Comparing floodplain evolution in channelized and unchannelized urban watersheds in Houston, Texas

Andrew Juan, Avantika Gori, Antonia Sebastian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


In this study, we compare the ability of two riverine flood control approaches: channelization and stream preservation/setbacks, to alleviate the adverse impacts of rapid urbanization. To study the effects of structural intervention and urban development on the evolution of the floodplain, we have chosen two neighboring urban watersheds in Houston, TX: Brays Bayou and Buffalo Bayou. While the two watersheds are similar in size, topography, and development level, they have contrasting riverine flood management approaches. Brays Bayou is channelized, whereas Buffalo Bayou remains mostly unchannelized. We use the distributed hydrologic model, Vflo®, and the hydraulic model, HEC-RAS, to analyze channel hydraulics and floodplain extent in the two watersheds under the 10- and 100-year rainfall scenarios at three points in time: 1970s (early development), 2011 (current development), and 2040 (future development). We find that, while floodplain extent in both watersheds increases over time, the relative change in floodplain extent for Brays Bayou (channelized) is substantially larger than that for Buffalo Bayou (unchannelized). The results in this study contribute to a better understanding of the long-term performance of two flood mitigation approaches (channelization and setbacks) on riverine flood risk and provide insight into best management practices for cities experiencing rapid urban growth.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12604
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Flood Risk Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • channelization
  • distributed hydrologic modeling
  • flood risk management
  • floodplain
  • land use/land cover change
  • urbanization
  • Vflo®


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