Online Conference Proceedings

< Return to abstract list

An application of sociohydrology to predict the long-term effects of the Alberta Drainage Project on flood risk in Texas colonias

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
A. Bridging science and policy
Author(s): Sydney Weyand
Inci Guneralp
Burak Guneralp

Sydney Weyand
Texas A
SWeyand@tamu.edu
Inci Guneralp
Texas A
iguneralp@tamu.edu
Burak Guneralp
Texas A
bguneralp@tamu.edu


Keyword(s): Flooding, mitigation, sociohydrology, policy analysis, systems modelling, hydrologic modelling, Texas, colonias
Oral:

Abstract

Floods are one of the most damaging and common forms of natural disasters globally. There are many ways to protect against these effects, including engineered solutions and floodplain restoration. However, human behavior is generally not considered in these solutions, which can lead to unexpected and costly long-term consequences. The paradigm of sociohydrology can prevent such generalizations, since this perspective considers humans as an important aspect that continuously influences, and is likewise influenced by, their local watercourses. When we consider human behavior as acting within, rather than driving, the hydrological system, we can better assess differing scenarios for development and identify complex socioeconomic factors affecting flood risk. By including changes in human behaviors, we can observe both proactive and reactive changes in the system preluding and resulting from theoretical floods and better determine what sorts of measures would likely be most suitable for an area. Hidalgo County, Texas is subject to frequent and severe flooding, particularly in lower-income and nonwhite neighborhoods. Of these, colonias, defined as “residential area[s] along the Texas-Mexico border that may lack some of the most basic living necessities, such as potable water and sewer systems, electricity, paved roads, and safe and sanitary housing,” are among the most impacted due to their lack of infrastructure. The Alberta Drainage Project is the result of years of community efforts to install and expand urban storm water drainage infrastructure to include approximately 1000 residents in six colonias near Alamo, Texas. Although the county and private businesses involved with project construction appear to have completed private studies forecasting the effectiveness of the drainage system, little consideration has been paid to the long-term impacts reduced flooding may have on human behavior and, as a result, flood risk. This study aims to apply a sociohydological perspective to examine flood risk in the colonias within Hidalgo County, Texas, and the potential impacts the Alberta Drainage Project may have on mediating this risk. We will determine these risks by utilizing hydrologic modeling of extreme events paired with systems dynamics methodology. These models will allow us to see the short-term impacts the drainage project will have on flood risk. Additionally, they will allow us to predict how different policy focuses will affect changes in land use patterns in the floodplain and the resulting long-term flood risk. Our study should help guide local leaders in their policy-making decisions during and following the project’s construction to best minimize future costs and maximize future benefits associated with the infrastructure. The potential implications of this study also extend further than one small community. Colonias are in many ways similar to communities in developing countries in that they may lack access to basic necessities, economic resources, and political influence. Enhancing these communities’ standards of living is a primary focus of much international relief programs. By utilizing the framework established in this study, local leaders can better understand what long-term effects such projects may have on effected communities and direct development in ways that continue to sustain these areas far into the future.

IWRA Proceedings office@iwra.org - https://www.iwra.org/member/index.php