Keeping Texas’ Water Clean

It’s been 30 years since the United States Congress passed the Clean Water Act setting standards that would begin cleaning pollution from our water systems. However, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly one-half the bodies of water with federal oversight are still not fit for fishing or swimming.

The Brazos River Authority (BRA) and stakeholder groups throughout the basin are collaborating to form Watershed Protection Plans to stop pollution before cleanup efforts are necessary.

A watershed protection plan is a strategy developed by interested groups or stakeholders to identify sources of possible pollution and establish ways of measuring water quality while reducing or eliminating the sources of pollution.

Within the Brazos River basin, three active watershed protection plans are currently being developed or implemented on Lakes Granbury and Granger, and within the Leon River watershed. Each plan is specific to the area and the possible causes of water quality problems.


Lake Granbury

Lake Granbury, situated on the main stem of the Brazos River southwest of Fort Worth, was built in 1967 as a water supply reservoir. In the more than 40 years since its construction, the City of Granbury and Hood County have experienced rapid growth in areas near and directly around the lake. A substantial portion of this development is located in subdivisions centered on man-made canals and coves that provide a large number of lake-front properties.

As these developments flourished, the majority were built without the benefit of a centralized sewage collection system and look to on-site septic systems for sewage treatment. Over the past five years, water quality testing has consistently shown that Lake Granbury is experiencing elevated concentrations of E. coli bacteria in the certain coves and canals that have minimal water circulation with the reservoir’s main body.


The Lake Granbury Watershed Protection Plan

The Lake Granbury Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) project is funded by federal dollars provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

Along with local stakeholders, the BRA is administering the plan that includes an assessment of existing and potential water quality threats within the Lake Granbury watershed. The study will also provide a WPP to improve and protect water quality within Lake Granbury.

Information obtained from this project will provide Federal, State and local decision makers with a variety of means that can be employed to promote the restoration of the lake's aquatic environment and to prevent further pollution of the lake.


The Lake Granger Protection Plan

Lake Granger is a flood control reservoir created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1980. Located northeast of Austin in Williamson County, it also serves as a water source and popular recreational area for the surrounding community.

The purpose for Lake Granger’s Watershed Protection Plan is not to reduce pollution, but to find a means to reduce sedimentation. In 1980, when the lake began impounding water, original water storage was calculated at 65,510 acre feet. A 1995 survey found the lake had suffered a loss of an additional 11,230 acre feet over the intervening 15 years -- losing 17 percent of its storage capacity.

The lake serves as a drinking water supply to Williamson County; currently the fourth-fastest growing county in the country. Water demands on the lake are expected to exceed 100,000 residents in the next five to ten years. As the population continues to grow, it is increasingly important to slow the sedimentation of the reservoir and protect water quality.

The purpose of the Lake Granger WPP is to attempt to reduce the amount of sediment moving into the lake by at least 30 percent and address potential, future water quality concerns. Part of the process includes establishing criteria to determine the amount of water being held in the lake and to assist landowners with conservation practices such as maintaining vegetation around the lake. This project is being funded by the EPA through a Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board Grant (TSSWCB).


The Leon River Watershed Protection Plan

The Leon River Watershed runs through Comanche, Hamilton, Erath, Coryell, and Eastland Counties into Lake Belton. The Authority began collecting water samples from the Leon River in 1991. By 1998, this data showed that the Leon had bacteria levels that exceeded state water quality standards and the river was designated as “impaired.” Additional water quality studies conducted by the state have identified the most likely sources of the bacteria and their potential contribution to the Leon River.

The Leon River WPP will assist local stakeholders and state environmental officials in developing management strategies to reduce the bacteria levels in the Leon River above Lake Belton.