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Estimated effects on water quality of Lake Houston from interbasin transfer of water from the Trinity River, Texas

June 1, 2001

The City of Houston is considering the transfer of water from the Trinity River to Lake Houston (on the San Jacinto River) to alleviate concerns about adequate water supplies for future water demands. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the City of Houston, conducted a study to estimate the effects on the water quality of Lake Houston from the transfer of Trinity River water.

A water-quality model, CE–QUAL–W2, was used to simulate six water-quality properties and constituents for scenarios of interbasin transfer of Trinity River water. Three scenarios involved the transferred Trinity River water augmenting streamflow in the East Fork of Lake Houston, and three scenarios involved the transferred water replacing streamflow from the West Fork of the San Jacinto River.

The estimated effects on Lake Houston were determined by comparing volume-weighted daily mean water temperature, phosphorus, ammonia nitrogen, nitrite plus nitrate nitrogen, algal biomass, and dissolved oxygen simulated for each of the transfer scenarios to simulations for a base dataset. The effects of the interbasin transfer on Lake Houston do not appear to be detrimental to water temperature, ammonia nitrogen, or dissolved oxygen. Phosphorus and nitrite plus nitrate nitrogen showed fairly large changes when Trinity River water was transferred to replace West Fork San Jacinto River streamflow. Algal biomass showed large decreases when Trinity River water was transferred to augment East Fork Lake Houston streamflow and large increases when Trinity River water was transferred to replace West Fork San Jacinto River streamflow. Regardless of the scenario simulated, the model indicated that light was the limiting factor for algal biomass growth.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2000
Title Estimated effects on water quality of Lake Houston from interbasin transfer of water from the Trinity River, Texas
DOI 10.3133/wri004082
Authors Fred Liscum, Jeffery W. East
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 2000-4082
Index ID wri004082
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Texas Water Science Center