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Fall 2011 - 61090 - PA680PA - Policy Research Project

Water Quality Management in the Lower Rio Grande / Rio Bravo

Instructor(s): Eaton, David J.
Unique Number: 61090
Day & Time: T 2:00 - 5:00 pm
Room: SRH 3.316/350
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information
Section Description

The Rio Grande/Rio Bravo river that constitutes the Texas/Mexico border for 2012 kilometers is one of the most over-appropriated rivers in the US. The river appears on many of the “worst US river” lists because the water quality in some segments does not meet Mexican, Texas or US ambient water quality criteria. As the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo is a border river, neither the US/Texas alone nor Mexico alone can ‘control’ water quality. Three excellent bilateral organizations exist to help Texas and its four bordering Mexican states (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas): the International Boundary and Water Commission (established under a 1944 treaty) and two institutions created by the North American Free Trade Agreement: the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission and the North American Development Bank. Water quality in Texas is the domain of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Mexican Water quality standards are enforced by the Commission Nacional de Agua.

The purpose of this Policy Research Project is to work with Mexican, Texas and bilateral institutions to improve the water quality within the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo basin. Graduate student participants will investigate water quality standards, ambient water quality, as well as point sources and non-point sources of pollution. Participants will interview a diverse set of water quality stakeholders, from farmers to urban residents, from industrial water users to environmental activists, from government officials to interested citizens, as well as university scholars from both sides of the borders. Class members will seek to help stakeholders identify actions that can improve water quality that are technically feasible, economically practical and that the stakeholders themselves are eager to undertake. One outcome of the project will be a report on steps or actions that can improve water quality along the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo. Such a report will describe activities, costs, a schedule and potential outcomes. While conversational fluency in Spanish is an asset for potential graduate students, a student with no Spanish language skills with an interest in topic should consider enrolling in the course as well.  
Participants in this course will:
  • develop a list of institutions and analyze their official roles concerned with water quality along the border;
  • conduct and report on interviews of representatives of stakeholder institutions;
  • convene a stakeholders water quality forum;
  • shoot and edit a documentary film;
  • propose cost-effective, sustainable and appropriate actions to improve water quality in the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo shared between Nuevo Laredo and the Gulf of Mexico; and
  • provide a written report developed from stakeholders preference to improve water quality.
It is likely that class members will travel to the Texas border with Mexico. All students will complete a set of travel authorization forms. Any travel will comply with The University of Texas at Austin and University of Texas System limits and policies regarding travel to restricted areas.