TexasBeachWatch.com warnings

Check This Website Before Heading to the Beach

Stormwater can cause more than flooding. For all those headed to the beach this summer, the Texas General Land Office (GLO) offers a useful website that monitors water quality and safety. It’s called Texas Beach Watch.

About Beach Watch

The program tests bacteria levels at beaches along the coast and Galveston Bay. It measures Enterococcus bacteria (fecal indicator bacteria) levels every week from March through October and every other week during the rest of the year.

Why Enterococcus Matters

So what is Enterococcus and where does it come from?

Enterococcus indicates the presence of fecal matter. And according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, sources include stormwater runoff plus:

  • Wastewater treatment plant effluent
  • Leaking septic systems
  • Sewage discharged or dumped from recreational boats
  • Domestic animal and wildlife waste
  • Improper land application of manure or sewage
  • Runoff from manure storage areas
  • Pastures
  • Rangelands
  • Feedlots.

EPA also lists natural, non-fecal sources of fecal-indicator bacteria. They include:

  • Plants
  • Sand
  • Soil 
  • Sediments.

The latter contribute to a certain background level in ambient waters and vary based on local environmental and meteorological conditions.

Health and Recreation Consequences

The EPA says such pathogens can sicken swimmers and others who use rivers and streams for recreation or eat raw shellfish or fish. Other potential health effects can include diseases of the skin, eyes, ears and respiratory tract.

The EPA also says that enterococci are typically not considered harmful to humans, but their presence may indicate the presence of other disease-causing agents such as viruses, bacteria, and protozoa.

Overabundance of fecal bacteria in the water can cause beach closures, swimming and boating bans and closures of fishing and shellfishing areas. 

Three Warning Levels and Today’s Readings

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended single sample maximum criterion for Enterococcus bacteria is 104 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 ml. When the counts are above this level, swimming is not recommended.

The GLO rates bacteria levels at beaches as follows:

Low Low 
Bacteria counts less than 35 cfu/100 ml.

Medium Medium 
Bacteria counts are between 35 and 104 cfu/100 ml.

High High 
Bacteria counts are greater than 104 cfu/100 ml. An advisory for this beach is recommended.

Here’s what the coast looked like along the coast this morning.

Galveston looked pretty safe with the exception of two cautions.
Bolivar had more cautions and an advisory.

For More Information,

For more information, please review the health risks associated with swimming in waters with high Entercoccus counts in Pathogens & Pathogen Indicators.

If you have a favorite beach, the GLO’s TexasBeachWatch.com website lets you sign up for alerts.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/10/2023 based on information from the GLO and EPA

2111 Days since Hurricane Harvey