An overreliance on groundwater resources in the Houston (Texas) metropolitan area led to aquifer drawdowns and land subsidence, so regional water suppliers have been turning to surface water resources to meet water demand. Lake Houston, an important water supply reservoir 24 kilometers (15 miles) northeast of downtown Houston, requires new water supply sources to continue to meet water supply demands for the next several decades. The upcoming Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer Project will divert up to 500 million gallons per day of Trinity River water into Lake Houston. Trinity River water has significantly different water quality than the Lake Houston tributaries. To evaluate the project’s potential effect on water quality, the U.S. Geological Survey used an enhanced version of a previously released Lake Houston hydrodynamic model. With a focus on salinity and water-surface elevations, the model combined data from 2009 to 2017 with simulated flow from the Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer to evaluate potential outcomes from three hypothetical flow scenarios. Overall, these scenarios found that the Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer would cause salinities to moderately rise over most of the modeled time (2009–2017), although salinities were buffered under 2011 drought conditions. Large inflow events equalized salinities under baseline conditions as well as the enhanced flow scenarios.
© 2020 Erik A. Smith and Sachin ShahDownload PDF