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Water School

Archive by category: EnvironmentalReturn

What types of contaminates can be found in drinking water?

No water is completely pure. Contaminates, both naturally occurring and manmade, occur at differing levels depending on your location throughout the world. In the United States, federal and state regulations set standards for the maximum amount of contaminants allowed for water to be considered safe for drinking. Regulated contaminants include a variety of microbes and substances that at certain levels could cause adverse health effects.Though most treated drinking water is safe for consumption,...
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What is runoff?

  Runoff is the portion of precipitation that doesn’t soak into soil and instead moves from land to streams or other surface water. Runoff can be caused by precipitation, snowmelt and irrigation that the Earth does not soak up. There are three types of runoffs. They include:•    Surface Runoff: Water after precipitation merges with streams or surface water•    Subsurface Runoff: Water soaks into the soil and merges into the water table, the...
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What is in untreated water that can make you sick?

What is in untreated water that can make you sick?

Water drawn from rivers, lakes stream and other bodies of water as well as groundwater can be contaminated and could make you sick if you drink it without treating it first. Waterborne diseases, caused by microorganisms that live in untreated water, can cause diarrhea, nausea vomiting and other symptoms, and in extreme cases, death.Many of these pathogens infect water through contact with human and animal feces, carried there by runoff or seeping into the water supply from leaking sewage or sept...
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What is the Texas Clean Rivers Program?

What is the Texas Clean Rivers Program?

The Texas Legislature created the Clean Rivers Program in 1991 when it passed the Texas Clean Rivers Act. Legislators’ goal was to push Texas towards comprehensive water planning and management to ensure the future quality of the water supply.The state designated the Brazos River Authority as the lead agency to conduct water quality assessment and Clean Rivers Program (CRP) planning in the Brazos River watershed. Every one to three months depending on location, the BRA tests water for everythin...
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What is an outhouse?

What is an outhouse?

An outhouse, commonly referred to as a privy in the Texas Statutes, is a type of toilet without plumbing in a small building separated from a main structure. Instead of being connected to a sewer or septic system, an outhouse sits over a pit.In an outhouse however, bacteria that thrive in oxygen break down the waste, with help from other natural processes. Eventually the pit fills, is covered with dirt and the outhouse is relocated.Under Texas law, an outhouse may not be built within 75 feet of ...
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What is fecal coliform bacteria?

Fecal coliform bacteria is one of a collection of relatively harmless bacteria that live in the intestines of all warm blooded animals including humans.  These bacteria normally aid in the digestion of food then pass through the intestines as part of fecal waste.When aquatic systems are contaminated by human or animal feces, the fecal coliform bacteria (the most common form being Escherichia coli or E coli) can cause a number of waterborne diseases includi...
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What is dissolved oxygen?

Dissolved oxygen, or DO, is the amount of oxygen in surface water available for aquatic life.Aquatic plants and algae contribute to the presence of dissolved oxygen. Dissolved oxygen is necessary for aquatic species, such as fish and insects, that rely on water for their oxygen intake, absorbing it through their gills or bodies.Dissolved oxygen is an important parameter used in water quality monitoring. The concentration of DO in water is dependent on the temperature of the water. Warm water hol...
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What is a headwater?

The headwater is the upper reaches of a stream or reservoir. It can also include the merging of streams that come together to form a river.The Brazos River’s headwater begins at the confluence of its Salt Fork and Double Mountain Fork near the eastern boundary of Stonewall County. The river stretches a total of 938 miles across the state of Texas.Knowledge surrounding a stream or river’s headwater can provide important information about the sources or causes of pollution and nutrient...
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What is a spring?

A spring is a place where groundwater flows naturally from the Earth’s surface. There are two types: gravity springs and non-gravity springs. Gravity springs can be depression spring, surface springs, or artesian springs.  Depression springs: form when a water table intersects with the ground surface, and the water overflows. A water table is an underground boundary of soil saturation. These types of springs vary depending on the raising and lowering of the water table. ...
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What is a watershed protection plan?

A watershed protection plan is a coordinated effort among stakeholders of a watershed to determine and implement a plan to ease an environmental issue. The stakeholders often include residents of the impacted community, representatives of governmental and other agencies and local businesses, among others.The stakeholders work with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to develop a plan and formulate programs to manage the issue.
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What is E. coli?

E. Coli is a bacteria normally found in the intestines of humans and other warm blooded animals. It can pollute water bodies and other areas through contact with waste. Researchers have found contact with the bacteria can cause gastrointestinal illnesses.
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What is giardiasis (giardia)?

Giardiasis is an infection of the small intestine by single-celled parasites called giardia. People are typically infected by the parasite through exposure to fecal mater through contaminated water or food. Symptoms, which usually begin about a week after infection, include diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramps.Though there are no preventative vaccines, several drugs can be used to treat infections. However, there are ways to avoid becoming infected. First, people should avoid consuming water th...
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What is pH?

