An evaluation of a Lake Houston tributary, Cypress Creek, for contamination and water quality

Courtney Rose Bock Standlee, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Introduction. Lake Houston serves as a reservoir for both recreational and drinking water for residents of Houston, Texas, and the metropolitan area. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) expressed concerns about the water quality and increasing amounts of pathogenic bacteria in Lake Houston (3). The objective of this investigation is to evaluate water quality for the presence of bacteria, nitrates, nitrites, carbon, phosphorus, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, suspended solids, dissolved solids, and chlorine in Cypress Creek. The aims of this project are to analyze samples of water from Cypress Creek and to render a quantitative and graphical representation of the results. The collected information will allow for a better understanding of the aqueous environment in Cypress Creek. Methods. Water samples were collected in August 2009 and analyzed in the field and at UTSPH laboratory by spectrophotometry and other methods. Mapping software was utilized to develop novel maps of the sample sites using coordinates attained with the Global Positioning System (GPS). Sample sites and concentrations were mapped using Geographic Information System (GIS) software and correlated with permitted outfalls and other land use characteristic. Results. All areas sampled were positive for the presence of total coliform and Escherichia coli (E. coli). The presences of other water contaminants varied at each location in Cypress Creek but were under the maximum allowable limits designated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. However, dissolved oxygen concentrations were elevated above the TCEQ limit of 5.0 mg/L at majority of the sites. One site had near-limit concentration of nitrates at 9.8 mg/L. Land use above this site included farm land, agricultural land, golf course, parks, residential neighborhoods, and nine permitted TCEQ effluent discharge sites within 0.5 miles upstream. Significance. Lake Houston and its tributary, Cypress Creek, are used as recreational waters where individuals may become exposed to microbial contamination. Lake Houston also is the source of drinking water for much of Houston/Harris and Galveston Counties. This research identified the presence of microbial contaminates in Cypress Creek above TCEQ regulatory requirements. Other water quality variables measured were in line with TCEQ regulations except for near-limit for nitrate at sample site #10, at Jarvis and Timberlake in Cypress Texas.

Subject Area

Microbiology|Analytical chemistry|Water Resource Management|Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Standlee, Courtney Rose Bock, "An evaluation of a Lake Houston tributary, Cypress Creek, for contamination and water quality" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1474752.