If you live in the Rio Grande Valley and you drink water, you want to know what keeps Dr. Hudson DeYoe busy.
He checks the quality of the water in the Rio Grande – the source of the Valley’s drinking water.
Though the Texas Water Development Board recently awarded Dr. DeYoe a grant for his work, he has been monitoring the river for over ten years. During that decade, much of the cost of that work was borne by DeYoe himself with the occasional help from small grants.
“The question is this – is the river in better shape now than it was X number of years ago? Conversely, in the future, other researchers will want to know if the river is better or worse than it was in 2012” says the professor from the Biology Department. “The data collected includes such things as temperature, the amount of salt in the water, the pH factor, the river’s cloudiness (turbidity), the dissolved oxygen, plant nutrients, and algae. All of these change with the season and the environmental factors up river.”
But water flow is also important. Some water must be conserved for the estuaries at the mouth of the river. These areas are where salt and fresh water mix and they are important breeding grounds for shrimp, crabs and other commercially important products. The wetlands are an important part of the region’s ecology, not just for the Valley but for the western part of the Gulf of Mexico too. The dams and diversions up stream are designed to capture all the water, but a certain amount of water needs to flow into the Gulf of Mexico and nourish the estuaries.
To ensure there is a healthy outflow from the river, Dr. DeYoe also sits on the Texas Water Development Board’s committee for the Rio Grande to make recommendations to modify the system to ensure there is enough drinking water, enough water for irrigation and enough water to feed the wetlands at the river’s mouth. All three factors are important – and becoming more important as water usage increases.
As DeYoe looks up from a book containing water quality data from the 1950s, he says: “People need to know about their water – and I’ll do my part to teach them.”