Interested residents are still encouraged to get involved
On Thursday, Oct. 6, Justin Bower, project manager from the Houston-Galveston Area council, or H-GAC, presented West Fork Watersheds Partnership’s third public meeting at the San Jacinto River Authority in Conroe. The Watershed Protection Plan was started earlier this year to improve West Fork San Jacinto River and Lake Creek’s water quality.
“The state tests the quality every two years and gives us that information,” said Bower. “We focussed on the various problems resulting in bacteria levels being high in the San Jacinto River in our second meeting and ended with formalizing the Steering Committee, after a vote. After gathering data from our computer monitoring stations, we spoke to the experts, then consolidated the information and brought it back with recommendations to our next meetings in front of all stakeholders, local entities, residents and now this committee.”
The focus on restoring these watersheds is imperative as it includes water in rivers, streams and creeks that residents come in contact with when swimming, kayaking, fishing, etc. – not drinking water. Approximately three-quarters of a watershed system makes up those tranquil streams one can hop across. These finger streams are really the ones experts are most concerned with because, apart from affecting people, it can damage or destroy aquatic life and natural ecosystems with low levels of dissolved oxygen.
“We’ve identified various sources that are problematic and now we have to determine why,” said Bower. “That’s why our agenda is to form Source Work Groups. Even though we’ve got this road map of solutions that we are physically working out, we will continue to rely on gaining local knowledge to help guide our monitoring systems.”
This plan requires crucial feedback regarding the density of the sources of bacteria within its project areas to protect water quality and regulate development in sensitive areas of watersheds. Even though H-GAC works with generic assumptions in their models, awareness is key for them to fine tune data to protect individual watersheds.
“The whole point of today’s meeting was to start us on a path. You can talk about the problem, but that does not fix it. Last meeting, we looked at the watershed quality issues itself. The very first step in fixing watershed issues is learning the causes for the problems. And that’s what we addressed primarily in this meeting; the sources of that bacteria,” said Bower.
Endlessly recirculating, groundwater is finite. When untreated this overflow of groundwater brings wastewater from agriculture, industry, recreation, domestic and non-domestic animals, and wildlife – identified as a few – increasing bacteria levels. Community initiatives like the Watershed Protection Plan attempt to protect sensitive land essential to water supplies and resources.
“What we aim to achieve with each source work group is answer the presence-absence question of each pollutant source. And that’s why for our next meeting in November, we will have a very good picture of what and where the sources are,” said Bower.
Also, H-GAC has an annual large scale ‘Trash Bash’ clean-up event.