We Texans love our beaches. Whether swimming in the warm waters of South Padre Island, pulling Bull Reds out of Sabine Pass, or dolphin spotting in Galveston, Texas’ beaches enrich the lives of millions of citizens and tourists, providing them a place to escape the city, soak up the sun, and cool off in the hot summer months.
Texans should be able to expect that water at our beaches is clean and safe for swimming. In fact, that was a key goal when our nation adopted the Clean Water Act in 1972. But all too often, those looking for a summer getaway arrive at the beach only to be met by an advisory sign warning of unsafe water. Even worse, millions of Americans in recent years have been sickened by swimming in contaminated water, with many hospitalized.
Unfortunately, our 2022 Safe for Swimming analysis shows, far too many beaches along the Texas Gulf Coast can be unsafe for swimming.
The causes are often manmade and therefore controllable. Reckless development destroys wetlands that filter pollutants; outdated sewer systems send raw waste directly into waterways; and agricultural practices create an excess of manure, which may contain pathogens resistant to antibiotics, that finds its way into our waterways.
In different areas of the state there are different culprits for beach pollution, including many types of urban and agricultural runoff pollution. But all areas can implement solutions to prevent pollution from being created in the first place, or to keep pollution from reaching the waters where our families go to swim. These solutions can come from every municipal level whether it be at the state, county, or city level. Making those changes can protect public health and the environment, and help ensure that families across Texas can continue to look to the beach as a summer haven, now and in the future.
Clean Air and Water Advocate, Environment Texas Research & Policy Center
Michael works to promote clean air and clean water in Texas. Michael lives in central Texas with his family and spends most of his free time hiking and gaming.