State of Our Waters

The 2019 Basin Highlight Report by the Houston Galveston Area Council (HGAC) in partnership with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is out and the results are mixed.

Latitudes Environmental recently attended an excellent presentation by Todd Running, Clean Rivers Program Manager.

The Study

The report includes data from 54 locations including Lake Conroe, Lake Houston, as well as Galveston and Trinity Bays. During the study, water samples from each location were analyzed for: bacteria, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, and PCBs/dioxin. These parameters were used to determine the quality of a particular area of a surface waterway. Those with the highest levels of these contaminants are designated as impaired by varying degrees.

The Results

The findings of the report indicate that, “80 percent of waterway stream or shoreline miles in the Houston-Galveston region have a concern for or fail to meet one or more state water quality standards.” (1)


Houston & Galveston Surface Water Ways


Where does the contamination come from?

Contaminants in our water bodies take a number of forms, including bacteria, nutrients, chemicals, and sediment. They are chiefly human-induced, or ‘anthropogenic’, and may result from either surface or groundwater contamination. Examples may include ageing or malfunctioning wastewater collection systems (bacteria and chemical inputs), and agricultural practices (sediment and nutrient inputs).


What is being done? 

The news is somewhat optimistic, as around half of the waterways “have not seen further deterioration” or have seen improvements by increase in dissolved oxygen levels or lowering of overall bacteria levels. (1)

With frequent monitoring, problems can be traced to a source and rectified by for example, fixing a leaking sewer pipe, or creating a riparian buffer.

Be informed about the water that you are swimming or fishing in. There are publicly available interactive maps and charts that can be viewed on HGAC’s website linked below.

 Water Quality Summary Map


Latitudes Environmental is a full-service consulting firm, focused on natural resources solutions.


1.Houston Galveston Area 2019 Basin Highlights Report, Water Quality Trends