The Texas Water Resources Institute at Texas A&M has been collecting water quality information on the Navasota River watershed that includes Burton Creek and Carter Creek here in Bryan College Station. What they found was that sometimes bacteria levels are a bit too high, and other times the levels are just fine. Researchers note that anything with hair, fur, or feathers residing within the watershed contributes to the overall load of bacteria found. Lucas Gregory is a research scientist for the Texas Water Resources Institute at Texas A&M.
“What we did find in the Navasota was that about fifty percent of the e-coli load that was identified did come from wildlife, which knowing that watershed is not surprising. There is a lot of good wildlife habitat down there in those river bottoms and creek bottoms. The next biggest source was livestock. It came in about twelve percent which is pretty common from what we see around the state. Humans were on the list for about five percent of the sources and then some of your various other pets and other barnyard critters like yard birds and things of that nature were about five percent as well.”
Gregory says most of the sources of bacteria mirrored what’s found in other parts of the state.
“From an ag perspective, if you’re a cow/calf operator, it may be something as simple as implementing a different grazing management strategy where you keep more ground cover on that ground so that in turn allows more water to infiltrate into the soil, and creates less surface runoff that carries those pollutants downstream into the water body. If you’re a farmer, it may be implementing grass waterways on parts of your field where you always have water running across it after a big rain.”
Gregory emphasized that all land, rural or urban, is part of some watershed.
“For those folks that live in town, it may be something as simple as making sure that you don’t put fertilizer on the concrete whenever you’re fertilizing your yard or pick up after your dogs and things like that when they go out and do their thing.”
Gregory says studies like his can reduce finger pointing among different groups.
“If you’ve got a room full of farmers, ranchers, city folks, and all parts in between, the guys in the city usually are going to say it’s something that the farmer or the rancher is doing. Sometimes it might be the inverse where they say, oh it’s that waste water treatment plant, it’s never been working right. This science allows us to kind of differentiate between that and help kind of minimize some of those discussions that erupt.”