Taking Care of Our River for Years to Come
Water is undeniably one of Texas’ most valuable natural resources. It is the center of everything we do here at the Brazos River Authority—to develop, manage and protect the water resources of the Brazos River basin. One of the ways that we manage and protect the water in the Brazos River basin is by regularly monitoring the river’s water quality to help keep it safe and clean.
As a steward of the Brazos River, the BRA takes pride in maintaining and monitoring its water quality. And for more than 20 years, the BRA has participated with the Texas Clean Rivers Program (CRP) as part of its effort to manage and observe the water quality throughout the Brazos River basin.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Clean Rivers Program is “a partnership between the TCEQ and regional water authorities to coordinate and conduct water quality monitoring, assessment, and stakeholder participation to improve the quality of surface water within each river basin in Texas.”
The program began soon after the Texas Legislature passed the Texas Clean Rivers Act in 1991. Passed in response to growing concerns about water quality within the state, the act called for ongoing water quality assessments for each river basin in the state of Texas. By passing the Texas Clean Rivers Act, the legislators’ wished to push Texas towards comprehensive water planning and management to ensure the future of the state’s water supply.
The Texas Clean Rivers Act led to the creation of the Texas Clean Rivers Program and the partnership between the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and other agencies, such as state river authorities, regional and local governments. Legislators designated the BRA as the lead agency for conducting water quality assessment and CRP planning in the Brazos River watershed.
Through the program, the BRA monitors the water quality of the Brazos River at various sites across the Brazos River watershed. The BRA collects data for a variety of parameters, such as water temperature, pH, salinity, dissolved solids, bacteria and chemical contaminants.
The data collected by the BRA and other Clean Rivers partners follows a stringent set of protocols in order to produce consistent and reliable water quality data. All the data that the BRA collects at the monitoring sites is sent to TCEQ and is used as part of the Texas Integrated Report of Surface Water Quality, which is an overall assessment of Texas water quality that is produced every two years. The Integrated Report describes the status of Texas surface waters and the extent to which they attain the surface water quality standards, all based on the data that the BRA and other CRP partners collect.
An essential aspect of the CRP is informing stakeholders and citizens about the program’s findings. The BRA reports its findings to state environmental officials and works with cities, members of the public and various other groups. Annually, basin stakeholders gather at the BRA’s Central Office in Waco for the Brazos basin CRP Steering Committee meeting. However, due to COVID-19 protocols, this year’s meeting was held virtually. The steering committee meeting is one way that the BRA promotes stakeholder participation regarding the CRP.
“The BRA, in partnership with the TCEQ, coordinates and conducts water quality monitoring, providing data to be used in the assessment that the TCEQ produces,” Jenna Olson, the Environmental Programs Coordinator for the Brazos River Authority, said during the 2020 Clean Rivers Program Steering Committee Meeting that took place on Aug. 27. “We encourage stakeholder participation with the goal to improve surface water quality in the Brazos River basin.”
During the annual steering committee meeting, speakers discuss impairments within the basin and general monitoring strategies for upcoming years. For example, it was announced the BRA will monitor 111 stations in 2021 while maintaining safe COVID-19 practices. You can watch a recording of the entire 2020 Steering Committee meeting here to learn more about recent findings and monitoring strategies for the upcoming year.
Beyond the steering committee meeting, the BRA issues a Basin Summary Report, which includes assessments of waterways within the basin, recommendations, stakeholder input and public outreach activities. The Basin Summary Report is produced every five years, with the last report released in 2017. The next Basin Summary Report will be produced in 2022. You can read the most recent report here.
Between reports, the BRA makes all Clean Rivers monitoring data available on its website with links to each monitoring location available via map points. Monitoring results for both BRA and TCEQ reports are updated regularly. For monitoring reports, go here.
According to the TCEQ, out of all the data that TCEQ uses to make decisions about the conditions of our state’s surface waters, more than 60 percent is provided by Clean Rivers Program partners.
You can find more information about the Texas Clean Rivers Program here. To find out how to participate in the next annual steering committee meeting, e-mail Jenna Olson at Jenna.Olson@brazos.org.