Tucked along the lengths of Nueces Bay and Corpus Christi Bay, just off the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, Corpus Christi is a popular travel destination known for its beaches. If you have visited, or if you live in Corpus Christi, you likely have noticed the water can be a notable brown color instead of blue. Why is that, you may wonder?
There are a few notable reasons that the water in Corpus Christi is brown, including the following:
- High concentrations of the alga Aureoumbra Lagunensis
- Sediment in the water from fresh water from contributing rivers
- Suspended materials in the water
- Other environmental factors
While the discoloration can be disconcerting at first, it’s nice to know that there are reasonable explanations for it and how they may impact you and your family. Here, we’ve compiled some important need to know information so you can make the most of your beach experience.
Why Is the Water In Corpus Christi Brown?
The bloom of the Aureoumbra Lagunensis alga is a contributor to the discoloration of the water in Corpus Christi, often referred to as “Brown Tide”, per the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. While this alga is ever-present, the water only appears brown with heightened concentrations.
When the Aureoumbra Lagunensis alga concentration levels reach between one and two million cells per milliliter of water, it turns the water brown. This alga can survive in most temperatures but does best warmer temperatures just like the ocean water in Corpus Christi.
Laguna Madre, which runs about 120 miles in length from Corpus Christi and south to Port Isabel, is the first place that this alga was seen along the Gulf of Mexico. While this alga is a main contributor to the water discoloration in Corpus Christi specifically, other aspects come into play throughout Texas beaches.
It’s important to note that while it might seem concerning, researchers have stated that there is no evidence that has been discovered that would suggest that this Brown Tide is harmful to humans, or matured fish, despite the mortal impact it appears to have specifically on fish larvae.
Why Do Texas Beaches Have Brown Water?
Corpus Christi, Texas is not the only local beach with a discoloration problem, many beaches battle this same problem and the stigma that comes with it. While the alga is a primary contributor in Corpus Christi, beaches closer to the freshwater supply.
The brown water discoloration in Texas beaches can occur in part from sediment that is carried into the ocean from freshwater supplies such as:
- The Mississippi river
- The Atchafalaya river
- The Trinity river
These rivers move sediment into the ocean and the amount of freshwater that flows can contribute to how intensely the water is discolored.
Because sediment is naturally occuring in the rivers that run into the ocean, and the beaches are all connected thanks to the winds and the tides, it’s a logical connection that the sediment from river supplies up the coast may trickle down into the Corpus Christi bay and beach areas.
When deciding whether to hit the beach, it’s always important to consider how environmental factors may impact your health, and when it comes to Texas beaches, there are many to consider and it’s important to take all factors into account.
Is the Brown Water In Texas Safe?
The sight of brown water may be an immediate safety or health concern for those who are familiar with the dreamy, crystal clear or deep blue waters found elsewhere. When local beach goers saw bluer than normal waters in Galveston, northeast of Corpus Christi, curiosity about the safety of the brown water arose.
In 2018, researchers from Texas A&M University, Oceanography, told Paper City Mag that while the brown water is an eye sore, it’s “not anything unhealthy or bad. Add that to understanding the safety aspects of the alga, and it seems all is well in Corpus Christi.
Alternately, in 2019, Environment America Research issued a study that determined Corpus Christi is actually home to the five dirtiest beaches in Texas. The town responded that they had some work to do to get these beaches up to par and also noted that these beaches are not far from some of the cleanest beaches in Texas.
For this reason, it’s important to know when beaches are safe to swim or when you might need to steer clear. Always pay attention to local officials and current beach testing to ensure you understand current conditions and the safety impacts.
Despite the unappealing coloration of the water in Corpus Christi and other Texas beaches, it is important to understand the reasons for the discoloration to make the right decision when it comes to beach time and whether it is safe to swim or not.