How much is too much? Where water and growth collide in the North Houston suburbs

Authors: Ross Guida*, Sam Houston State University
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Water Resources and Hydrology, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: flooding, flood risk, flood exposure, land use/land cover change, discharge
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

While much flood research has concentrated on Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located, less is known about flooding impacts in the surrounding counties and suburbs. Like Harris County, floodplain development in adjacent counties has been overlooked in favor of short-term economic gains. In Montgomery County, directly north of Harris County, population growth has been explosive over the past two decades with population nearly doubling from 294,000 in 2000 to an estimated 571,000 in 2017. This growth has been fueled largely by converting forested land to new housing developments. Coupled with record precipitation events, these changes in land use/land cover have led to major increases in flood discharges, which in turn increase flood risk. Moreover, since many FEMA floodplain maps were released for the area in 2014, there have been three consecutive annual maxima discharge records set at several USGS river gages from 2015-2017. Using river gage, land use/land cover, and county assessor’s data, this study attempts to quantify the increase in residential exposure after each of these record-setting discharge events along Montgomery County streams. Our initial analyses demonstrate that gages with a shorter record (i.e., 18 years) have seen as high as a 300% increase in the 100-year flood discharge, while other longer-operating gages (>60 years) on larger rivers saw expected 100-year discharges increase more than 30% post-Hurricane Harvey. Despite these increases in corresponding risk, new residential building continues in flood-prone areas in 2019, thereby increasing potential damages and economic impacts following higher intensity precipitation events.

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