top Five Most and Top Five Least Impaired Water Bodies Study that began in spring of 2016. The purpose of the study is to use CRP data to evaluate which impaired water bodies are closest to meeting state water quality standards for bacteria and which impaired water bodies are furthest from meeting standards. H-GAC will then collect additional bacteria data to identify, and hopefully eliminate, bacteria sources in the two most impaired and two least impaired water bodies. Other tentative bacteria studies beginning in 2016 include the West Fork Watershed Protection Plan (WPP), and the Basin Approach to Address Bacterial Impairments for the San Jacinto-Brazos Coastal Basin and the Brazos-Colorado Coastal Basin.

We are lucky to live in a region with plentiful water resources where access to recreational activities like boating, fishing, birding, canoeing, and swimming are right in our backyards. These same water resources are used to transport goods in one of the largest and busiest ports in the world, and to provide high quality drinking water for millions of residents in the region. Regional population growth of 3.5 million people is projected by 2040. As the region grows, close attention to the quality and quantity of our surface waters will become more and more important. Incoming residents will require water for everyday domestic activities, drastically increasing water supply needs. New residents will utilize available recreational opportunities, creating a greater need to make sure local waterways meet contact recreation standards. CRP will continue to provide high quality data to assess the health of our surface waters and provide insight and recommendations to maintain or improve the quality of our region's waterways during this period of rapid regional growth.

H-GAC's CRP is the foundation upon which the assessment of the region's water quality is based. It also provides the data for which most water quality initiatives in the region are established and evaluated. The data collection and analyses that are completed under the CRP feed into numerous WPPs, TMDL Implementation Plans (I-Plans), the Water Quality Management Plan, and Water Quality Standards. CRP data collection has been counted as grant-funded match for many of these water quality initiatives not only at H-GAC, but by other local entities conducting similar projects.

TCEQ provides a detailed analysis of water quality data to determine which segments are not meeting water quality standards every two years in the Texas IR. This Basin Summary Report does not duplicate that assessment; it takes that assessment a step further and looks at trends in water quality for each TCEQ segment to better evaluate if water quality is getting better or worse.

For this report, CRP has strived to determine the general sources and causes of pollutants found through ambient monitoring, and then identify various ways to address those sources. In watersheds where H-GAC or other entities are pursuing WPPs, TMDL I-Plans, or other water quality related projects, priorities and solutions developed by local stakeholders are reflected in this report.

H-GAC informs and educates citizens and local governments about healthy water behaviors and existing water quality issues through a variety of methods including database development, volunteer opportunities, and educational trainings and workshops. The Water Resources Interactive Map (WRIM) continues to be one of H-GAC’s primary public outreach and education tools. The website allows the user to display all ambient water quality monitoring sites in the region and retrieve any associated data. It allows the user to display watershed boundaries, local jurisdictions, and waste water treatment facilities (WWTF). Other outreach opportunities include the Texas Stream Team program, the Clean Waters Initiative workshops, and community events that reach hundreds of citizens and interested stakeholders.

There are several water quality issues to tackle in our region. Through the development of various water quality projects, professionals, regulators, and interested stakeholders have come together to develop BMPs that have shown great success in improving water quality. This is especially evident for the BIG I-Plan area where voluntary and regulatory measures have shown significant reductions in bacteria levels in some watersheds. However, there is more work that needs to be done and no single entity can solve all of our water quality issues alone.

There are a number of recommendations for improving water quality in this report. We don't expect that every entity will implement each one of them. However, if we continue to coordinate efforts with other basin entities involved in water quality matters, we will be more successful in holistically achieving program objectives and improving regional water quality conditions for years to come.