Getting to the Nonpoint Source with GIS

by Philip B. Bedient, Environmental Engineering Professor; Rice University, Houston, TX,
Hanadi S. Rifai, Res. Assoc.; Rice University, Houston, TX,
Charles J. Newell, Vice Pres.; Groundwater Services, Inc., Houston, TX,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1993, Vol. 63, Issue 6, Pg. 44-46

Document Type: Feature article


Like most densely populated areas in the U.S., the Galveston Bay in Texas suffers from non-point-source pollution. Engineers working under guidelines of the Galveston Bay National Estuary Program (GBNEP), a multiagency environmental planning program, have embarked on a three-phase plan for this area to prioritize estuary problems, scientifically characterize the problems and link them with causes, and create a series of action plans to solve these problems. Characterizing these pollutants requires extensive information about area geography and nonpoint sources. A geographic information system (GIS) database has provided a powerful management tool for this task. This GIS database, designed specifically for this study, helped us map the area's geographic characteristics, analyze the land use data, complete the non-point source calculations and graphically present the project results. With this database scientists were able to identify the areas within the watershed that contributed the highest load concentrations of a given pollutant entering Galveston Bay. These areas can now be targeted in action plans aimed at attenuating or managing these pollutants.

Subject Headings: Bays | Pollutants | Databases | Nonpoint pollution | Geographic information systems | Estuaries | Information systems | Environmental issues | Texas | United States

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