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NSF Funds Social Work, Engineering Collaboration to Fight Flooding

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the Texas Army National Guard arrive in Houston to aid citizens in areas heavily flooded by the storms of Hurricane Harvey Aug. 27, 2017. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West)

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the Texas Army National Guard arrive in Houston to aid citizens in areas heavily flooded by the storms of Hurricane Harvey Aug. 27, 2017. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West)

An interdisciplinary collaboration at UT is confronting storm-related flooding and runoff, an increasingly important topic highlighted by recent devastation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and the looming threat of Hurricane Irma.

The National Science Foundation is providing $1.8 million in funding for the College of Social Work and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering project.

Their idea combines sensors, monitoring, and flood controls, with civic planning, and the cultivation of public buy-in to produce a “smart” system capable of adjusting flow and storage as the situation demands, while encouraging the use of natural elements such as trees, wetlands, and ponds to slow flooding and erosion.

“There are a variety of different systems in place around the country, and many ideas for how to use nature as part of new systems,” said Jon Hathaway, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “The challenge is that some areas are more willing to adopt new practices than others.”

While little could have been done to prevent flooding in the face of the 50-plus inches of rain that Harvey brought, systems such as the one UT is proposing could contain or mitigate damage from most other storms.
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