Time for a 21st Century Approach to Flood Management

Throughout history, we have built up and encroached upon the areas that naturally provide us with multiple benefits – our rivers, floodplains, wetlands, and upland areas.  For far too long we have ignored the inevitable impacts of watershed development, piece meal flood control approaches, and agricultural practices, trading off our “natural defenses” and passing the problem of flood waters to our neighbors downstream.  After devastating floods, we have relied on federal assistance to “control” the next major flood by damming, constricting, and straightening rivers which has contributed to flood damages instead of alleviating the devastating impacts of floods. 

As we get close to bringing in a new year, it makes sense to look back on 2010. Unfortunately, this past year has inundated us with record floods, many on the backs of record droughts – the floods in Tennessee in May broke all-time records, while in July we watched devastating reports of flooding in Pakistan, in August storms hit Iowa, and in September flood events wreaked havoc on Pennsylvania and Minnesota.  These severe storm events are what we can expect as our climate changes.  Global warming will bring more frequent and extreme floods and droughts, often in the same place in the same year, placing additional burdens on already stressed flood control infrastructure and threatening our communities, our economy, and our natural heritage.

American Rivers has a long history of working on flood management issues.  We’re pleased to announce our most recent publication “Natural Defenses: Safeguarding Communities from Floods” calling on Congress and the Administration to adopt a 21st century approach to flood management.  In a changing climate, our nation is in dire need of national flood risk management policies that protect and restore the nation’s natural defenses – our wetlands, rivers, floodplains, and upland areas.  Download the executive summary of the Natural Defenses: Safeguarding Communities from Floods report.