Capturing the Signature of the COVID-19 Quarantine on Coastal Water Quality

Principal Investigator

During the recent COVID-19 related quarantine period, anecdotal evidence emerged from locations worldwide pointing to a rapid, sharp improvement in freshwater and marine water quality. This evidence appears to be centered in ecosystems that are heavily influenced by dense human populations. These observations highlight how the quarantine period and data collected during it may offer a rare opportunity to directly quantify human influence on aquatic ecosystems as well potential recovery times from various forms of human influence.

To capture the unique signature of the COVID-19 quarantine on Texas’ coastal water quality, Dr. Michael Wetz, Chair for Coastal Ecosystem Processes at the Harte Research Institute, and Dr. Jeff Turner, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Associate Professor of Marine Biology, are examining coastal water quality data provided by the National Estuarine Research Reserve system, the General Land Office’s Texas Beachwatch bacterial sampling program, and other ongoing water quality monitoring programs. The pair is comparing data collected on the Texas coast during the period of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency stay-at-home order (March 31 to April 30, 2020) and comparing it to data from the same time in years past.

The project began in May 2020 and will continue through January 2021. Findings can help scientists to prioritize projects like living shorelines, oyster reef restoration, and infrastructure improvements that could improve water quality for the benefit of our coastal habitats and our human economies.