River Flooding and Erosion

Bill Dupre
University of Houston
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Students take a real-life situation (river flooding and erosion), use real flood and map data, and make predictions and recommendations as to what to do to help alleviate the problem.

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I use this as extra credit assignment for my freshment Physical Geology class mainly non-majors) and as a required assignment in my junior-level environmental geology course (mixed majors and non-majors). Designed for a geophysics course Integrates geophysics into a core course in geology Designed for an introductory geology course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must understand how to calculate recurrence interval and exceedence probability. They must be able to determine distance on a map using a representative fraction scale (1:24000). Lastl, they must understand the processes associated with meandering streams.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a culminating exercise following my lectures on flooding and river erosion.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

1) Use historical discharge data to determien the recurrence interval and probability of flooding.
2) Use historical maps to measure erosion and deposition, and calcuate rates of change
3) Use these data to make recommendation as to options to reduce flood- and erosion-related losses in the area.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

This assignment requires the students to analyse and interpret real data and make predictions about future erosion and flooding problems. It also requires them to evaluate their assumptions and possible sources of error.

Other skills goals for this activity

The results of this study are presented in a written report, in a format similar to that which might be presented to a City Council.

Description of the activity/assignment

Students are presented with a real-life problem of flooding and erosion in the town of Simonton. They must use historical dischage data to determine the future risk of flooding. They must also use historical map data to asses the risk of future losses due to erosion. Using these data, they must dertermine the feasibility of levee systems proposed by the Corp of Engineers. Lastly, they must discuss their assumption and possible sources of error.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students will meet the goals if the can correctly 1) calcuate the recurrence intervals and probabilities of the floods of interest; 2) measure areas of erosion and cacluate erosion rates; 3) interprete the effects of erosion on the proposed levee systems; and 4) recognize assumptions and possible sources of error in their predictions. Lastly, the students must prepare a well reasoned and well written evaluation of their observations and conclusions.

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