Bring the Science Home: 2021 Report Card Findings Revealed

Press Releases


New Information and Ongoing Mission Help Support the Bay Through Pollution Prevention

HOUSTON (September 28, 2021) – Today, Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) and Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) have released the results of the 2021 Galveston Bay Report Card, which provides information on the condition of Galveston Bay based on the last complete year of data.

“The Galveston Bay Report Card continues to evolve each year based on community-specific interests. The annual research alongside frequent community engagement events help us identify what resources people need to contribute to Galveston Bay Foundation’s mission of preserving and enhancing Galveston Bay as a healthy and productive place for generations to come.” Sasha Francis, Community Engagement Coordinator at Galveston Bay Foundation.

Since 2015, HARC has gathered information about the health of the Galveston Bay ecosystem and partnered with GBF to share findings with the community through an annual Report Card. Designed by surveying residents in the Houston-Galveston region to find out what they wanted to know about the Bay, the Report Card evaluates data and trends that describe Galveston Bay and the surrounding watersheds, which span more than 7,118 square miles and includes communities from Galveston to Conroe, Sugarland to Anahuac.

The 22 indicators of Bay health are divided among six categories – Water Quality, Wildlife, Habitat, Coastal Change, Pollution Events and Sources and Human Health Risks – each graded on a scale of “A” to “F.” By consistently continuing this research, the organizations can see where improvements need to be made to help the Bay stay resilient over time.

The 2021 Galveston Bay Report Card grades reflect data from samples collected in 2019, and some of the notable changes from this year’s findings include:

  • There were no decreases in grades and some increases.
  • We have good news, in Recreation Safety under the Human Health Risks category. Average grades for the bay and the subwatersheds all improved from a B to an A.
  • The grades in the Habitat category did not change, as these datasets are not released every year. Currently, at least three of the four key coastal habitats assessed for the report card continue to be under stress, earning habitat a D overall: Freshwater WetlandsUnderwater Grasses, and Oyster Reefs. Saltwater Wetlands are benefiting from the successes of regulatory protection and restoration efforts and appear to be maintaining. Galveston Bay Foundation’s habitat restoration program works hard to restore and protect these four important habitats.
  • More good news in the Water Quality category! That grade stayed an A across nitrogen, phosphorus and dissolved oxygen – all important for fish and other aquatic life.
  • The Coastal Change grade remains a C overall but relative sea level rise continues to be a concern and is impacting our area through nuisance flooding.
  • The Wildlife category did not change from last year; shellfish, finfish and birds are all holding steady with C’s and B’s across the board.
  • The Pollution Events and Sources grade improved to an overall B since no large spills occurred in the Bay. The volume spill grade improved from an F to an A. The total number of spills has remained below average and earned a grade of B.

Several datasets (like water quality, bacteria, birds) were smaller due to fewer people available to collect data during 2020. For example, with bird population numbers, there were fewer volunteers due to COVID restrictions. For water quality and bacteria, the smaller datasets resulted in “Insufficient Data” grades for several subwatersheds. We did have enough data, however, to report average grades for the bay and the watersheds overall.

“What’s great about the Galveston Bay Report Card is that we monitor these grades every year, so we can step back and look at the impacts of hurricanes, floods, droughts, and yes, even pandemics have on the grades. We will continue to look for updated datasets, and compare 2021’s data next year to see if the trend of fewer data points being collected continues. This project serves an important hub of information about the health of our local ecosystem.” Dr. Erin Kinney, Research Scientist at HARC.

The Galveston Bay Report Card offers multiple tools that give customized suggestions and resources with ways people can help the Bay, based on their interests and amount of time they have. Those interested can visit the Galveston Bay Report Card website, galvbaygrade.org, for more information and to find resources on how to tackle pollution, including tips and tricks to reduce trash, prevent litter and recycle properly.

About the Galveston Bay Foundation
Established in 1987, Galveston Bay Foundation is a nonprofit organization that serves as the leading voice for the Bay. The mission of the Galveston Bay Foundation is to preserve and protect Galveston Bay as a healthy and productive place for generations to come. You will find Galveston Bay Foundation in schools, communities, on the water and on the ground working in five main program areas: education, restoration, water protection, conservation and advocacy. For further information, contact us at 281.332.3381, visit galvbay.org, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

About the Houston Advanced Research Center
HARC is a nonprofit research hub providing independent analysis on energy, air and water issues to people seeking scientific answers. Its research activities support the implementation of policies and technologies that promote sustainability based on scientific principles. HARC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization building a sustainable future in which people thrive and nature flourishes. For further information, contact us at 281.364.6000, visit HARCresearch.org,  like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

What’s great about the Galveston Bay Report Card is that we monitor these grades every year, so we can step back and look at the impacts of hurricanes, floods, droughts, and yes, even pandemics have on the grades.

Dr. Erin Kinney, HARC