Spring 2013 - 62635 - PA680PB - Policy Research Project | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Spring 2013 - 62635 - PA680PB - Policy Research Project

Trans-Boundary Water Quality Management in the Lower Rio Grande & Rio Bravo

The Rio Grande/Río Bravo river that constitutes the Texas/Mexico border for 2012 kilometers is one of the most over-appropriated rivers in the US. The river also appears on many of the “worst US river” lists because the water quality in some segments does not meet Texas or US surface water quality criteria. As the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo is a border river, neither the US/Texas alone nor Mexico alone has the ability to ‘control’ water quality. Three excellent bilateral organizations exist to help Texas and its four bordering Mexican states (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas) manage water resources: the International Boundary and Water Commission (established under the US-Mexico water Treaty of 1944) 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, with USEPA oversight. Mexican Water quality standards are enforced by the Comisión Nacional de Agua (CONAGUA), a Mexican federal agency.  The purpose of this Policy Research Project (PRP) is to work with Mexican, Texas, US federal and bilateral institutions to develop a binational framework for improving water quality management of the Rio Grande/Río Bravo.

Class members of this Policy Research Project (PRP) (an applied course lasting for two semesters) will work with water users and other stakeholders on management of water resource quality in the Lower Rio Grande/Río Bravo downstream of Falcon Reservoir. Graduate student participants will begin with a review of water rights, water allocation, water quality standards, surface water quality institutions, and an analysis of organizations involved in the management of water resources in this portion of the Lower Rio Grande/Río Bravo. Class members will review results of a survey of water users’ knowledge and preferences regarding water quality in the river. Participants will interview and conduct focus of groups with 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 border. Class members will seek to help stakeholders identify actions that can improve water quality that meet certain performance measures: technically feasible, economically practical and that stakeholders themselves are willing to undertake. While conversational fluency in Spanish is an asset for potential graduate students, a student with no Spanish language skills with an interest in this topic should consider enrolling in the course as well. Participants in this course will:

  • Conduct and report on interviews of Mexico and US institutional and non-institutional water quality stakeholders along the Lower Rio Grande/Río Bravo border downstream of Falcon Reservoir and summarize findings in a report;
  • Work with Mexico and US stakeholders to develop a strategy to facilitate local stakeholder participation in the design and implementation of a water quality management plan and convene a forum of local water quality stakeholders for this purpose;
  • Host a project web site to help facilitate Mexico and US stakeholder participation;
  • Help film and edit a documentary to disseminate information and foster participation in water quality management of the Lower Rio Grande/Rio Bravo;
  • Report stakeholders’ preferences for feasible, cost-effective, sustainable and appropriate binational actions to improve water quality in the Lower Rio Grande/Río Bravo between Falcon Reservoir and the Gulf of Mexico; and
  • Provide a written report detailing stakeholder’s preference to improve water quality in the Lower Rio Grande/Río Bravo.

Travel: 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.

Readings: All readings will be on Blackboard.


SRH 3.316/350