Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Pollution Assessment and Prevention in Texas

The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 charged the responsible state agencies with designating the beneficial uses of waterbodies in their states and determining whether the waterbodies serve their beneficial uses. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas State Soil & Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) share these duties in Texas. In state support of the CWA, the Texas Legislature passed the Clean Rivers Act in 1991, which requires that water quality assessments be conducted for each river basin in Texas using an approach that integrates water quality issues within a river basin or watershed. A final assessment for 2000 is available, as well as a draft assessment for 2004.

txpap1.gifThe CWA and the Clean Rivers Act regulate point source pollution through permitting systems (such as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) that control discharges of pollutants to surface waters. In 1998, the state of Texas assumed the authority to administer much of the NPDES program in Texas. These programs have been reasonably successful in controlling industrial wastewater discharges and are further developing their regulation of domestic wastewater, storm water, and concentrated animal feeding operations discharges.

Nonpoint source pollution such as sediment, fertilizer, or pesticides found in urban and agricultural run off is part also of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for a waterbody. A TMDL is the maximum amount of a pollutant that can be released into a waterbody without causing the waterbody to become unable to serve its beneficial use. Waterbodies unable to perform their beneficial uses because of point and/or nonpoint source pollution are considered impaired and Texas must develop a TMDL for improving the condition of those waterbodies.

Conditions in Your Watershed

The TCEQ and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) post information on Texas’ impaired water bodies and TMDLs on their websites. Of the 254 counties in Texas, 93 have TMDL projects currently in progress or scheduled to begin soon. You also may link to the EPA database by clicking on your county in the Texas map from the previous page and choosing the EPA link.

Detailed information on water quality standards, uses, assessments, samples, and impairment status are available for particular stream segments through the TCEQ Surface Water Quality Viewer 2002.

To learn more about your watershed and the condition of the surface and groundwater in your area go to the US-EPA’s Surf Your Watershed website. Once at the site, click on the “Locate Your Watershed” button and type your zip code in the appropriate box. Information related to the location of a watershed in the state, cities in your watershed, where you get your drinking water (if from a public water supplier) and the condition of surface and groundwater supplies can be found at this site. This link also can be generated by clicking on the Texas map on the previous page and then clicking on your county.

A Draft Summary of Impaired Waterbodies in Texas for 2002 is available. The TCEQ Nonpoint Source Management Program summarizes its efforts to manage nonpoint source pollution in an annual report.

Resources and Programs

The Texas A&M University System provides research, education and extension resources to assist state and federal agencies, business and industry, communities and individual citizens in addressing water quality concerns. These programs are designed to provide information for specific audiences, such as farmers, homeowners and youth.

Texas A&M University has established programs designed to provide information on pollution assessment and prevention. Below are some key links to resources available to assist you.

Extension Outreach

The Texas Cooperative Extension develops and delivers programs designed to provide educational outreach into all counties of the state. Outreach education enables the research developed at colleges and universities and from other sources throughout the world to be interpreted and delivered to the end user, which is often a home or business owner or agricultural producer. Some of the major Extension education programs addressing pollution assessment and prevention are:

TEX*A*Syst addresses a wide range of potential contaminants and provides remedies in a comprehensive, easy to understand way. TEX*A*Syst incorporates current regulations and the latest technologies into an applied decision-making format. This program provides residents the means to assess how their home site activities are affecting their environmental risks. More importantly, TEX*A*Syst helps residents take decisive actions to preserve the quality of their drinking water, prevent water pollution, and protect health.

In response to community requests gathered through the Texas Community Futures Forum, Texas Cooperative Extension also tailors water education programs to local needs through county extension offices and regional extension research centers. For example, a comprehensive educational campaign in District 10, Water 2000 Plus, helps residents better understand and manage water resources in urban and rural environments.

Runoff pollution has been identified as the biggest water quality problem facing Galveston Bay and its tributaries. The WaterSmart website illustrates techniques for reducing pollution throughout the Bay's watershed.

At 4-H Water Camp, youth learn about water conservation, economic benefits of reduced water use, technologies for improving efficiencies, proper irrigation management, and methods of reducing non-point source pollution. Participants acquire skills in evaluating water quality/conservation problems and the ability to develop solutions to problems.

The new 4-H Investigating Water curriculum enrichment is a teacher’s or club leader’s guide with a series of 12 learning activities related to water quality and water quantity. Examples of such learning activities are located on the Water and Me website.

The Texas Master Gardener program conducted by Texas Cooperative Extension provides information on determining appropriate amounts of pesticides and fertilizers to use on lawns and gardens so that productivity is enhanced while runoff of pesticides and fertilizers is diminished. A Master Gardener program just for kids, known as the Junior Master Gardener Program, also is available. This project is designed for use by school teachers, home schoolers, 4-H and other youth clubs, and individual young people. Texas Cooperative Extension also conducts the Texas Master Naturalist Program with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Program enrollees must frequently study and address water quantity and quality issues to accomplish their goals for habitat improvement.

The Water for Texans program is a water quality protection and water quantity program of the Extension Rangeland Ecology and Management unit. Water for Texans is designed to educate ranchers and small acreage landowners in water quality protection and water conservation techniques associated with rangeland management.

Texas Watch is a network of trained volunteers and supportive partners working together to gather information about the water resources of Texas and to ensure the information is available to all Texans. Volunteers are trained to collect quality-assured information that can be used to make environmentally sound decisions. Established in 1991, Texas Watch is administered through a cooperative partnership between Southwest Texas State University, TCEQ and EPA. Currently, over 400 Texas Watch volunteers collect water quality data on lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, bays, bayous, and estuaries in Texas.

Scientific Research

Scientific research is the basis for development of new technologies to improve pollution assessment and prevention. Researchers at Land Grant Universities work to develop these new technologies and evaluate their economic benefits. The Texas Agricultural Research Database has information about pollution assessment and prevention research in Texas. The database allows you to browse or search, and researchers can submit their information online. The Texas Water Resources Institute also provides links to water-related research funded through the Institute. Some examples of major research efforts concerning pollution assessment and prevention in Texas include:

Watershed Projects

Research investigating Best Management Practices for pollution prevention include studies on agricultural filter strips, riparian buffers and on-site wastewater treatment in sub-watersheds.

College and University Education

Youth and continuing adult education are critical to develop new talent and human resources to address the water quality issues of the future. Educational curricula in pollution assessment and prevention are available within several departments at Texas A&M University. Graduate and undergraduate programs in key departments include:

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