Cleaner Beaches Thanks to the Drought?

Were cleaner beaches in 2011 an unexpected upside to the drought?
Fri June 29, 2012 8:20 pm
Flickr | Edwin De La Garza

The drought’s silver lining—at the risk of sounding like a Slate pitch—may have been cleaner beaches.

The Houston Chronicle ’s Matthew Tresaugue reported on this “upside” to the drought on Thursday, citing a report by the National Resources Defense Council:

With the state in the grips of its driest year on record, less polluted runoff from Houston and other cities poured into coastal waters.

As a result, the number of times Texas beaches were closed or had posted advisories because of high bacteria levels in 2011 dropped by nearly half from the previous year.

There were 704 beach closings in 2010, an all time high. But that number dropped to 384 in droughty 2011, according to Tresaugue.

“It is the silver lining of the drought,” Ellis Pickett, a “advocate for the Texas coast” and surfer told Tresaugue.

But, according to another article in Thursday’s Chronicle, don’t go jumping in the water just yet: vibrio vulnificus, a “a particularly virulent bacteria found in saltwater environments,” might be lurking, Shannon Tompkins wrote. 

The bacteria—which has killed 35 people in the last five years in Texas waters—poses more of a threat to swimmers and fishermen than sharks, which “haven’t killed anyone in Texas waters in 50 years.”

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