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Carters Creek Watershed: Implementing TMDLs to Protect Recreational Uses

A community project to develop and implement TMDLs to reduce bacteria levels and protect recreational uses of the creek. Together, the adopted TMDL and the approved implementation plan are the road map to improving water quality in the creek.

photo of Carters Creek

Carters Creek

County: Brazos
Parameter: Bacteria
River Basin: Brazos
Segment: 1209C, 1209D, 1209L

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Background and Goals

High concentrations of bacteria such as E. coli and fecal coliform, which are naturally found in both human and animal waste, may indicate a health risk to people who swim or wade in the creek—activities called “contact recreation” in the Texas Surface Water Quality Standards. Water quality testing has indicated that concentrations of bacteria in Carters, Burton, and Country Club creeks are sometimes higher than the criteria in the Standards.

The watershed of Carters creek is in Brazos County, and covers about 57 square miles. Land use in the watershed is heavily urbanized in the upper reach where Carters Creek originates in Bryan/College Station, and becomes more rural in the lower reach. Country Club Branch flows into Burton Creek, which in turn flows into Carters Creek. These tributary watersheds are almost entirely urbanized.

The goal of this project is to reduce bacteria concentrations to within acceptable levels for contact recreation through development of total maximum daily loads and a plan to implement them. A TMDL is like a budget for pollutants. It determines the amount of a pollutant (or load) that a water body can receive and still support its designated uses.

The total load is then allocated among the categories of pollution sources within the watershed, and stakeholders develop a plan with measures to reduce pollutant loads. Implementation plans are carried out by stakeholders over a period of several years.

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Get Involved

photo of Carters Creek stakeholders

Stakeholders discuss progress at meeting in August 2013

In all its projects, the TCEQ seeks opinions and information from people who represent government, permitted facilities, agriculture, business, environmental, and community and private interests in the watershed.

The Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI)Exit the TCEQ coordinated stakeholder involvement and the drafting of the implementation plan.

Meeting Records

Records of stakeholder meetingsExit the TCEQ held during development of the TMDLs and implementation plan are available on the TWRI website.

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The following organizations are partners in implementing the plan to improve water quality in Carters Creek. 

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Status and Activities

The  implementation plan documents measures stakeholders are using to reduce bacteria loads. Their strategy includes the following actions:

  • Coordinate and expand existing water quality monitoring in the watershed and conduct a survey of bacteria sources.
  • Determine the feasibility of modifying tax valuation requirements for agricultural lands; quantify expected water quality impacts of modifications and/or of transitioning from agriculture to wildlife valuations.
  • Work to improve OSSF management to ensure proper system functioning.
  • Implement sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) initiatives as appropriate.
  • Implement voluntary best management practices (BMPs) on agricultural or undeveloped properties.
  • Encourage and promote future development and redevelopment that will mitigate adverse water quality impacts.
  • Implement Stormwater Management Programs (SWMPs) for individual cities.
  • Monitor bacteria concentrations in effluent from WWTFs according to individual permit requirements.


The stakeholders meet every one to two years to discuss implementation of the TMDLs. Tracking of implementation progress allows stakeholders to evaluate actions taken, identify actions that may not be working, and make any changes as necessary.

Grant Funded Projects to Support the I-Plan

  • Carters Creek TMDL Data Project, collecting additional water quality data to determine when and where bacteria levels are higher or lower in the creek.
  • Carters Creek Implementation Project, survey the watershed to identify and map possible sources of bacteria pollution and provide more robust information for determining or verifying good strategies for improving recreational conditions.

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Videos, News, and Maps

TMDLs and Implementation Plan

On August 22, 2012, the commission adopted the TMDLs for Carters Creek watershed and approved the stakeholders’ Implementation Plan.

  • Three Total Maximum Daily Loads Adobe Acrobat PDF Document for the Carters Creek Watershed
    Segments: 1209C, 1209D, and 1209L; Assessment Units: 1209C_01, 1209D_01, and 1209L_01
  • Implementation Plan Adobe Acrobat PDF Document for Three Total Maximum Daily Loads for Bacteria in the Carters Creek Watershed

On September 27, 2012, the EPA approved the TMDLs, at which time they became part of the state’s Water Quality Management Plan.

Updates to TMDLs

From time to time, it is necessary to revise TMDLs to account for changing conditions in the watershed, such as new or amended permits, or urban growth, or to correct oversights in the original TMDL report. Revisions to the load allocations in TMDLs are made via the state’s WQMP, which is updated quarterly.

The WQMP provides projected effluent limits for use in planning and permitting activities under the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES). The TCEQ reviews all applications for new and amended permits for conformance with applicable portions of the WQMP, including adopted TMDLs.

Revisions to the TMDL are documented in the approved WQMP updates listed below.

Learn more about WQMP updates and about opportunities to comment on revisions to them.

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For More Information

Please e-mail us at, and reference the Carters Creek Watersheds TMDLs in the subject line. Or call us at 512-239-6682.

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communities working together taking care of our rivers, lakes, and bays