Why Harris County’s Northern Watersheds Are Different

Every once in a while you see something that distills the essence of a problem…and perhaps a solution. This map hit me between the eyes with the force of a 2×4. It shows the physical and political boundaries of every Harris County Watershed.

Flood Control Out of Bounds

Notice how three watersheds on the northern side of Harris county extend far outside it: Spring, San Jacinto and Luce. The vast majority of each watershed lies in upstream counties such as Montgomery and Liberty. I visually guesstimate about three quarters of each lies outside Harris County.

Watershed map of Harris County shows physical boundaries of Spring, San Jacinto and Luce extend far outside county lines. The same is true for other watersheds on the Harris County periphery.

These watersheds have physical problems that only political solutions will help.

Without the cooperation of county engineers, floodplain managers and commissioners in those upstream counties, there will be no permanent solutions to flooding problems downstream. New developments without enough detention pond capacity can send water downstream faster than we can expand ditches and streams here.

If every new development built enough detention capacity to hold back large rains, no one downstream would face increased flooding risk. The mantra of floodplain managers everywhere is “retain your rain.” It’s a good motto to live by. Those who live upstream today will fight these battles thirty years from now when development extends beyond them. Eventually, everyone is downstream from someone else. We all need to learn to live together.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/17/2021

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