Case Studies

The case studies presented will include those done by the Basin and Bays Expert Science Teams (BEST) in estuaries along the Texas Coast in the Gulf of Mexico. These estuaries have been the source of many freshwater inflow studies in recent years and include Sabine-Nueces Estuary, Trinity-San-Jacinto Estuary, Lavaca-Colorado Estuary, Guadalupe Estuary, Mission-Aransas Estuary, Nueces Estuary, and Laguna Madre Estuary. Texas’ coast is an ideal study area because of the somewhat similar geomorphic features of the estuaries and climatic gradient of decreasing rainfall that runs from northeast to southwest along the coast.


Texas estuaries for which inflow studies were performed.
Texas estuaries for which inflow studies were performed.

Ongoing monitoring programs that focus on needs and effects of freshwater inflows on Texas’ bays and estuaries provide sources of data. These are performed by multiple agencies including the Texas Water Developmental Board, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Basin and Bay Expert Science Teams, University of Texas at Austin Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, Center for Research in Water Resources, and the Environmental Protection Agency.


The occurrence of global changes and new legislation supported by federal and regional governments has led to an increasing interest in managing freshwater inflows in order to conserve and restore estuarine health and functioning of rivers (Acreman 2004). New regulations are being implemented to address environmental flows.

In Texas, Senate Bill 3 addresses the need for environmental flow provisions including the maintenance of freshwater inflows to estuaries. Management initiatives are now being geared towards preserving or restoring natural flow regime patterns in order to create sustainable estuaries.

"The law creates a public process for soliciting input from scientists and stakeholders. Each area of the state has a Stakeholder Committee made up of people from diverse interest groups and an Expert Science Team made up solely of technical experts. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality considers reports from both groups and then adopts legal standards for each river and bay system." - Texas Water Matters.

The resulting documents of the Senate Bill 3 process can be found on Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.