Hurricane Harvey brought record rainfall and flooding to the Houston-Galveston region. The impacts of the storm and ensuing flooding included loss of lives, homes and livelihoods. In response, researchers from the region with expertise in hydrology, climate science, engineering, coastal resiliency, energy, community development and urban planning came together to strategize on solutions.
This is the first article in a series on Watershed Protection Plans, to read the second article click here.
What is a watershed
A watershed is an area of land that catches rainfall and drains the runoff into a stream, bayou, river, lake or ocean. Watersheds can be large or small – as small as the area of land that drains to a neighborhood stream or as big as those that drain into a major river. A watershed is an integrated system of land and water; smaller watersheds can be part of a larger watershed (for example the Double Bayou watershed is a part of the Galveston Bay watershed).
What is a Watershed Protection Plan - The current state of Watershed Protection Plans in Texas
A watershed protection plan is a guidance document; detailing voluntary management measures that restore and protect water quality. Due to surface runoff, activities in the watershed can affect instream water quality. The improved health of a stream can be optimized by assessing the watershed as a whole. A watershed perspective allows all potential sources of pollution entering a waterway to be identified and evaluated.
The watershed approach identifies sources of water quality problems at the watershed level and utilizes this information to develop and implement watershed protection plans. This approach engages stakeholders in a collaborative and participatory process. A stakeholder is anyone who lives, works, or has an interest within the watershed. A key reason for success of the watershed approach is that watershed stakeholders bring together their collective knowledge, expertise and experience to preserve, protect and improve water quality. A primary component of the plan is that the “work”, i.e. implementing water quality management measures, is spread over a broad base opposed to being the responsibility of any one individual or entity.
Across the State of Texas, the number of watershed protection plans is increasing along with the experience of resource managers and stakeholders who work to develop the plans. The watershed protection planning process is becoming more efficient and refined as additional plans are developed. The result is a collection of watershed-specific plans that serve as a framework for regional water quality improvement.
The larger Galveston Bay watershed begins at the headwaters of the Trinity River, extending south from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex to Houston and ultimately Galveston Bay. Half of all Texas residents live within the Galveston Bay watershed. This means that Galveston Bay receives pollutants generated and released far upstream. Watershed protection plans serve as a means to lessen pollutants and change human behavior along the way. Changes to the water quality of Galveston Bay and surrounding bayous will come, in part, from upstream changes implemented in the larger Galveston Bay watershed. Watershed protection plans are powerful tools because they impart changes in stakeholder habits and land use within the watersheds themselves.
Double Bayou Watershed Protection Plan
In the Double Bayou Watershed, on the eastern side of Galveston Bay in Chamber County, the support of local stakeholders has been paramount to developing the Double Bayou Watershed Protection Plan. Double Bayou has two forks, the West Fork and East Fork, which converge just before flowing into Trinity Bay, a northeastern subbay of the Galveston Estuary. Currently, Double Bayou is the only watershed in the eastern portion of the Lower Galveston Bay watershed with a watershed protection plan. The Texas State Soil Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB), Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Galveston Bay Estuary Program (TCEQ GBEP), United States Geological Survey (USGS), Shead Conservation Solutions and the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) are all working together with watershed stakeholders to restore and protect water quality through the development of the Double Bayou Watershed Protection Plan.
The Double Bayou Watershed Protection Plan stems from the proud history of the community and the desire to conserve the bayou for future recreation, commerce, agriculture and aesthetic uses. Watershed protection plans are one type of tool that can reset the resilient capacity of the region to a higher standard. The Double Bayou Watershed Protection Plan is set to become a keystone component of protecting and restoring water quality for the Houston-Galveston region.
A 30-day public comment period for the draft Double Watershed Protection Plan will begin on January 27th, 2016. Please follow the link below if you wish to submit comments.
Images above created by Brad Neish, GIS & Remote Sensing Specialist