Flood Mitigation: 10 Things (2024) You Have to Know

One of the deadliest and most problematic natural disasters is flooding, which is why flood mitigation is so important.

All around the world, huge surges of water have devasted towns and cities, taking thousands of lives and doing an inexplicable amount of damage.

In an attempt to deal with these disasters, cities and states are investing in flood mitigation technology to save lives and prevent the destruction of vulnerable buildings.

But how can you mitigate something as powerful as a flood? And can these methods really have an impact?

Well, why don’t we take a closer look at flood mitigation and check out the strategies certain states are taking to prepare for the next big surge of water.

We’re also going to talk about the consequences related to flooding, the reasons they happen, and who is most vulnerable.

So, grab a rain jacket, and let’s get into it.

1. What is Flood Mitigation?

Flood mitigation refers to the strategies and techniques to prevent or reduce the harmful consequences of severe flooding.

These strategies are used to protect both lives and infrastructure in areas that are considered to be at high risk.

States look at mitigation tactics to ensure the safety of individuals, compact communities, and entire towns and cities–these three separate categories sometimes require different preventive measures.

The history of flood mitigation efforts began at the beginning of the 20th century after a series of severe floods.

Levees were built along the Mississippi, Sacramento, and Ohio Rivers.

However, the construction projects were poorly executed.

It wasn’t until the Flood Control Act of 1936 that the nation began producing more effective levees and flood walls.

The act was an important step in the Federal Government’s commitment to protecting people and communities from flooding disasters.

2. Why is Flood Mitigation Important?

Flood mitigation is important simply because floods are so destructive.

Water surges have the ability to wipe out communities and leave thousands of people stranded without access to resources or rescue.

The United States has felt the negative impacts of floods multiple times during the last two decades.

A perfect example of the importance of flood mitigation is Hurricane Harvey.

Communities in Texas and Louisiana were virtually underwater.

The water threatened the safety of humans, destroyed billions of dollars of infrastructure, and damaged environments and ecosystems.

By the end of the storm, the destruction proved to be a major setback for the economy at local, state, and federal levels.

Flooding events can also spread waterborne diseases, specifically hepatitis A and cholera.

So, any strategies to help mitigate the damage caused by these natural disasters are very important to save human lives, protect the environment, and keep the economy up and running.

3. What Are Common Flood Mitigation Strategies?

Flood mitigation strategies come in various forms.

There isn’t a single tactic that can solve the problem of flooding, so cities rely on multiple strategies to increase their chances of success.

Here are the most common flood mitigation strategies:

bulletStructural Tactics

Structural tactics, such as dams, levees, and seawalls, are designed to reduce the flow of water surges or, ideally, stop them from reaching vulnerable areas in the first place.

These strategies are typically found where flooding is most likely to occur, like towns along the coast or near large rivers.

bulletNon-Structural Tactics

Non-structural tactics refer to strategies that won’t stop or reduce the flow of floodwaters, but they will help keep people and buildings safe.

Some examples of these tactics include elevated buildings (houses on stilts) and zoning and building policies that prevent people from constructing facilities in dangerous areas.

Sometimes local governments will buy people’s homes to allow them to relocate to a safe area.

bulletEmergency Response Plans

When severe flooding does occur, the efficiency and efficacy of emergency responders are crucial to saving as many people as possible.

Cities that are in high-risk areas have extensive plans to evacuate people as quickly as possible, set up shelters in safe areas, and devise the most effective way to reach those who are stranded.

bulletPublic Outreach

Educating the public on the risks of flooding and inviting the local people to participate in the solution-planning process can be hugely beneficial.

Having a community that is more aware of the warning signs and that knows what to do when disaster strikes can greatly mitigate the effects of a major flood.

4. Do Sandbags Stop Water?

Sandbags are not an effective way to prevent floodwater from damaging property.

However, they can be used to temporarily divert or slow down light surges of water.

Once those surges gain more power, sandbags will be no match for what comes–floodwater has the ability to flip cars and knock down buildings.

For those who are preparing their homes for a potential flood, it could be beneficial to place sandbags around certain parts of the property or building.

Anyone who does this needs to know that using sandbags will not be enough to keep the building or the people inside safe if the floods become extreme.

Sandbags should only be one minor part of flood mitigation plans.

5. What’s the Difference Between Flood Mitigation and Prevention?

Flood mitigation and flood prevention may sound similar, and both deal with reducing the negative effects of flooding, but they take two vastly different approaches.

Flood prevention focuses on strategies that could stop floods from ever occurring.

Cities and states that implement flood prevention tactics will construct green infrastructure and rainwater tanks and focus on watershed management.

The strategies of flood mitigation are all about preventing as much damage as possible when flooding does occur.

Some flood mitigation and prevention strategies can overlap with each other, such as levees and seawalls.

If water surges do occur, a levee or seawall could be enough to prevent water from spilling over into the community–prevention.

But even if the water is able to get past, the obstacles can give a bit more time for people to evacuate or prepare their homes for impact–mitigation.

High-risk areas will depend on both types of strategies in order to see success.

6. What Causes Flooding?

So, how and why does flooding occur?

Well, flooding is a natural phenomenon.

Even without human activity, the planet would still see extreme storms that bring on heavy rainfall and water surges.

So, let’s check out all the reasons flooding occurs.

bulletHeavy Rainfall

Most severe floods in the United States were a result of heavy rainfall.

