Dams Are Coming Down, but Not Always by Choice: The Geography of Texas Dams, Dam Failures, and Dam Removals
This study examines spatial and temporal trends in Texas dams, dam failures, and dam removals. Dams were examined from a statewide perspective and within 10 major river basins that collectively account for over 80% of all dams in the state. The state-scale and basin-scale analyses revealed similar patterns of dam occurrence, but there was greater variation in the patterns observed in both the purpose of dams and the timing for when most of the storage was created in each basin. Climate factors, mainly precipitation, influenced dam location. Population was not directly measured in this study but was an obvious influence on the spatial distribution of dams and their functions. While new dams are being built in Texas to secure future water supplies, documented dam incidents/failures have occurred in 15 of the 23 major river basins in Texas, with 328 total instances occurring since 1900. As the number of newly constructed dams and dam failures continue to grow across the state, so should the number of planned dam removals. Between 1983 and 2016, 50 dams were removed across the state. The purpose for the majority of removals was to eliminate liability concerns associated with aging dams. Future dam removals will likely continue to occur based on the number of older, smaller dams with potential liability concerns. As Texas’ dam infrastructure continues to age, dam removal is a practical management option for mitigating potential dam-related hazards and improving the connectivity and ecological function of river systems.
© 2020 Erin D. Dascher and Kimberly MeitzenDownload PDF