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Environmental Water Quality Characterization of the Texas Coast from National Coastal Assessment Data

James D. Simons 1 and Laura Lessin 2

1 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Corpus Christi, Texas
2 Texas Water Development Board, Austin, Texas

In the summer of 2000 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department began a five-year effort, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to monitor and assess the ecological health of the estuaries of Texas. This project is part of the National Coastal Assessment, which is an effort by EPA to assess the health of the nation's estuaries. The program monitors water, sediment and biotic parameters. Physical water quality parameters monitored include dissolved oxygen, water temperature, salinity, pH, secchi depth and light transmissivity. In 2000, 44 stations were sampled along the Texas coast, ranging from three each in Sabine Lake and San Antonio Bay to twelve in Galveston Bay. Water temperature and pH were nearly constant along the entire coast, while salinity predictably increased from Sabine Lake to the Laguna Madre. Dissolved oxygen levels were good to fair along the coast, although they were slightly depressed in the mid coastal region. Light transmissivity was greatest in the Laguna Madre. Measures of secchi depth were problematic and in some cases did not correlate well with light data. Some of these data are currently being used to assess the condition of Texas estuaries in the National Coastal Condition Report, which is under policy review.

Keywords: water quality, National Coastal Assessment, estuary, Texas, estuarine health, estuarine condition, light transmissivity, secchi depth, dissolved oxygen, salinity

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