There have been multiple occurrences when days and days of torrential downpours broke levees and dams and caused catastrophic floodings.

Hurricanes and tropical storms have been responsible for causing rain and water surges that flood mitigation strategies can’t handle.


When forests are wiped out, it decreases the land’s natural water-holding abilities.

When rainfall occurs, less water will be absorbed, and the chances of flooding will increase.

Some cities that are subject to frequent heavy rainfall are implementing green infrastructure to help slow down water surges.

bulletPoor Drainage Systems

Outdated or inadequate drainage and sewage systems are often not enough to handle large amounts of water.

In urban areas that are made up of mostly concrete, drainage systems are responsible for handling virtually all of the water from heavy rainfall.

When these systems can no longer handle the load, they contribute to flooding.

bulletBuilding Communities In Flood Plains

Flooding would be less of an issue if communities weren’t built in flood-prone areas.

Flood plains refer to land along rivers, or other wetlands, that are vulnerable to inundation.

Despite the red flags, there are several communities and major cities in these areas (sometimes, the people who live there can’t afford to move elsewhere).

bulletPoor Agricultural Planning

Farming, similar to deforestation, decreases the land’s natural ability to hold onto water.

In places that are known for experiencing droughts and heavy rainfalls, like Kansas, this creates a couple of problems.

If the soil can’t hold onto water, it has a negative impact on farming abilities and could create dust storms.

Additionally, heavy rainfall won’t get soaked up and will result in flooding.

7. What Are the Effects of Flooding?

The effects of flooding range with the intensity of the inundation.

In minor cases, it makes driving more dangerous and could shut down the local economy.

In more severe cases, the consequences are limitless.

Flooding in the United States alone has destroyed and damaged millions of homes, killed thousands of people, and demolished communities.

On average, a flooding event costs around four billion dollars; however, that number can grow much higher in severe cases like Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina is estimated to have done between 100 to 145 billion dollars in damages.

When major flooding occurs, it completely shuts down towns and entire cities, which can be detrimental for businesses or anyone living paycheck to paycheck.

8. How is Climate Change Affecting Floods?

In the last few decades, the floods that have occurred have been much more devastating than flooding events in the past.

Many scientists believe this is not a random occurrence.

Instead, they believe that climate change is playing a big part in this increase in the intensity of flooding.

There is currently an argument that climate change is resulting in more severe floods but less moderate floods–take that as you will.

This could be happening because of the amount of moisture in the soil.

Due to an increase in average temperatures, there is a higher rate of evaporation.

Drier soil has the ability to soak up more water, which could prevent flooding from occurring.

However, during more severe storms, drier soil is not enough to handle the persistent downpour.

The big fear of climate change affecting flooding events is the rise in sea levels.

If ocean levels do, in fact, rise, as many scientists are predicting, it could cause flooding events that no current flood mitigation strategy could handle.

So, although climate change and the effects it has on the environment are still being debated, it can’t be ignored that the intensity of floods is increasing.

9. Who is Most Affected by Floods?

People who live along the coast or near other bodies of water are the most threatened by floods, especially if those people are living in low-lying areas.

During Hurricane Harvey, some neighborhoods that were slightly higher than others managed to avoid being submerged underwater.

Additionally, in these high-risk areas, those living in poverty with limited access to resources tend to be the most affected.

Impoverished people often don’t have the means to evacuate, relocate, or rebuild their homes and businesses if they are destroyed.

Elderly people are another group that is affected by flooding.

Old age and disabilities can make it more difficult to quickly get out of harm’s way, especially if special medical services are required.

When cities and towns come up with evacuation plans, these vulnerable groups have to be a top priority.

As soon as it becomes clear that evacuations are necessary, state governments, and some federal programs, will help accommodate anyone who can’t afford the relocation.

10. What Was the Worst Flood in United States History?

The flood of 1927 in Mississippi is considered to be the worst flood in the history of the United States.

But what happened?

For months, there was heavy rainfall that eventually became too much for the current levees to handle.

On April 16th, the first levee broke in Illinois.

Five days later, a levee in Mounds Landing, Mississippi, also fell to the inundation.

The result of the heavy rainfall and compromised levees was a flood that covered 23,000 square miles of land.

It displaced hundreds of thousands of people, killing dozens.

Some areas were submerged under 30 feet of water.

It took around two months for the floodwater to subside, finally allowing communities to rebuild their destroyed homes and businesses.

What makes this flooding event so special is how long it lasted.

There have undoubtedly been extreme floods caused by hurricanes, but the water usually subsides after a few days.

However, due to extreme winds, hurricanes have an extra element of danger compared to floods.

Although natural disasters are devasting, they provide a lot of information on the efficiency of current flood mitigation tactics.

Ideally, after each catastrophic event, cities and towns will be slightly more ready if the event were to happen again.

Final Thoughts

Floods are devastating.

Massive onslaughts of water can virtually rip up towns and wash them away.

Implementing flood mitigation tactics is the best way to keep people safe during these events.

Strategies such as building green infrastructure in urban areas, elevating houses, educating the public about risks, and training first responders on various rescue scenarios can be the difference between life and death for thousands of people.

Because the data is pointing toward a future with more extreme flooding events, flood mitigation and prevention are as important as they have ever been.

So, hopefully, in the coming years, we will see a strong push forward by the government to do everything in its power to decrease the likelihood of flooding disasters and minimize the impact when they do occur.

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Erika Gokce Capital

Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.


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