The West Fork Watersheds Partnership is a locally led, voluntary association of interested stakeholders in the watersheds of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and Lake Creek. Its purpose is to seek voluntary and community-supported measures to address water quality issues in these waterways to protect public, recreation, local economies, and the environment.
The partnership met May 11 at the Montgomery County South Regional Library; the focus for the day was a discussion of bacteria reduction goals and building a solutions toolbox.
Justin Bower, project manager with the Houston-Galveston Area council (H-GAC), explained the feedback from the bacteria model (called SELECT) before proposing solutions and best management practices for consideration. SELECT is a model used to detect eco waste in watersheds and their corresponding tributaries.
“Every watershed has its own unique set of challenges. We focused on bacteria first because that will help us shape our models. Models are helpful in understanding where the pollution is coming from but they are only as good as the assumptions which they are based on,” said Bower.
“We are in between that modeling process and talking about the solutions. I ask that all review; then we can take that forward to the stakeholders and get the necessary funding. Once we start that, we will cover all the aspects, where we are.”
“Setting reduction goals for a watershed depends on how much bacteria source load is present. Next would be the in-stream reduction percentage, or the low direction curves, before finally deciding what gets reduced,” explained Bower.
Every watershed, he said, has several side streams and channels which increases both the sources for waste and solutions.
He continued, “We’re not just looking at current source contribution; we’re trying to look into the future and project where it’s heading. We’re already looking at a source contribution change for 2040. We’re now seeing a major shift that we need to take into account which is more toward human sources. That’s not surprising, though. As we’re getting more advanced, we are moving away from more agricultural land toward more developed land.”
Bower did say current planning assumes no changes in regulations, policies or programs that would affect that future which makes the time frame reevaluation vital to keep the partnership plan exponentially accurate.
Bower ended the meeting with H-GAC recommendations of having multiple goals or solutions, one for each assessed segment of the watersheds.
“We want to make sure we are meeting the standards, where the water quality is not impaired. So, we will relook at the conditions again according to any given time frame.”
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