A measure of water’s alkalinity or acidity is called pH. Water with a pH of 7 is neutral; lower pH levels indicate increasing acidity and higher pH levels indicate increasingly basic solutions.
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What is a river basin?

A river basin is the area drained by a river and its tributaries. A river basin is synonymous with the term “watershed.”  For example, the Brazos River basin refers to the same area as the Brazos River watershed.  photo courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife
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What is a riparian area?

The term riparian area refers to the bank of a river. Riparian areas have one or both of the following characteristics: 1) distinctively different vegetative species than adjacent areas, and 2) species similar to adjacent areas but exhibiting more vigorous or robust growth forms. Riparian areas are usually transitional between wetland and upland.
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How can I prevent a PAM infection?

To prevent infection by primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), it is recommended that those taking part in warm, fresh water-related activities use nose clips or hold their noses shut while jumping into water. With the ameba often found in soil, it is best to avoid stirring up underwater sediment.The Texas Department of Health recommends that people avoid stagnant or polluted water and take “No Swimming” signs seriously. PAM cannot be spread person to person nor by drink...
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What is primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM)?

Primary Amebic Meningoencephalitis, or PAM, is a disease caused by the ameba Naegleria fowleri. It infects humans when water containing this ameba enters the body through the nostrils, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.  The infected water travels to the brain through the nose, destroying brain tissue. While rare, PAM affects 1 to 3 people in the U.S. every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PAM is usually fatal. Early symptoms of PAM...
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Has golden algae been found in the Brazos River basin?

Yes, golden algae is present in parts of the basin year round. However, the great majority of the time it is at such a level that it has not caused a threat to fish in a few years. Golden alga, or Prymnesium parvum, a naturally occurring alga that can have a devastating effect on fish, persists in small amounts throughout the year in the Brazos River basin, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Texas is the only known place known to date that deals with golden alga inla...
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What is wildlife management?

A wildlife management exemption to Texas water rights allows property owners to build and maintain a dam or reservoir of not more than 200 acre-feet of water on qualified open-space land for the purpose of providing water to indigenous wildlife.
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What is non-point source pollution?

Non-point source pollution are harmful substances that occur as a result of human activities over a wide area rather than from one specific location. These include forms of diffuse pollution caused by sediment, nutrients, organic and toxic substances that wash off city streets, plowed fields or other developed areas. The pollution is carried to lakes and streams by runoff.  Examples of non-point source pollution are oil and gas that leak from cars and trucks onto the pavement or over a...
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Why are some lakes/rivers clearer than others?

There are a number of factors that may affect water clarity.  The chief factor in the clarity of lakes and rivers in Texas is sediment. The more sediment in a stream or body of water, the cloudier it appears. This factor can vary depending on geography and climate. Some areas naturally have more sediment drawn from the surrounding land, particularly agricultural areas, where soil is often broken up and exposed. Water tends to be cloudier during rainier seasons when runoff carries topsoil and oth...
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What are invasive plants?

Invasive plants are non-native, typically exotic plants that thrive when introduced into areas where they have no predators or disease control. They quickly reproduce and grow unchecked, crowding out native species that use the same habitat. Some examples of invasive plants in Texas include the Chinaberry tree, running bamboo, and kudzu vine.Invasive water plants have a direct impact on Texas lakes.  Plants such as giant salvinia, a floating plant native to Brazil, are especially harmful as...
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What is golden algae?

Golden algae is a naturally occurring microscopic algae that typically occurs in brackish water. Blooms of this algae can produce toxins that are lethal to fish and bivalves (mussels and clams). There is no evidence the toxins produced by golden algae are harmful to humans, livestock or wildlife.  It characteristically appears as brownish or tea-colored water.If you see dead or dying fish on a Brazos River Authority reservoir, a golden algae bloom may be the cause. Please help us ...
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What are algae?

Algae are photosynthetic organisms that may be found in water. There are many types of alga and any number of the different types may exist in one waterbody at the same time.
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What is greywater?

Greywater is wastewater from household or small commercial establishments that includes water from clothes washing machines, showers and bathtubs, and sinks used for handwashing.  Greywater does not include water from the kitchen sink used for the cleaning of food and from toilets, dishwashers, or water used for washing diapers.In some areas, greywater may be released into the environment without going through a treatment process. Texas laws prohibit the release of greywater into or near la...
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What can be done to remove pharmaceuticals from drinking water?

While water treatment plants can remove some chemicals, at this time, wastewater systems are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals.  At this point, the best way to reduce the number of chemicals in our water is at their source.Pharmaceuticals enter the water cycle through a variety of sources including drugs that pass through the human body or domestic animals that are not completely absorbed and byproducts of the pharmaceutical manufacturing process.Additionally, improper disposal of old ...
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What makes water hard or soft?

The mineral content determines whether your elements' water is either “hard” or “soft.”  The higher the mineral content, the harder the water. Minerals affecting water hardness can include calcium and magnesium bicarbonate or calcium sulfate, calcium chloride, magnesium sulfate and magnesium chloride.The harder the water, the more soap is needed to make foam or lather. Hard water also produces scale in hot water pipes, heaters, boilers and other places where the ...
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What is mineral water?

Mineral water is naturally occurring or prepared water that contains dissolved minerals, elements or gasses, often used therapeutically. Several Brazos River basin towns built industries around local mineral water and its purported healing powers towards the end of the nineteenth century. Those cities included Mineral Wells, Marlin, Waco and others.
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What is a tributary?

A tributary is a small river or stream that merges or flows into a larger river or stream. A river typically has several tributaries.Numerous tributaries feed into the Brazos River including the Clear, Salt and Double Mountain forks of the Brazos as well as the Navasota, Bosque, Nolan, and Little rivers and Yegua Creek. In addition, those tributaries each have several sub-tributaries, including numerous creeks as well as the Leon and San Gabriel Rivers, among others.
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What is an oxbow?

An oxbow is a severe bend in a river channel creating a “U” shape and leaving a very narrow strip of land between the two bends.  Many times, erosion will wear through this narrow strip and the course of the river changes leaving a “U” shaped or oxbow lake or a dry riverbed. 
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What is an off-channel reservoir?

An off-channel reservoir is a water supply lake built next to or near a river.  Off-channel reservoirs are considered by some to be environmentally friendly, lessening the impact on fish and other wildlife by avoiding the need to place a large dam directly on the main stem of the river.An example of an off-channel reservoir is the Brazos River Authority’s planned and permitted Allens Creek Reservoir, near Houston. For more information about Allens Creek, click here.
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What is a channel?

A channel is a watercourse or path taken by a river, creek or brook. It may be natural or man-made and includes a definite bed and banks that directs the flow of water.
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What is a wetland?

Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil or is present at or near the soil’s surface for most or all of the year. Wetlands provide a habitat for a variety of plants and animals and can serve as a natural water filter.Man-made wetlands have been developed to treat water coming from an outside source, such as a river, before it enters a water treatment program.
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What is an estuary?

An estuary is a place where fresh and salt water mix, for example, a bay, salt marsh or where a river enters the ocean or Gulf of Mexico.The Brazos River estuary is located on the upper Texas coast and is a riverine estuary that flows directly into the Gulf of Mexico rather than into a system of bays. Riverine estuaries, like the Brazos River estuary, are unique in that the area of the estuary is dependent on freshwater inflows versus typical bay like estuaries that are also influenced by evapor...
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What is a watershed? A subwatershed?

A watershed is the land area or topographic region that drains into a particular stream, river, or lake. This land feature can be identified by tracing a line on a map along the highest elevations between two areas.Large watersheds may contain hundreds or thousands of smaller subwatersheds that drain into the river or other waterbody. The Brazos River watershed encompasses more than 42,000 square miles and includes many smaller streams and rivers with their own smaller watersheds.
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What are total dissolved solids?

Total dissolved solids, or TDS, are the amount of minerals that remain when a water sample is completely evaporated, such as the water spots on your glassware.  TDS is a measurement of all organic and sometimes inorganic solids in water and is reported as milligrams per liter (mg/l). TDS includes elements and organic compounds such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates.  TDS is used as a general indicator of water quality.
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What are the benefits of wetlands?

Wetlands provide a habitat for a variety of plants and animals that would fare poorly in other environments. They also provide water storage, functioning like a sponge, storing water and slowly releasing it. This helps ease water’s potential for flooding and erosion. The slow release also contributes to surface water flow during dry periods.Wetlands also can act as a natural water filtration system. As the water enters the wetland, its movement slows around plants, which allows suspended sedime...
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What is salinity?

Salinity or chloride concentration, refers to the amount of salt dissolved or contained in water. The higher the salinity, the less useful the water is for human consumption, agriculture and other uses.The Brazos River particularly in the upper part of the watershed, contains a high amount of salinity due to a naturally occurring underground salt deposits located northwest of Abilene.  As a result, surface water in some areas of the Brazos River must be treated to remove the amount of salt befor...
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The information provided on this site is intended as background on water within the Brazos River basin. There should be no expectation that this information is all encompassing, complete or in any way examines every aspect of this very complex natural resource.

If you have questions about a post or would like additional information, please contact us or call 888-922-6272.

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