Observed trends in air temperature, precipitation, and water quality for Texas reservoirs: 1960-2010

Rodica Gelca, Katharine Hayhoe, Ian Scott-Fleming


Changes in climate, environmental management, and land use can affect water quality in lakes and reservoirs. Here, we quantify observed trends in water temperature and water quality in the 57 Texas reservoirs that have sufficient data for the period 1960 to 2010. We also quantify trends in air temperature and precipitation at 120 long-term weather stations adjacent to those reservoirs. Annual average temperature, seasonal average temperature, and cold temperature extremes are all becoming warmer near many Texas reservoirs. These air temperature trends are highly correlated with observed increases in water temperature across the state. Slight statewide increases in annual and winter, spring, and summer precipitation have contributed to greater increases in precipitation intensity, which are moderated by increases in the average number of dry days per year. Changes in precipitation can affect runoff and evaporation rates, which may alter levels of salts and minerals in the lakes. In addition, local human activities could be an important contributor to the observed increases in pH and phosphorus across the state and changes in specific conductance, sulfate, and chloride throughout Texas.


water quality, trends, reservoirs, climate change

Full Text:



Baez V, Aigo J, Cussac V. 2011. Climate change and fish culture in Patagonia: present situation and perspectives. Aquaculture Research 42(6):787-796.

Burley TE, Asquith WH, Brooks DI. 2011. Spatially pooled depth-dependent reservoir storage, elevation, and water-quality data for selected reservoirs in Texas, January 1965-January 2010. Reston (Virginia): U.S. Geological Survey. Data Series 594, 13 p., appendixes online only.

[CCSP] U.S. Climate Change Science Program. 2008. The effects of climate change on agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity in the United States . A report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research [Internet]. Backlund P. Janetos A, Schimel D, Hatfield J, Boote K, Fay P, Hahn L, Izaurralde C, Kimball BA, Mader T, Morgan J et al. editors. Washington (District of Columbia): U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Available from: http://www.usda.gov/oce/climate_change/SAP4_3/CCSPFinalReport.pdf

Delpla I, Jung A, Baures E, Clement M, Thomas O. 2009. Impacts of climate change on surface water quality in relation to drinking water production. Environment International. 35(8):1225-1233.

Gallo K, Owen T, Easterling D, Jamason P. 1999. Temperature trends of the U.S. historical climatology network based on satellite-designated land use/land cover. Journal of Climate. 12(5):1344-1348.

Hale R, Gallo K, Owen T, Loveland T. 2006. Land use/land cover change effects on temperature trends at U.S. Climate Normals stations. Geophysical Research Letters. 33(11) L11703.

Haukos D, Smith L. 1992. 13.3.7 Ecology of playa lakes [Internet]. Fish and Wildlife Leaflet. Washington, District of Columbia: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 7 p. Available from: http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/wdb/pub/wmh/13_3_7.pdf

James S, Valenti T, Prosser K, Grover J, Roelke D, Brooks B. 2011. Sunlight amelioration of Prymnesium parvum acute toxicity to fish. Journal of Plankton Research. 33(2):265-272.

Jeppesen E, Meerhoff M, Homgren K, Gonzalez-Bergonzoni I, Teixeira de Mello F, Declerck SAJ, De Meester L, Søndergaard M, Lauridsen TL, Bjerring R et al. 2010. Impacts of climate warming on lake fish community structure and potential effects on ecosystem function. Hydrologya. 646(1):73-90.

Kueppers L, Snyder M, Sloan L. 2007. Irrigation cooling effect: regional climate forcing by land-use change. Geophysical Research Letters 34(3): doi: 10.1029/2006GL028679

Litke DW. 1999. Review of phosphorus control measures in the United States and their effects on water quality. Denver (Colorado): U.S. Geological Survey. Water-Resources Investigations Report 99-407. 43 p.

Michaud J. 1994. A citizen’s guide to understanding and monitoring lakes and streams [Internet]. Lacy (Washington): Washington State Department of Ecology. 73 p. Available from: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/plants/management/joysmanual/

Morrongiello J, Beatty S, Bennett J, Crook D, Ikedife D, Kennard MJ, Kerezsy A, Lintermans M, McNeil DG, Pusey BJ et al. 2011. Climate change and its implications for Australia's freshwater fish. Marine and Freshwater Research. 62(9):1082-1098.

Nance HS. 2006. Tracking salinity sources to Texas streams: Examples from West Texas and the Texas Gulf Coastal Plain. Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies Transactions. 56:675-693.

Paull S, Johnson P. 2011. High temperature enhances host pathology in a snail-trematode system: possible consequences of climate change for the emergence of disease. Freshwater Biology. 56(4):767-778.

Roelke D, Brooks B, Grover J, Gable G, Schwierzke-Wade L, Hewitt N. 2012. Anticipated human population and climate change effects on algal blooms of a toxic haptophyte in the south-central USA. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 69(8):1389-1404.

Roelke D, Grover P, Brooks B, Glass J, Buzan D, Southard GM, Fries L, Gable GM, Schwierzke-Wade L, Byrd M et al. 2011. A decade of fish-killing Prymnesium parvum blooms in Texas: roles of inflow and salinity. Journal of Plankton Research. 33(2):243-253.

Soh Y, Roddick F, van Leeuwen J. 2008. Australian water quality, quantity and treatability. Environmentalist. 28(2):158-165.

Thomas JR, Nelson JK, Silverman SJ. 2011. Research methods in physical activity. 6th edition. Champaign (Illinois): Human Kinetics. 134 p.

[USCB] U.S. Census Bureau. 2009. Great Plains' overall population increase masks losses in majority of its counties[Internet]. Washington (District of Columbia): U.S. Census Bureau. News release CB09-107. Available from: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb09-107.html

[USDA] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. 1997 July. Agricultural resources and environmental indicators, 1996-97. Washington (District of Columbia): US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Natural Resources and Environment Division. Agricultural handbook No.172. 350 p.

[USFWS] U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Commerce Census Bureau. 2006. National survey of fishing, hunting, and wildlife-associated recreation [Internet]. Washington (District of Columbia): U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. Available from: http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/NationalSurvey/nat_survey2006_final.pdf

[USEPA] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2000 May. Atlas of America’s polluted waters. Washington (District of Columbia): U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water. 53 p. EPA 840-B-00-002.

[USGCRP] U.S. Global Change Research Program. 2009. Global climate change impacts in the United States [Internet]. Karl TR, Melillo JM, Peterson TC. editors. New York (New York): Cambridge University Press. 196 p. Available from: http://nca2009.globalchange.gov/

Vance GF. 2006. Management of saline-sodic waters from coalbed natural gas production. Special Symposium “Management and Use of Waters of Altered and Impaired Quality”. Soil Science Society of America Annual Meeting; Indianapolis, IN. Agronomy Abstracts CD-ROM 103-5.

Walsh J, Wuebbles D, Hayhoe K, Kunkel K, Somerville R et al. 2014. Chapter 2: Our changing climate. In: USGCRP, The third national climate assessment (in press).

Yates B, Rogers W. 2011. Atrazine selects for ichthyotoxic Prymnesium parvum, a possible explanation for golden algae blooms in lakes of Texas, USA. Ecotoxicology. 20(8):2003-2010.

Copyright (c)

Texas Water Journal

The Texas Water Journal is an online, peer-reviewed journal devoted to the timely consideration of Texas water resources management, research, and policy issues from a multidisciplinary perspective that integrates science, engineering, law, planning, and other disciplines. It also provides updates on key state legislation and policy changes by Texas administrative agencies.

ISSN 2160-5319
Questions or comments? twri@tamu.eduSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave