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Tres Palacios Creek

This is a project to reduce bacteria and protect recreational safety in Tres Palacios Creek. The stakeholders and TCEQ developed a total maximum daily load (TMDL) and implementation plan (I-Plan), which together are the road map for improving water quality. The TMDL was adopted and the I-Plan has been approved.

photo of tres palacios creek
Tres Palacios Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Texas Institute for
Applied Environmental Research

Counties: Wharton, Matagorda
Parameter: Bacteria
Coastal Basin: Colorado–Lavaca
Segment: 1501

On this page:

Background and Goals

Since 2006, high concentrations of bacteria, which are found in both human and animal waste, have been observed in the Tres Palacios Creek. The presence of these bacteria may indicate a health risk to people who swim or wade in the bayou — activities referred to as “contact recreation” in the Texas Surface Water Quality Standards.

In response to these conditions, people who have a stake in the watershed worked with TCEQ to develop a TMDL and a plan to implement it. A TMDL is like a budget — it determines the amount (or load) of bacteria that the creek can receive and still support safe recreation. The allowable load is then allocated among categories of sources within the watershed. The I-Plan outlines the measures that will be used to reduce pollution.

The goal of this project is to improve water quality in order to protect recreational uses. Stakeholders have also developed a Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) towards this goal.

Watershed Description

The Tres Palacios Creek (Segment 1501) watershed is 268.5 square miles and is located along the Texas Gulf Coast midway between the cities of Victoria and Houston. The creek flows into Tres Palacios Bay, and then into Matagorda Bay. Segment 1501 is the portion of Tres Palacios Creek that is influenced by tidal action, meaning the tidal segment receives freshwater inflows from the watershed and saline water from Tres Palacios Bay.

Get Involved

Staff from the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) worked with stakeholder communities, interest groups, and local organizations to distribute information about this project and involve stakeholders in developing the I-Plan for watershed improvement. All public meetings about this project are open to anyone interested. Watch for meeting announcements here and on the TWRI website.

Approved I-Plan

Community stakeholders developed the I-Plan. The commission approved it on January 24, 2018.

Status of Activities

The TWRI watershed coordinator and stakeholders meet annually to evaluate the progress of their I-Plan and WPP. Tracking of implementation progress allows stakeholders to evaluate actions taken, identify actions that may not be working, and make any changes as necessary.

Adopted TMDL

The commission adopted this TMDL on January 24, 2018. The EPA approved the TMDL on March 29, 2018, at which time it became part of the state's Water Quality Management Plan.


Technical Support Document

Contact the TMDL Program

Please email, and mention the Tres Palacios bacteria project in the subject line. Or call us at 512-239-6682.

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