The Fence and Flow: Flooding along the Rio Grande River, Texas

Authors: Adriana Martinez*, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Doug O'Donnel, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Topics: Geomorphology, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: U.S.-Mexico Border, border fence, hydrology, rivers
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 5:50 PM
Room: Virtual 52
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Despite considerable evidence of the impact the U.S.-Mexico border fence has on flood regimes along the border region, the hydrological ramifications of fence presence have not been fully predicted or studied. Along the Rio Grande River, border fence sections total almost 200 kilometers at varying distances from the channel. In addition, the federal government has ongoing contracts with companies to construct additional fence in the Rio Grande Valley and private entities continue to construct independent fence sections throughout the border region. Therefore, understanding the impact of the fence on the Rio Grande is crucial to knowing how this infrastructure may be impacting residents and the surrounding ecosystem. To begin to model the impacts of the fence on flooding we must first examine past and present river flow. This study first determines where gaging station data exists near fence locations and analyzes flood recurrence intervals to later determine how current and future fence sections may impact flood regimes. For example, in the summers of 2013 and 2014, the sister cities of Eagle Pass, Texas and Piedras Negras, Coahuila experienced two back-to-back large floods that inundated the fence and were initially thought by locals to be 100-year events. However, flood recurrence analysis shows that these flows were merely five- and six-year events, respectively. Only when we establish what flows are occurring along these sections can we then model the impact the fence may have on river flow and its subsequent impact on the disproportionately disadvantaged lower socio-economic population in the area.

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