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Little River, San Gabriel River, and Big Elm Creek: Characterizing the Watershed

A project to collect and analyze water quality data for Little River, San Gabriel River, and Big Elm Creek as a first step toward developing a watershed protection plan.


The San Gabriel River and Big Elm Creek are major tributaries to the Little River. Big Elm Creek does not meet all water quality standards because bacteria concentrations exceed the criteria used to evaluate attainment of the contact recreation use. There are quality concerns about all three water bodies because of low dissolved oxygen and elevated levels of chlorophyll-a, nitrate, orthophosphorus, and total phosphorus.

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Project Description

Staff of this project formed a stakeholder group to discuss ways to improve the watershed and reached out to residents with educational programs. Stakeholders and project staff characterized the watershed, determined the probable sources of pollution in the streams, and calculated reductions in the amount of certain pollutants needed to meet water quality standards again and prevent further worsening of water quality. While the Little Creek and San Gabriel River portions did not progress past watershed characterization, the work completed during this project provided scientific support for the Big Elm Creek Watershed Protection Plan that EPA accepted in 2021. 

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For More Information

To find out more about the NPS Program, call 512-239-6682 or e-mail us at

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