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Water Quality Program Successes

The TCEQ is constantly improving its activities to monitor, evaluate, and protect our natural waters. This page highlights successful strategies employed for preserving and improving the quality of rivers, lakes, and bays.

 

Gilleland Creek LCRA Training Guadalupe River at G Street BIG stakeholder committee

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Preserving and Improving Water Quality
An overview of how the TCEQ defines, measures, evaluates, and manages the quality of surface waters in Texas.

On this page:

Monitoring

The TCEQ monitors the quality of surface water to evaluate physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of aquatic systems. Water quality is monitored in relation to human health concerns, ecological condition, and designated uses.

The same methods must be used by everyone collecting water samples, using reliable procedures that yield repeatable results. This allows for comparison of data collected by different organizations.

Routine Monitoring Sites

The TCEQ assessed data from more than 2,664 stations to develop the 2018 Integrated Report of Surface Water Quality, which describes the condition of waterways throughout the state and identifies impaired waters.

 

Continuous Monitoring Sites

The TCEQ continuously monitors water quality parameters at stations in selected watersheds throughout Texas.

In 2020, there were approximately 35 active continuous water quality monitoring stations throughout the state.

 

screen shot of coordinated monitoring planning tool
Screenshot of Coordinated Monitoring Planning Tool

Coordinated Monitoring

TCEQ partners with numerous organizations to develop a statewide monitoring schedule that includes approximately 1,800 active sampling sites.

The schedule is coordinated statewide by the TCEQ. Every spring, approximately 20 meetings are held all over the state to plan monitoring for the upcoming fiscal year.

Coordinated monitoring makes data collection more efficient by leveraging limited funds. Advantages of coordinated monitoring include:

  • Eliminating duplication of effort, thereby saving resources.
  • Increasing local participation in setting priorities and planning solutions.
  • Ensuring consistent data quality for decision making.

 

Clean Rivers Program

Established in 1991, the Clean Rivers Program (CRP) is a very successful partnership between the TCEQ, regional water authorities, and the public.

Fifteen regional water authorities manage the program in 23 river and coastal basins.

Within each basin, the CRP partners implement the program by coordinating and conducting water quality monitoring, assessment, and stakeholder participation in order to improve the quality of surface water.

CRP partners collect more than 60% of the water quality data used by TCEQ.

 

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Standards and Assessment

In order to protect water quality, we must first define and measure it. So we first define standards. A water quality standard is the combination, or pairing, of a use and associated criteria. Uses are the purposes for which the water should be suitable. Criteria are the indicators used to determine whether quality is good enough to support the uses.

Measuring water quality requires reliable, consistent, quality-assured data. Those data are collected and shared through the SWQMIS—the Surface Water Quality Monitoring Information System.

Every two years, we report the status of Texas’ natural waters, based on historical data, in the Texas Integrated Report of Surface Water Quality.

The Surface Water Quality Monitoring Program assesses data from all waters throughout the state to evaluate attainment of water quality standards. The total amount of area assessed for each type of water body depends on the amount of data collected within the specified time frame of assessment for the Integrated Report.

Areas Assessed in Texas in 2018

  • 22,360 stream miles
  • 2,266 square miles of reservoirs
  • 2,547 square miles of estuaries
  • 144 miles of recreational beaches

 

Site-Specific Standards

TCEQ continues to improve techniques and protocols for assigning tailored, site-specific uses.

 

Data Management

The TCEQ’s Surface Water Quality Monitoring Information System (SWQMIS) is used to store, manage, and make publicly available water quality monitoring data from across the state. More than 20 separate organizations, including river authorities and local, state, and federal agencies, report data to SWQMIS.

In an average year, the Data Management & Analysis Team:

  • Verifies, validates and/or loads more than 450,000 sample results.
  • Creates 100 new monitoring stations in SWQMIS.
  • Trains more than 30 new SWQMIS users.
  • Manages over 34.6 million sample results and related metadata.

 

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Restoration

When protective strategies are not sufficient to keep natural waters clean enough for all their uses, we take action to restore water quality.

The Nonpoint Source Program (NPS Program) administers federal funding to help watershed stakeholders address nonpoint sources of water pollution. The program is jointly administered by the TCEQ and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB)Exit the TCEQ

This program regularly updates a comprehensive Texas NPS Management Program and tracks its progress in NPS Annual Reports and in an interactive map, the NPS Project ViewerExit the TCEQ.

The primary activities supported by these funds are grant projects to develop and implement Watershed Protection Plans (WPPs).

As of 2020, the total area addressed by WPPs in Texas is approximately:

  • 5,475 Stream Miles
  • 45,710 Acres Reservoir
  • 108,966 Acres Estuary
  • 202,222 Acres Oyster Waters

Each year, the TCEQ uses a process called Request for Grant Applications (RFGA) to award federal NPS grants. The RFGA happens in the summer and awards 2-3 million dollars annually. Awarded projects receive 60 percent of their cost from federal funds. The balance of 40 percent must be matched with state or local funds or in-kind services.

