Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tall Grass Prairies, Water, and Flood Control


You could say that nobody predicted Hurricane Harvey, but the flooding in Houston, has been a known issue. In fact prior to 2017, "Houston has more casualties and property loss from floods than any other locality in the US." And they're going to keep that unwanted distinction for some time.  

This article appeared this June, months before Harvey: 

Houston fears climate change will cause catastrophic flooding: 'It's not if, it's when'

While in the end, Harvey was well beyond the scope of even the most hyperbolic weathercaster, the fact remains that many of the issues were known beforehand. 

Houston, Katy Prairies and flooding
We may not be able to stop flooding but we ought to be able to better manage it,” said Mary Anne Piacentini, the executive director. “Our grasses are great water-holding reservoirs. Initial studies that we were doing with the Harris County Flood Control District show that our prairie grasses can hold up to about 8in of water.”
Her colleague, Wesley Newman, likens tallgrass prairies to an upside-down rainforest: the grass can grow to 6ft to 8ft above ground and two or three times as much below. “We’ve come to realise that the grassland, the tall grass prairie, is maybe even more important than the wetlands,” Piacentini said. “The more that we can restore, the more likely it is that we will be able to increase the water-holding capacity of what we do, and that affects directly downstream Houston.”
It turns out that natural spaces do more than restore the soul, but can protect our lives. Flood control is just one of the ways. I firmly believe that the way to smart conservation is through the water. Eventually, between the algae blooms and floods, people will have to pay attention. At least one hopes. 

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