Recognized for Flood Outreach Efforts
University of Houston Professor Emeritus William Dupré, from the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, is the recipient of two major awards – the Houston Geological Society Distinguished Service Award and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Public Service Award.
Dupré, who joined the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics as an assistant professor in 1976, has had a prolific career, one which has included receiving numerous awards, as well as a long record of public service.
“My interest has always been, from early on, the effect of geological processes on people and people on geological processes,” Dupré said. Examples of geological processes include events such as flooding, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Outreach Following Hurricane Harvey
In recent years, a major component of Dupré’s outreach efforts has been his work on Houston-area flooding following Hurricane Harvey.
Dupré was involved in organizing a major conference, “Flooding in Southeast Texas: The Science Behind the Flooding.” This conference, which lasted for two days and brought together many experts on flooding, took place at UH in June 2018.
While organizing this conference, Dupré recognized the need to take this message to the broader public. As he observed, the conference would only get the message out to a limited number of people, most of whom already had science or engineering backgrounds.
To broaden the impact, he developed community outreach presentations to be offered to any organization that asked.
Houston-Area Flooding: Many Factors at Play
Flooding in Houston is a complex issue, with many different factors playing a role during Hurricane Harvey. Given this complexity, Dupré tailored his message to the individual organization, based on their unique concerns.
Some of the factors impacting Houston-area flooding are natural, others man-made.
For example, younger rivers, which have shallower banks, are more prone to overflowing. Another factor was city development. The removal of green spaces caused increased rain runoff, with the development of the Katy Prairie proving especially problematic. Aging infrastructure, such as the reservoirs being unable to handle the amount of water, played another role. Then, there was the effect of climate change, which is estimated to have significantly increased the total amount and rate of rainfall.
“Flooding may be complex, but it is knowable. The key is making it understandable,” Dupré said.
While giving these presentations, Dupré adapted each one to the individual neighborhood, to offer an explanation for what factors contributed to flooding at that particular location.
The Future of Flood Control
Effectively dealing with flooding is a difficult issue. Solving the issue of flooding will require multiple approaches, taking into account the many different factors at play. Nevertheless, when looking toward the future, Dupré is hopeful.
“We are starting to see the political will to address this problem, and the recognition there are many ways of dealing with flooding, not all of which involve more concrete and dams,” Dupré said.
- Rachel Fairbank, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics