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Houston-Galveston Regional Plan: Status and Activities

What's going on and what's been done by the BIG to reduce bacteria in Houston-area waterways, making them safer for recreation.

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Project Location and ParametersHouston–Galveston BIG Project NavigationTMDL Program Navigation
Watershed Counties: Brazoria, Harris, Fort Bend, Grimes, Liberty, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Walker, and Waller
Parameter: Bacteria
River Basin: San Jacinto, San Jacinto–Brazos Coastal

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Implementation Plan and TMDLs

Reports and Other Documents

TMDL Projects



The commission approved the stakeholder-developed implementation plan on January 30, 2013. This I-Plan was developed by stakeholders in the Bacteria Implementation Group (BIG) Exit the TCEQ.

Read the most recent story—Collaboration in a BIG Way, Adobe Acrobat PDF Document about the status of realizing the BIG's I-Plan. 

Annual Report of Implementation Progress

New Information In late 2015, the BIG published its second Annual Report of its progress reducing bacteria in Houston–Galveston area waterways. Download the 2015 BIG Annual Report (12 MB) Adobe Acrobat PDF Document.

Highlights from 2014 Implementation

graph of bacteria trends

Top 10 "Most Wanted" Streams

The Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) released a list of assessment units with the highest bacteria levels in the BIG project area. After just a year, nearly all ten streams have seen improvements, often directly tied to plan strategies. One stream, Shramm Gully, improved enough to be dropped from the list.

Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) Funding for OSSFs

H-GAC's Clean Rivers Program has received SEP funds from the TCEQ that are being used to repair or replace failing septic systems. SEP funds come from compliance fines levied by the TCEQ.

Best Management Practices to Study Effectiveness

Ghirardi WaterSmart Park in League City, in cooperation with City of Houston, the TCEQ, and the Texas Coastal Watershed Program (TCWP), has implemented BMPs in an effort to conserve water and reduce runoff. The park features pervious pavement, a green roof, a cistern, bio-swales, and a rain garden. TCWP has monitored nitrogen, phosphorus, and bacteria in the park to measure effectiveness of the LID structures.

"Pet Waste Pollutes"

This campaign by H-GAC has increased public awareness and helped to reduce the amount of pet waste which ultimately drains into area waterways and contributes to bacteria pollution. H-GAC has distributed pet waste bags at international dog shows, at the annual Trash Bash, and other events.

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The I-Plan identifies eleven primary strategies for achieving environmental goals. These strategies relate to:

  • wastewater treatment facilities
  • on-site sewage facilities
  • sanitary sewer systems
  • stormwater and land development
  • construction
  • illicit discharges and dumping
  • agriculture and animals
  • residential areas
  • monitoring progress and updating the plan
  • research
  • a geographic priority framework

The I-Plan outlines numerous activities under each of these strategies. Read the I-Plan.

Grant Funded Projects to Support the I-Plan

The TCEQ's Nonpoint Source Program is supporting these projects that help reduce bacteria in the project-area waterways.

  • Clear Creek Tidal: installing low impact development (LID) features in League City.
  • Halls-Bayou–Westfield Estates: implemented low-flow water devices, a pet-waste program, and outreach for managing on-site wastewater facilities in Westfield Estates.
  • Lake Houston Wetland Demonstration: installed water quality exhibits at the WaterWorks Science and Education Center.
  • Whiteoak Bayou, installing low impact development (LID) features in a two-block area of the Cottage Grove subdivision, which is being redeveloped from single family residences to town houses.
  • Coastal Areas: On-Site Sewage Facilities Phase 1 and Phase 2:  locating, pumping out, and replacing malfunctioning OSSFs within the Coastal Zone Management Zone as well as providing training programs for homeowners and local health department staff.
  • Roadway LID Demonstration: installing and monitoring the performance of LID features for roadways in Harris County.
  • Houston Area Trash Bash: removing trash from waterways at about 17 sites in the Houston-Galveston area.

Lake Houston Watersheds

Stakeholders undertook various activities to improve conditions in the lake prior to development of the I-Plan.

  • Converting from Septic Systems to Wastewater Collection Systems (July 2008)
    $500,000 grant to reduce anthropogenic sources of bacteria in the watershed.
  • IDDE Outfall Database - Database tool available for IDDE (Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination).
  • Storm Water Workshop Adobe Acrobat PDF Document Conroe, Texas (April 2008)
    • A one-day event focused on storm water issues for communities in TMDL watersheds, with or without a MS4 storm water permit.
  • Nature Fest at Jesse Jones Park Adobe Acrobat PDF Document Precinct 4 Houston (March 2008)
    • Over 1,200 members of the community attended Nature Fest. Watershed models and water quality literature were used to educate the public on the importance of preventing bacteria from entering Spring Creek.

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Contact Us

For information regarding this project, please contact Todd Running at the H-GAC by phone at 713-993-4549 or by e-mail at Or e-mail the TCEQ’s TMDL Program at, and mention the Houston-Galveston bacteria project in the subject line. Reach the TMDL Program by phone at 512-239-6682.

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