Natural Defenses: Safeguarding Communities from Floods

Increasing Flood Risk in a Changing Climate

The impacts of our changing climate are becoming more apparent every day. In the first decade of the new millennium, extreme rainfall events, combined with changes in land use, have resulted in an increase in flood events and in an increase in annual flood losses from $6 billion to $15 billion despite the billions of dollars invested in flood control. As the climate changes, bringing more frequentn and intense storms and floods, communities living near streams and rivers and on our coasts are facing increasing threats. Lives and property are increasingly at risk, flood damages are straining tax-payer dollars, and clean water and wildlife habitat are suffering. Our changing climate, outdated management approaches and policies, underfunded and under utilized green infrastructure, and increasing urbanization are causing a flood management crisis for federal agencies and communities alike.

Traditional Gray Infrastructure Will Continue to Place People in Harm’s Way

Our country is struggling to break out of a long-standing negative feedback loop. Gray infrastructure such as dams, levees and concrete flood control channels, incentivizes people to live in harm’s way. Living in harm’s way creates a perceived need for more gray infrastructure that ultimately makes flooding worse, passes the problems downstream, disrupts natural river processes, and perpetuates a flood-damage-repair cycle that has devastating costs to life, property, taxpayers, and the environment.