Completed Project: Bacterial Monitoring for the Buck Creek Watershed
Like most states, Texas does not directly monitor pathogens because of the difficulty and expense of measuring them. Instead, it tests for the presence of organisms that indicate the likely presence of pathogens-for example, E. coli is typically used as the indicator in the assessment of fresh water. These indicators are used to estimate the relative risk of swimming or other recreation involving direct contact with the water because the probability of becoming ill is greater when the bacteria counts are elevated.
The data used to establish current bacterial loadings in the majority of classified waterbodies across the State is the result of quarterly sampling conducted through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)-Clean Rivers Program. Buck Creek is an unclassified waterbody and as such, has not been sampled at the same quarterly intervals as the classified waterbody, into which it flows. Since Buck Creek has been on an intermittent sampling regime, only 20 fecal coliform samples and 14 E. coli samples have been collected, from one designated sampling site, within a five year period.
It has been suggested that a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for bacteria can be done on several impaired segments across the State by using simple, established statistical methods to identify the timing and magnitude of observed excedances of water quality criteria. While this may be acceptable for waterbody segments that have sufficient data; this waterbody would be better served with the encouragement of public participation, establishment of targeted monitoring and an educational outreach program.
As the lead agency for the State of Texas in abating agricultural/silvicultural NPS pollution, the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) works closely with Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), in addition to working cooperatively with various state agencies and universities to reduce NPS pollution from various agricultural activities. This project will expand the efforts and activities of TSSWCB, Hall-Childress SWCD, Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI), Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
In this project, the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and cooperating districts will work with TWRI and Texas AgriLife Research in the collection and analysis of water samples in accordance with an approved Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP). Texas AgriLife Research will be responsible for collection, analysis, and compilation of water quality data as well as producing reports on project activities.
Texas AgriLife Research will be responsible for composing the QAPP, analyzing samples in accordance with the QAPP, and composition of quarterly and final reports for this project. The Hall-Childress SWCD and Texas AgriLife Extension Service will collaborate for dissemination of information and educational efforts related to project activities. Both the SWCD and Texas AgriLife Extension Service will also aid in contribution to, and review of the final report as deemed necessary.
Following are actions that will be undertaken by this project to assess bacterial nonpoint source pollution within Buck Creek Watershed:
- Monitor water quality as related to bacterial nonpoint source pollution in Buck Creek by in-stream water sampling
- Composition of final report
- Provide public education regarding monitoring activities and project outcomes
This project is financed through a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board.