Using Science to Improve Flood Management

Photo credit: Liz Landau, AGU

On November 2, 2011, ESA sponsored a congressional briefing: “Using Science to Improve Flood Management.” Emily Stanley (University of Wisconsin, Madison) and Jeff Opperman (The Nature Conservancy, Ohio Field Office) addressed the function of floodplains and managing rivers as systems and for multiple benefits. 

Emily Stanley’s presentation focused on the work of rivers and the function of floodplains.  Industry, transportation, and recreation all constitute work done by rivers.  Less well known and valued is the work done by floodplains, responsible for such desirable services such as flood attenuation, fish production, improved water quality and groundwater recharge.  Stanley noted that aging US levee and other infrastructure provide an opportunity to move beyond structural flood control and take greater advantage of the functions of floodplains.

Jeff Opperman’s presentation focused on the logic of managing rivers as a system and for multiple benefits. These include risk reduction for people and infrastructure as well as benefits such as water storage during droughts and increased fisheries production.   Opperman said that because the Mississippi River is managed as a comprehensive system, the recent flood was far less damaging than that of 1927 even though a greater volume of water passed through the system in 2011.  Opperman also pointed to the success story of California’s Yolo Bypass, which has reduced flood risk while increasing goods and services.

To view the complete presentations, please click on the links below:

The Work of Floodplains, E. Stanley
Using Floodplains to reduce Risk and produce Benefits, J. Opperman