The Rio Grande-Rio Bravo River is the second longest river in the US and is a critical drinking water source for more than 13 million people. It flows south from the snow-capped mountains of Colorado through the New Mexico desert, forms the border between Texas and Mexico, and empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Brownsville, Texas. The multi-national, multi-state, ecologically diverse nature of this river makes management of the resource a complex task, especially in the context of more frequent droughts, changes in land use patterns, and increasing water use needs.
The main objective of this project was to assess the state of water resources management policies and planning tools for the Lower Rio Grande-Rio Bravo Basin. The project researchers developed an inventory of water management information and compiled a list of all the available models that can be used to evaluate human and environmental water management objectives. As part of this effort, the team identified the applicability of those models to evaluating trade-offs for meeting societal and environmental flow requirements to restore native ecosystems. They also identified information gaps that merit additional research and resources and described promising future steps to integrate and improve existing systems models.
Findings from this research show that there are a variety of models that can assist planning activities to implement environmental flows across the Basin. However, no models with the appropriate spatial extent and the necessary time-step exist for developing operational environmental flow targets in the basin. This work provides water resource managers with valuable insight as they work to balance human and ecological water needs throughout the basin.
This project is associated with similar work being conducted in the Upper Rio Grande-Rio Bravo Basin: Assessing the State of Water Resource Knowledge and Tools for Future Planning in the Upper Rio Grande-Rio Bravo Basin