The Navasota River rises in Hill County roughly 10 miles northeast of Waco and and flows approximately 126 miles until it connects with the Brazos River 5 miles southwest of the town of Navasota. The watershed drains portions of Brazos, Freestone, Grimes, Hill, Leon, Limestone, Madison and Robertson counties in east-central Texas. It is a predominately rural watershed that encompasses portions of the Northern Blackland Prairie, Southern Post Oak Savanna, San Antonio Prairie, and Flood Plains and Low Terraces. It also contains well connected and extensive areas of Bottomland Hardwoods that are considered as the best example of this habitat by some. Other dominant land cover in the watershed includes mixed forests and managed pastures or rangelands. Limited amounts of cropland and urban area exists in the watershed, with the cities of Bryan and College Station being the largest urban areas.
The Brazos River Authority and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have collected water quality data in the river’s watershed for a number of years to document the river’s ability to support its designated uses. Beginning in 2002, the Texas Integrated Report of Surface Water Quality identified portions of the Navasota River and a number of its tributaries as having elevated levels of Escherichia coli (E. coli) that do not comply with the state’s recreational water quality criteria. Since then, E. coli levels have remained above the state’s water quality standard.
In an effort to reduce E. coli levels in the river, work to develop a better understanding of the sources of bacteria seen in the stream recently began. This includes gathering existing information regarding the river’s watershed and pairing it with intensive water quality monitoring prior to conducting a water quality assessment. This knowledge gained will also be conveyed to watershed stakeholders to inform them of water quality issues. Later, stakeholders will be guided to develop a restoration plan to improve water quality in their watershed.