Leon River Watershed Protection Plan

Project Overview:

The Leon River watershed encompasses approximately 2600 square miles in Bell, Hamilton, Coryell, Comanche, and Eastland counties. In 1998, the entire Leon River below Lake Proctor was listed as "impaired" on the State of Texas Clean Water Act Section 303(d) List for having bacteria concentrations that exceeded the state's water quality standards. In 2002, as a result of more focused water quality monitoring, that listing was limited to the portions of the Leon River north of Gustine and west of US Hwy 281.


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As required by the Federal Clean Water Act, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) initiated a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) assessment of the Leon River in 2002 in an effort to identify the sources of bacteria and to develop management strategies to reduce bacteria loading to the Leon River. The status of the TMDL project can be found here.

In 2006, as a result of the TMDL Project local stakeholders expressed an interest in taking an active role in developing management strategies to reduce bacteria loadings to the Leon River by developing a Watershed Protection Plan (WPP). The Brazos River Authority (BRA) was asked to facilitate this planning effort. In late 2006 the BRA received approximately $440,000 from the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (through an Environmental Protection Agency grant) to conduct the three-year planning project. The BRA dedicated approximately $290,000 of staff and financial resources to enable the project. The BRA enlisted the assistance of Parsons Water Infrastructure, Inc. (Parsons) to help day-to-day project activities.

While the primary focus of the WPP will be on the impaired reaches discussed above, water quality data suggests that there may be some concerns with bacteria and nutrient concentrations throughout the watershed. The WPP will address these issues as well as others that may be raised by local stakeholders.

Problem Description:

Bacteria concentrations in the Leon River between Lake Proctor and US Hwy 281 near Hamilton, Indian Creek, Walnut Creek, Resley Creek and South Leon River all have E.coli concentrations that exceed state water quality standards for contact recreation. E.coli is a bacteria normally found in the intestines of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Studies conducted by the EPA suggest that E.coli is a good indicator of fecal contamination of water and the presence of harmful pathogens which can cause intestinal illness or gastroenteritis. Frequent sources of E.coli can include sewerage overflows, malfunctioning septic systems, direct deposition by wildlife or livestock, and runoff from rainfall events.

The Project Goals are to:

  • Use a locally-driven, stakeholder process to develop management strategies that are acceptable to local stakeholders and improve water quality in the Leon River;
  • Enhance data collection efforts to support and facilitate implementation activities;
  • Develop a Watershed Protection plan that provides the TSSWCB and the TCEQ with recommendations on implementation strategies that can be incorporated into the TMDL process;
  • Provide an overall water quality assessment of the Leon River Watershed above Lake Belton

Local Involvement

The Brazos River Authority and Parsons have established a number of small, representative focus groups in an effort to facilitate detailed and comprehensive discussions regarding bacteria and other water quality concerns. The deliberations and recommendations of each focus group will be presented at larger working group meetings and/or town hall meetings. The goal is to build a consensus among residents, landowners, municipalities, and industry for the most appropriate approach to managing water quality in the Leon River Watershed.

If you are interested in joining a focus group or becoming more involved in the Leon River Watershed Protection Planning Project, please contact Jenna Barret with the Brazos River Authority at jbarret@brazos.org or call (254) 761-3149.

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