The 2021 Galveston Bay Report Card: Taking Mission Pollution Prevention Home!

To continue to keep our community safe, the reveal of the 2021 Galveston Bay Report Card new grades was through a virtual launch on Tuesday, September 28th on Galveston Bay Foundation’s Facebook page. This online event shared the brand-new video for the 2021 grades and the other 2 Report Card videos that can be found on our Mission page.

We will also have a free Community Day event in San Leon on Saturday, October 30th from 11-3 to share summaries of the 2021 Galveston Bay Report Card and other local resources to help people protect the Bay!



Summary of the 2021 Grades

  • We had good news this year, as we had no category grade decreases and some notable improvements!
  • Due to continued COVID restrictions, especially for volunteers, there was less data collected in some categories, like Water Quality and Wildlife, than usual. This really shed light on the importance of citizen science and collaborative research.

Human Health Risks

  • Overall grade improved to a B.
  • Increase in the recreation safety grade for the Bay from B to A thanks to some improved bacteria levels in water samples from the Bay.
  • San Leon Community Day will include Galveston County Health District resources for septic/sewage maintenance and pet waste, as these were some topics of concern in resident surveys about pollution.
  • The water quality monitoring team at Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) includes bacteria testing so we keep an eye on trends and issues in this category.


  • The grades in this category did not change, as these datasets are not released every year
  • Community members can help improve future habitat grades by participating in habitat restoration projects with Galveston Bay Foundation!
  • The Oyster Shell Recycling Program at GBF added 11 new restaurant partners this year so now includes 20 across the Houston-Galveston region.
  • Oyster Reef restoration and monitoring continued throughout the year and included a research partnership with Texas A&M Galveston students at the Sweetwater Preserve on Galveston Island.

Water Quality

  • This category’s overall grade maintained an A; this is good news!
  • GBF’s Rain Barrel Program helps reduce run-off in the area to keep excess nutrients out of the bay. In 2020, the rain barrel program distributed 288 affordable rain barrel kits to the community, which equates to the conservation and more controlled flow of 302,400 gallons of water annually, reducing large amounts of run-off during rain events.
  • Register here for the November 14th rain barrel workshop in Houston to get your very own rain barrel and installation kit for only $35.

Coastal Change

  • No change in this category this year but we will continue to cover the impacts of flooding on our local communities
  • GBF launched an improved Water My Yard water conservation tool this year that provides free, personalized watering recommendations based on sprinkler types and rainfall data collected across the Houston-Galveston area. This, along with the Rain Barrel Program, can reduce reliance on city water and reduce subsidence.
  • Relative sea level rise (sea level rise plus subsidence) continues to be a concern. Read our cover story about nuisance flooding to learn more.


  • This overall category grade and the shellfish grade did not change; shellfish, finfish, and birds are all holding steady.
  • GBF contributes to resiliency in this category through habitat restoration and land conservation, as it provides shelter, food sources, and cleaner water for wildlife.
  • Galveston Island was approved for designation of a “Bird City” in February 2021 with the support of GBF’s Sweetwater Preserve providing 449 acres of crucial bird nesting and resting habitat!
  • GBF and HARC co-host new wildlife outreach events, such as Exploration Green’s Squawk Walk and the LGBT Outdoorfest’s Birding Workshop, and continue participation in annual events like Houston Bird Week, Featherfest, and more!
  • An annual partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Crab Trap Removal event helps prevent ghost fishing of blue crabs and other wildlife.
    • A new outreach project focused on diamondback terrapin awareness and crabber education is rolling out this winter!

Pollution Events and Sources

  • This overall grade increased from a C to a B. 
  • The good news is that there were no major spills in 2020 and overall, the number of oil spills continues to be less frequent and most are under 5 gallons. This resulted in the Total volume of spills grade to increase from an F to a A. 
  • The researchers at HARC are making great strides on gathering full data on litter and trash for the Report Card with our (GBF’s) data contributions and collaboration with other organizations.  
  • Visit the Partners in Litter Prevention website to hear about local the cleanup events and keep up with pollution resources.  
  • GBF’s Marine Debris monitoring program added 3 new monthly survey sites this past year, working with volunteers to contribute important data to NOAA in collaboration with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance.


New This Year: Report Card Community Engagement Mission Improvements

  • The Report Card team continues our community engagement mission that focuses on one of the categories that impacts everyone’s backyard. Mission: Pollution Prevention will aim to collaborate with communities to address their goals and specific concerns about their backyards, bayous, and the Bay.
  • Recent surveys in Kemah, Bacliff, San Leon, and other areas around the Bay have provided new insight into how people connect with the Bay, and what resources and topics are of interest in these communities.
  • Focused outreach events in these areas, as well as around the Houston Ship Channel, will be hosted this year to connect more people with the Report Card and related tools.
  • Visit the Mission section of the Report Card website for links, resources, tips and tricks to reduce trash, prevent litter and recycle properly.


With so many people continuing to take to the outdoors to safely socialize and enjoy time in local nature spots, we are reminded that the beautiful Galveston Bay ecosystem is important to our wellbeing and the community. Our “backyard”, whether an actual yard, driveway, apartment sidewalk, or a nearby park, is our safe haven these days. And every single one of these areas in the Greater Houston area impacts the health of the Bay.

We encourage everyone to join the Galveston Bay Report Card’s mission to protect our backyard bay. Don’t forget to explore the What You Can Do tool for more ideas and share how you protect the Bay on social media using #galvbaygrade and #missionpollutionprotection.