How Katy Prairie Landowners Could Help Houston Fight Flooding

A Conversation with Jim Blackburn

Blackburn is an environmental lawyer, founder of the Bayou City Initiative, and co-director of the  Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center (SSPEED) at Rice University in Houston

Nov. 13, 2018

Q: How could preserving the Katy Prairie help minimize flooding?

A: Preserving the Katy Prairie alone can be useful and, with management, even private lands that are in cattle production can be useful. Mainly, it is about getting roots to penetrate the soil and water following the roots down into the ground. If you combine that will a small levee like what is in rice fields, you can perhaps pond another foot of water on the flat land. Together, the potential to store water is substantial.

Q: It’s been said that the Katy Prairie acts like a natural sponge. How does this work?

A: The roots of prairie grasses penetrate and break the soil, and in doing so, they create natural pathways. There is space around the root, and the water naturally penetrates. Those roots go down five or six feet. With roots in the soil, a very impermeable clay soil can become permeable.

Read the rest of this article in the Houston Chronicle.

The Katy Prairie west of Houston. Photograph by Steve Gonzales for the Houston Chronicle

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