University of Texas at Austin

Development of a Binational Geospatial DecisionSupport System to Protect Water Quality in the Lower Rio Grande

March 4, 2016 8:55 AM

Alex Sun
Computational Hydrologist , BEG

Assessments of water quality in the Lower Rio Grande downstream of Falcon Reservoir have identified a number of persistent water quality problems in this important transboundary river, including high levels of fecal bacteria and increasing salinity levels. In 2013, realizing the need to address water quality concerns in the river in an integrated fashion, the governments of the US and Mexico created a binational forum for cooperation and information exchange under the auspices of the International Boundary and Water Commission. The effort, known as the Lower Rio Grande/Río Bravo Water Quality Initiative (LRGWQI), is a pilot project designed to establish binational mechanisms to protect water quality in the river. Among the technical goals of the LRGWQI is the modeling of pollutant loadings and instream water quality in the river, including simulation of scenarios associated with changing population, infrastructure and management practices. In order to facilitate binational decision making associated with this cooperative technical effort, UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology, in collaboration with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, is developing a geospatial decision support system that incorporates essential water quality modeling elements, economic analysis and geospatial visualization features. The GIS functionalities are enabled using the Python-based Application Programming Interface of QGIS, an open source GIS software. SQLite, a serverless, self-contained database system is used for managing user-specified and system configuration data. We present the principal capabilities and features of the LRGWQI DSS, discuss some of the challenges we encountered using the QGIS software to develop the application and present some of the modifications and additions we are currently incorporating into the system.

About the Authors
Alex Sun is a computational hydrologist with the Bureau of Economic Geology at University of Texas at Austin. He received his PhD and MS in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He has extensive experience and strong interests in developing decision support systems using open-source technologies.

Roger Miranda is a geoscientist with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in Austin. A licensed professional geoscientist in the State of Texas, Mr. Miranda has worked for the TCEQ for over 21 years, managing water quality restoration and protection projects for over 60 watersheds throughout the state Texas and in neighboring states. Much of Roger’s work has been on water bodies located in the US-Mexico Border Region. Mr. Miranda earned his MS in Geosciences from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1988 and his BS in Geology from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1984.


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