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Lower Laguna Madre: Watershed Protection Plan (South)

University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley and stakeholders will develop a Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) for the southern portion of the Lower Laguna Madre watershed and Brownsville Ship Channel.


The project area includes the southern portion of the Lower Laguna Madre Watershed, consisting of the coastal watersheds between the Arroyo Colorado and Rio Grande watersheds. The watershed includes the City of Brownsville and numerous townships in the surrounding area. Most of these watersheds drain to the Brownsville Ship Channel and then to the Lower Laguna Madre.

The 2020 Texas Water Quality Inventory and 303(d) List reported that several portions of the ship channel and its tributaries have not met state water quality standards for fecal bacteria since 2010. These bacteria are naturally found in the intestines of humans, livestock, wildlife, and pets. Although they are not generally disease-causing, their presence in water indicate the potential presence of disease-causing microorganisms from fecal contamination. Therefore, higher levels of fecal bacteria in water mean a higher risk to humans of contracting diseases by ingesting contaminated water during swimming, wading, or kayaking — activities, called “contact recreation,” in the state’s standards for water quality. The Integrated Report also list concerns for low levels of dissolved oxygen in some of the water bodies, and stakeholders are concerned about the spread of invasive aquatic plants.

In 2016, a watershed partnership and stakeholders began working toward developing a Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) to address water quality issues, starting with a watershed characterization project let by University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). Water quality was monitored bi-monthly at three sites in the eastern part of the watershed to address data gaps. Two concurrent projects are working to complete the watershed characterization.

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Project Description

Under this project UTRGV will:

  • Identify any potential data gaps in the initial watershed characterization.
  • Collect additional water quality and flow data from the main tributaries of the Brownsville Ship Channel.
  • Model pollutant contributions by each type of source (septic systems, livestock, etc.), quantify pollutant reductions needed to meet water quality standards, and prioritize measures to reduce them.
  • Provide a watershed coordinator to facilitate public education and stakeholder involvement in the planning process.
  • Build a physical model of the watershed to use at education and outreach events.

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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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