The mission of the Rio Grande Research Center is to create a structured, science-based, basin-wide perspective for the sustainable use of water resources within the bi-national Rio Grande watershed. This is accomplished through administrative support for scientific research, educational initiatives, and outreach activities centered on gaining and sharing knowledge about the watershed’s biological and physical environment.

Sul Ross State University stands at the gateway to the Big Bend and Rio Bravo ecosystems, encompassing Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park and protected Santa Elena Canyon and Maderas del Carmen areas in Mexico. This nearly three million acre area represents one of the largest protected biospheres on earth. A 2011 bilateral agreement signed by then U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Mexican Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada recognizes continued binational cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico.

The Big Bend/Rio Bravo is unique in the world for field research. Students and faculty affiliated with the Rio Grande Research Center, under the direction of Dr. Kevin Urbanczyk, are engaged in numerous research projects to advance understanding the complex hydrology and ecology of the transboundary corridor.

Background and Objectives

Far West Texas demographic trends clearly indicate an escalating competition for all natural resources, specifically water. Developing a transboundary water management plan for the sustainable use of the Rio Grande remains an elusive goal with significant economic and ecosystem implications for both the United States and Mexico. The scientific, professional and policymaking communities are engaged in serious discussions about the combined impact of the engineered flood/drought cycle infrastructure which has radically altered watershed ecology in the Rio Grande Basin. In addition, significant concerns about the consequences of observed climate change on water quality and quantity must be addressed.

Water use practices and priorities are a trigger for social, political and economic conflict. The Rio Grande Research Center’s research program is intended to foster international and intergovernmental collaboration and has focused on the development of a diagnosis framework, the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis, that will be useful in the development of a basinwide water management plan. This plan will address sustainable agricultural, social, economic, environmental and urban water use.

The center has four primary objectives:

  1. Create a basin-wide perspective for the sustainable use of water resources within the
    bi-national Rio Grande watershed utilizing the Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis Framework
    developed by Prof. Walter Rast for the Rio Grande Basin.

  2. Provide support and project headquarters for the
    Sustainable Agricultural Freshwater Conservation in the Rio Grande Basin research program.

  3. Foster intergovernmental, academic and stakeholder collaboration.

  4. Conduct outreach and education about the sustainable use of natural resources.