New Waves October 2007

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

TWRI grant recipient studies restoration practices on urban streams

By Kari Miller

Texas A&M graduate student Megan Meier is working with her advising professor Dr. Rick Giardino to analyze the impact of restoration practices on the stability of streams in Austin, Texas.

Meier, a recipient of a $5,000 2006-2007 Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) research grant, said that rapid urban growth in Austin has led to increased runoff and erosion in the stream channels, leading to property damage.

"Although much attention is given to the ‘remarkable' positive impact of stream restoration, few studies have investigated the effect of restoration practices on the stability of urban stream channels," Meier said.

According to Meier's report, Austin has restored approximately 30 channel reaches since the late 1990s. Meier's study focused on three of them, the Bartholomew Park site, the Lovell Drive site and the Shipe Park site.

Meier's analysis consisted of mapping the land cover of the drainage basins and collecting channel hydraulic data from the restored reaches. She also mapped and evaluated the channel conditions using Pfankuch channel stability evaluation protocol and repeat ground photography. Finally she compared the results to pre-restoration data from the City of Austin and to current conditions of unrestored sites on the same channel.

"Results thus far show that restoration has enlarged the channel capacity and increased the width to depth ratio," she said. "Basically, these results indicate that restoration efforts are working on the streams assessed for this project."

Meier said the data from this study will provide the basis for longer-term monitoring and evaluation and will allow managers to improve current and future stream restoration projects in Texas and elsewhere.

Meier said that she became interested in pursuing a stream restoration project after taking geomorphology classes from Giardino and Dr. Anne Chin. She hopes to finish her research this fall and receive her master's degree in May.

Her research was funded by TWRI through the U.S. Geological Survey as part of the National Institutes for Water Research annual research program. TWRI is the designated institute for water resources research in Texas.

For more information on Meier’s research, visit USGS Research Grants.

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