Smarter flood protection solutions for the 21st century

The weathermen on the local TV news call it “wacky weather” – those freak storms and floods that seem to be getting more frequent and more severe every year. But usually lost in the news coverage is why flooding and flood damage is getting worse.

The fact is, despite continued investment in structures like dams, levees and flood walls, the nation’s annual flood damages continue to grow and now exceed $6 billion a year.  These structures often do more harm than good because they destroy a river’s natural capability to absorb floods. Climate change threatens to drench many parts of the country with more storms and floods, so it’s time to take a hard look at our nation’s flood policies.

American Rivers is pushing for a new, 21st century approach to flood protection. Natural flood management is less expensive, sustainable, and more effective. By protecting and restoring wetlands and floodplains, we provide rivers the room they need to accommodate floodwaters. In our Natural Security report, we featured communities that are embracing these smart strategies.

It’s pretty simple, really — let nature do what nature does best. A single acre of wetland, saturated to a depth of one foot, will retain 330,000 gallons of water — an amount that would otherwise flood 13 average-sized homes thigh-deep.

Underscoring our commitment to reforming flood policy across the country, American Rivers recently hired Shana Udvardy to direct our floodplain policy work. Shana will focus on the Mississippi River basin and coordinate with American Rivers’ field efforts in California, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Pacific Northwest.