Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ocean, Coastal, and Earth Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Juan Gonzalez

Second Advisor

Dr. Chu-Lin Cheng

Third Advisor

Dr. Pushpa Soti


The Rio Grande has been an emblematic feature and a source of life for the Rio Grande Valley. Since Pre-Historic times, it has provided the resources that allowed communities to thrive in a land where water is scarce. Large scale anthropogenic activities including, primarily in the form of river diversions and dam construction, have negatively impacted the river. Twenty-three major dams, and many small ones built on the main channel and many of its tributaries in the last century, have drastically reduced water discharge and virtually eliminated sediment delivery to the delta. This study explores how the channel sinuosity (degree of how meandering the channel is) of the Rio Grande, in the delta plain, has changed after over 100 years of human activity. We test the hypothesis that under a significantly reduced water discharge and a much smaller suspended sediment load, the river has reduced the sinuosity of its channel to achieve equilibrium with its new anthropogenic conditions.

Using ArcMap, the changes in sinuosity in the last one hundred years were compared using two sources of data; aerial imagery from 2014 obtained from US Agriculture Department, and a 1:25,000 scale map produced by now-International Boundary and Water Commission in 1912. The sinuosity for this same region was previously measured using Google Earth and was estimated at around 2.4. Now, this research intends to find out if the Rio Grande has in fact responded to intense human activity. This research has the potential of providing important data to understand the real effect human activity is having on the Rio Grande and its delta. This information is of paramount importance as its consequences can be accentuated by climate change.


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