Field Operations
BRA Aquatic Scientist recording stream bank elevation on the Brazos River near Rosharon

Field Operations Team

As part of the Brazos River Authority’s Environmental Department, the Field Operations Team conducts numerous surface water monitoring programs across the basin. This team of highly trained and experienced aquatic scientists test for water quality, the biological nature of the water, such as what type of fish live there, the physical habitat surrounding the water and much more.

The Field Operations Team also implement water quality improvement programs and projects and perform monitoring to support BRA operations and water supply projects. Information is used to develop and implement effective watershed-based strategies to maintain and improve environmental health throughout the Brazos River basin. The monitoring also helps other departments within the BRA. For instance, monitoring is required as part of the BRA’s Systems Operations Permit and to uphold contracts with other agencies, like the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Data is used to identify water quality and aquatic life concerns and impairments across the basin. Once a water quality problem is identified, BRA, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, watershed stakeholders, and any other relevant federal, state, or local governmental agencies work together to determine the most appropriate course of action to address the concern.

Water Quality Monitoring

There is nothing more important than the quality of our drinking water. Water quality monitoring data is essential for observing changes, such as the appearance of a pollutant, and determining trends over time. Monitoring information is used to determine the health of the area, identify water pollution problems and their causes, and identify threats to human health. No other agency provides routine, baseline water quality data collection across the Brazos basin.

Biological Monitoring

So why do BRA aquatic scientists travel the Brazos River basin monitoring how many and what types of fish and other species are found in various streams and adjacent banks?

Health, for starters. Like going to the doctor for an annual checkup, these aquatic scientists are able to gauge the health of an area and how that’s changed over the years through the monitoring process. Creeks, streams, and rivers are monitored for health by gathering information on the fish, plants and animals living on and near the water. Follow-up visits help illustrate what’s changed and why changes might be occurring.

Physical Habitat Monitoring

What an area looks like can help determine who lives there. At least, in waterways, that’s the case. If certain physical aspects are a part of the area surrounding a stream, the teams know which species can be expected on site. This habitat represents a set of environmental conditions and constraints that support or limit a biological neighborhood.

The leading cause of a change to water quality and the types, number and health of fish and surrounding species found in a stream is when the physical habitat around the body of water is disturbed to the point of damage. BRA aquatic scientists can determine the health of a waterway by seeing how that area’s features change or remain the same. Those changes are shown through monitoring of several things, including streamflow, stream size and channel dimensions, channel gradient, channel substrate size and type, habitat complexity, vegetative cover and structure, and stream channel-riparian zone interactions at specific places throughout the Brazos basin.

Through water quality, biological, and physical habitat monitoring, BRA aquatic scientists evaluate the qualities that affect or sustain the health of the waters of the Brazos River basin.

To accomplish these tasks, the BRA coordinates monitoring activities with a variety of agencies, including, but not limited to:

  • Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  • Texas State Soil & Water Conservation Board
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Texas Department of Transportation
  • Texas Energy Reliability Council
  • Texas General Land Office
  • Texas Water Resources Institute
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Research Extension

Learn more about other aspects of the Brazos River Authority’s Environmental Department, including its special projects, laboratory work, and environmental flow standards.