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

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

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. “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

About the Conrad Blucher Institute: The Conrad Blucher Institute (CBI) at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi conducts innovative research and encourages scientists and professional engineers to develop and apply technology solutions relevant to surveying, scientific measurements, and to the issues in the Gulf of Mexico region. The Institute, which is home to the largest endowed GIS (Geographic information systems) institution in the United States, will now provide the only Ph.D. in Geospatial Computer Sciences in the nation. The Institute has achieved and maintains a national reputation for developing innovative geospatial science research and serves as a focused resource area for geospatial datasets relevant to the coastal environment.

About Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi: Offering more than 60 of the most popular degree programs in the state, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has proudly provided a solid academic reputation, renowned faculty, and highly-rated degree programs since 1947. The Island University has earned its spot as a premier doctoral-granting institution, supporting two institutes and 13 research centers and labs. Discover your island at