Success Stories

Since 2008, EPA has recognized the success of activities to address NPS pollution which were funded by the TCEQ and TSSWCB. These NPS success stories highlight activities to improve water quality.

 

The Total Maximum Daily Load Program (TMDL Program) works with local stakeholders to improve water quality in watersheds throughout Texas. Stakeholders are actively engaged in water quality restoration activities.

As of February 2020, the total area covered by the TMDLs and associated I-Plans was:

  • 2,624 Stream Miles
  • 28,164 Reservoir Acres
  • 224 Estuary Square Miles

Learn more about watersheds where TMDLs are being implemented.

 

Galveston Bay Estuary Program

Since 2000, the TCEQ’s Galveston Bay Estuary Program (GBEP)Exit the TCEQ and its partners created, protected, and enhanced 30,325 acres and 128,715 linear feet of important coastal habitat (e.g., Trinity Bay Discover Center, pictured left), leveraging $113,600,000 in local, industry, state, and federal contributions. During fiscal years 2018 and 2019, GBEP protected, restored, and enhanced 1,274 acres of coastal wetlands and other important habitats. Through collaborative partnerships established by the GBEP, $22.63 million was secured for ongoing and future projects.

 

The goal of the Conservation Assistance Program (CAP) is to support the GBEP and its partners’ efforts to preserve wetlands and other important coastal habitats to protect the long-term health and productivity of Galveston Bay. The CAP was developed to protect habitat and water quality, reduce flood and storm damage, provide recreational opportunities for residents in the area, and to preserve the region’s unique natural heritage.

From 2011-2019, the CAP successfully implemented or supported the completion of 12 acquisition projects (e.g., Lone Pine Farm pictured left) within the Galveston Bay watershed, preserving 5,819 acres. In addition, there are multiple active projects in the region that will result in the potential conservation of nearly 20,000 acres.

 

Cover of the 2019 Galveston Bay Plan

To continue protection and conservation of the estuary, the GBEP and stakeholders updated the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan with The Galveston Bay Plan, 2nd Edition. Efforts to revise the plan focused on identifying issues facing Galveston Bay that were not addressed by the original 1995 plan or previous updates and present them in an easily accessible format. The revision was developed with stakeholder input and was approved by TCEQ commissioners in March of 2019.

A plan is only as useful as the actions that are undertaken by partners to implement it. Since 1995, the partnership that makes up the Galveston Bay Council and its subcommittees has implemented the original plan to preserve Galveston Bay. Their unified purpose, to provide comprehensive ecosystem management through collaborative partnerships and to ensure preservation of the bay’s natural resources, can be seen in the hundreds of projects and initiatives across the lower Galveston Bay watershed. These efforts continue with the second edition.

 

GBEP coordinates the State of the Bay Symposium to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to interact and share environmental policy and management successes, report the latest monitoring and research findings, and illuminate the challenges facing Galveston Bay.

The 11th State of the Bay Symposium was held in January 2020 in Galveston, Texas. Ninety-five speakers participated, with keynote addresses by TCEQ Executive Director Toby Baker and EPA Region 6 Administrator Ken McQueen.

The symposium’s focus areas correlated with the four plan priorities of The Galveston Bay Plan, 2nd Edition. This event highlighted the accomplishments of the GBEP, regional stakeholders, and other local and national entities, and addressed the value of learning from challenges and opportunities. The symposium also provided information on new and innovative approaches for research, natural resource management, and education and outreach. The goal of the symposium was to use the information disseminated to help inform future planning and implementation.

The symposium audience included representatives from citizen and environmental groups; business and industry; commercial and recreational fishing; ecotourism and recreation; K-12 education and academia; and local, state, federal and regional government.

 

The Green Infrastructure for Texas (GIFT) project worked to demonstrate different green infrastructure (GI) practices at several locations in the lower Galveston Bay Watershed. The project aimed to reach individual property owners and decision makers in the Galveston Bay watershed, to increase the local knowledge base, establish new partnerships, and empower communities to begin to implement GI practices. The project was completed in February 2020 and is a partnership of the GBEP and Texas A&M; AgriLife Extension’s Texas Coastal Watershed Program. One component of the GIFT project consisted of monitoring restored freshwater wetlands at Sheldon Lake State Park to provide monitoring data that other agencies and entities can use to track the success of restored wetland habitats. The second component of the project was construction of stormwater treatment wetlands at the MD Anderson Houston Campus, the Exploration Green Recreation Area (pictured left, former golf course) in Clear Lake City, and at the Houston Botanic Garden. These sites demonstrate the benefits that wetlands serve as flood control basins to obtain water quality and natural habitat improvements.