University Researcher says Recent Rains Not a Drought-Buster for Salty Bays

Published: September 17, 2013

University Researcher says Recent Rains Not a Drought-Buster for Salty Bays

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas— Since the beginning of September, Corpus Christi has received what some have called ‘drought-busting’ rains, including four inches of rain on Sunday, Sept. 8, and a drenching from outskirts of Hurricane Ingrid.  And while the moisture has made the grass turn a little greener in the Coastal Bend, unfortunately, it isn’t falling upstream in our parched reservoirs, which means it isn’t making it downstream into the bays.

“No one wants to see a hurricane.  But those storms come with a vast amount of freshwater and that is what is needed,” said Larry Lloyd, Researchers at the Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science (CBI).   “What we are seeing now is just a drop in the bucket.”

Since the drought began, researchers from the Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science (CBI) have monitored the salinity levels of area bays, especially the Nueces Bay.  The CBI researchers hope these heavy rains will prove to be beneficial to the bays that are so important to our local economy.  When the bay gets too salty, the sea life will start to die.

“The average salinity for sea water is 35 parts per 1,000,” said Lloyd. “But 28 is the optimal number for shrimp and fish to reproduce.  Right now, the Nueces Bay is at 41 parts per 1,000.”

Even with the rain over the past week, the salinity levels have not budged from what they were a month ago.  This is especially important due to an agreement the City of Corpus Christi has with the state that says they must release a certain amount of water into the Nueces Bay to keep the bay from getting too salty.  Those releases of vital freshwater stopped earlier this year when the watershed levels got too low due to the severe drought.  

“That management program helps. But without water in the lake to release, it can only do so much,” said Lloyd. “And while the rain falling directly into the bay is good, it’s not good enough.”  

On Sept. 1, the combined lake levels of Lake Corpus Christi and Choke Canyon Reservoir were 33.4 percent.  On Sept. 16, it was 32.8 percent, a decrease despite local flooding rains.  Lloyd says it will take weeks of rain, like we’ve been having, to make a difference.

“We have been in a drought a really long time,” said Lloyd.  “We need a lot more to get where we need to be.”   

 You can monitor salinity levels through the CBI's ‘real-time’ data collection stations by clicking here.