Water Quality Team

To help ensure healthy beaches and safe seafood in our coastal areas, GOMA identified four water quality priorities to guide the partnership’s effort (listed below). These issues were selected because they were best addressed through regional-scale efforts such as GOMA. Throughout the implementation of Action Plan I and Action Plan II, the Water Quality PIT was led the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Funding for team coordination was provided by NOAA’s Regional Ocean Partnership Program.



Improve understanding of waterborne, disease-causing microorganisms (pathogens), including their sources and survival so that coastal managers can make informed decisions that benefit public health and coastal economies.

  • Molecular Marker Registry — Database of information about pathogens so that DNA and RNA markers can be compared
  • Improved Methods for Recreational Water Quality Criteria — Journal article detailing recommendations to improve detection methods for water quality indicators, pathogens, and microbial source tracking
  • Observational and Modeling Studies of Pathogenic Vibrios — This project goals were 1) to measure the concentration of total and pathogenic Vibrio species in water, bottom sediment and oysters in Breton Sound; 2) establish a statistical relationship between the Vibrio concentrations and environmental parameters; and, 3) incorporate the statistical relationship between Vibrio abundance and salinity/temperature with the hydrodynamic model FVCOM.
  • Validation and Field Testing of Microbial Source Tracking Methodologies in the Gulf of Mexico — This project standardized and validate MST methods across laboratories in coastal GOM states. This study used PCR-based technology for environmental detection of specific targets across a Gulf of Mexico-wide geographic range, and involved five laboratories from five different institutions. It demonstrated the potential efficacy of the methods in laboratory scale studies, and then successfully field-trialed them across the Gulf of Mexico.
Harmful Algal Blooms

Reduce the effects of HABs by improving our ability to detect, track, forecast, and mitigate HAB movement and their effects along the Gulf Coast.

  • Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) prediction warning system — Improves the ability to detect, track, forecast, and mitigate their effects.
  • Harmful Algal Blooms Observing System (HABSOS) — A data collection and distribution system for harmful algal bloom information in the Gulf of Mexico with the goal of providing managers, scientists, and the public with a data driven resource for HAB events.
  • Resource Guide for Harmful Algal Bloom Toxin Sampling and Analysis — White paper that details a standardized protocol for routine sampling and analysis of coastal waters for HAB toxins.
  • A Binational Gulf of Mexico HAB Risk Assessment and Communications Partnership — This project worked to establish partnerships among the United States and Mexico to promote educational exchange, training opportunities and scientific data comparison.
  • HABSOS Binational Workshops on Harmful Algal Blooms and Environmental Measurements — This project allowed 51 technicians, scientists and resource/public health managers from Mexico and the U.S. to receive training in Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) identification and enumeration. Training workshops were conducted in Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and the Florida Keys and provided strategic opportunities for HAB personnel from the two countries to collaborate and provided an excellent opportunity for interested professionals working on HABs in individual Mexican and U.S. Gulf States to interact with one another.
  • Detection of Karenia brevis Blooms in the Gulf of Mexico — This project was designed to conduct research on evaluating the range of K. brevis detection technologies currently available against the accepted standard and legal technique (light microscopic assessment).
Mercury in Seafood

Identify sources of mercury in Gulf fishery resources, understand its presence in the Gulf food web, and develop the ability to reduce the human health risk of exposure.

  • Mercury Fate and Transport White Paper — Provides a model for understanding the cycle of mercury through the Gulf of Mexico food web to identify important sources and improve the ability to reduce the risk of mercury exposure.
  • Mercury Risks and Selenium Benefits Related to Consumption of Selected Estuarine and Marine Fishes in the Northern Gulf of Mexico — The project will determine mercury:selenium ratios in selected species of estuarine and marine fishes commonly consumed in northern Gulf coastal communities. Samples will be collected at fishing rodeos and during routine fisher-independent sampling conducted by the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. A workshop will be held to allow for presentation of research relevant to the mercury and selenium ratio issue for exchange of ideas and information related to fish advisory consideration and recommendations related to the ratio.

Obtain and provide vital information about the conditions of Gulf waters to support better management decisions regarding coastal fisheries, recreation, tourism, public health, and infrastructure planning.

  • Round Robin Sampling Events — Identified variability in sampling techniques, equipment, and standards.
  • Gulf Monitoring White Paper — Provides water-quality information to support informed resource management and public knowledge.
  • Gulfwide Monitoring Network Design — Multi-year effort to identify existing monitoring efforts and scope a comprehensive system needed to ensure a healthy Gulf of Mexico.
  • Freshwater Inflows: Water for Healthy Estuaries Conference — This project involves holding an interstate workshop on freshwater inflow issues in the Gulf of Mexico coastal region. The conference identified water management questions to be addressed, such as providing freshwater inflows to estuaries, updating participants on the current scientific knowledge regarding the role of freshwater inflows in protecting estuaries, and identifying management approaches and scientific work that the Gulf States should undertake to address the relevant water management questions.
  • Fostering Environmental Stewardship of the Gulf of Mexico — The project helps educate animal producers, middle/high school teachers and students, and volunteer water monitors about Gulf issues and water protection and monitoring. The project will be initiated from Gulf watersheds in Alabama and Veracruz, Mexico. A series of water monitoring workshops, meetings, study tours, and an Environmental Education Directory will educate the target audiences and a broader Gulf community.
  • Gulf of Mexico Alliance Coastal Monitoring Survey — The project will develop a database to properly accommodate Gulf-wide, monitoring system metadata or, if a suitable one is not found. Upon completion, the database will be available on a public website to allow the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, local, state, and federal agencies and entities access to the information compiled, that relates to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • A Northern Gulf Coast Observing System — This project is a continuation of support to the first long-term systematic water quality/meteorological network to be established in Mobile Bay. The recipient will operate and maintain a network of four independent water and meteorological monitoring stations on a continuous 24/7 basis in Mobile Bay. This data is being displayed and shared on several web sites and with several organizations such as the NOAA Coastal Data and Development Center, and the NOAA National Weather Service Hydrometeorological Automated Data System.
  • Water Quality Monitoring in Lake Pontchartrain — Continue successful basin-wide water quality monitoring, accelerate pollution source tracking, and expand educational outreach.
  • Support for 2014 Shelfwide Hypoxia Cruise — A shelf wide hypoxia cruise conducted in 2014 and 2015.
  • Characterizing and Addressing Contamination from Septic System Effluent in a Watershed — Through this project poor septic tank maintenance and performance will be identified and failing systems will be replaced.
  • North Water Tower Park Community Restoration and Education Initiative — Reconfiguring topography to improve stormwater retention and remove invasive species.
  • Lowry Park Zoo Water Resources Master Plan — The project scope will identify means to enhance the Zoo's water conservation and onsite treatment processes, including options to rehab existing storm water ponds on and adjacent to the Zoo's property.
  • Increasing non-federal participation in the GOMA workshop — Travel support to work toward GOMA action.

For more detailed information about project partners and funding, please download the full report here.