Tag Archive for: ChatGPT

ChatGPT Misses on Some Aspects of Flood-Control

Third in a Three Part Series on ChatGPT and Flood Control

My first post on ChatGPT and flood control talked about its prodigious strengths in outlining a range of mitigation solutions. My second talked about using ChatGPT to drill down further into the subject matter.

It excels at generating high-level summaries of issues. And it allows you to drill down somewhat to explore different aspects of topics. But as you get more specific, it can also give you erroneous information. Here’s an example.

The Texas General Land Office has been in the headlines ever since Harvey. So I asked ChatGPT…

Q: What role does the Texas General Land Office play in reducing flooding?

ChatGPT Answered: “The Texas General Land Office (GLO) plays a crucial role in reducing flooding and managing flood-related issues in the state of Texas. The GLO has several responsibilities and initiatives aimed at mitigating flood risks and enhancing resilience. Here are some key roles and activities of the Texas General Land Office in flood reduction:

  1. Disaster Recovery and Mitigation: The GLO oversees disaster recovery efforts and manages federal funds allocated for disaster mitigation in Texas, including those related to flooding. The GLO administers programs and provides financial assistance to local communities for flood mitigation projects, infrastructure improvements, and floodplain management initiatives.
  2. Floodplain Management: The GLO supports and promotes effective floodplain management practices in Texas. It works with local governments, communities, and stakeholders to develop and implement floodplain regulations, zoning ordinances, and floodplain mapping to guide development and reduce flood risks.
  3. Texas Coastal Resiliency Master Plan: The GLO is involved in developing and implementing the Texas Coastal Resiliency Master Plan, which focuses on addressing flood risks, coastal erosion, and storm surge impacts along the Texas coast. The plan includes strategies for enhancing flood protection, preserving coastal ecosystems, and promoting sustainable development practices.
  4. Coastal Barrier System: The GLO is responsible for managing the Texas Coastal Barrier System, which includes the construction and maintenance of levees, floodgates, and other infrastructure to protect coastal communities from storm surge and flooding. This system aims to reduce the vulnerability of populated areas along the Texas coast to hurricane-related flooding.
  5. Grant Programs and Funding: The GLO administers various grant programs to provide funding assistance for flood-related projects. This includes programs such as the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) programs, which offer financial support for flood mitigation, infrastructure improvements, and post-disaster recovery.
  6. Outreach and Education: The GLO conducts outreach and educational initiatives to raise awareness about flood risks, floodplain management, and resilience strategies. It provides resources, guidance, and training to local communities, property owners, and stakeholders to promote flood awareness and preparedness.
  7. Coordination with Stakeholders: The GLO collaborates with federal, state, and local agencies, as well as community organizations, non-profits, and stakeholders involved in flood management and mitigation. This includes coordinating efforts, sharing information, and facilitating partnerships to enhance flood reduction strategies and improve coordination during flood events.

The Texas General Land Office’s efforts in flood reduction are aimed at safeguarding communities, protecting natural resources, and enhancing the state’s resilience to flooding and other related hazards. By supporting mitigation projects, implementing floodplain management strategies, and facilitating recovery and funding assistance, the GLO plays a critical role in reducing flood risks and promoting sustainable development in Texas.

End of ChatGPT Response

GLO Asked to Evaluate ChatGPT Response

That sounded a bit off to me. So I asked a GLO employee in public affairs to:

  • Give the response a letter grade from A-F
  • Evaluate the accuracy of the response
  • Identify any critical errors or omissions.

GLO Response Reveals Some Misses

My GLO source responded almost immediately. I’ll start with her conclusion. She said, “Luckily, I don’t fear losing my job to AI yet after reading this. 😊”

Then she explained some of the problems:

“I would say FEMA does floodplain management strategies more than the GLO,” she said. “However, FEMA data about floodplains is used by HUD to develop rules for grants.” Note that the GLO is the primary vehicle for distributing HUD funds in Texas.

“As for the Coastal Barrier System,” she continued, “that is tricky. We are the state sponsor, but there are many partners, so I am not sure if the word “managing” is correct or not.”

“This one is the most incorrect:

  1. Grant Programs and Funding: The GLO administers various grant programs to provide funding assistance for flood-related projects. This includes programs such as the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) programs, which offer financial support for flood mitigation, infrastructure improvements, and post-disaster recovery.

“Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) and Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) are Texas Water Development Board programs, not GLO’s.  GLO does CDBG-DR and CDBG-MIT grants, which are used to address unmet housing needs (DR) and flood mitigation projects (MIT), but we do not do CDBG funds, which are annual entitlement funds from HUD and very different. 

“The biggest glaring error is there is no mention of housing recovery or helping homeowners. I won’t fail ChatGPT, but it definitely requires editing and oversight.” 

ChatGPT Hits Some Walls

In addition to errors like those above, sometimes ChatGPT just plain hits a wall and refuses to provide answers. For instance, it:

  1. Currently contains no information past 2021. That limits its usefulness when seeking information about current events. It also limits usefulness for people in certain professions, such as news reporting.
  2. Refuses to address personal or reputation issues.
  3. Can’t provide answers to specific questions that require professional expertise. For instance, I tried to get ChatGPT to quantify the relative effectiveness of various flood control techniques. It responded that it depended on local conditions and suggested hiring a professional engineer. In fairness, that’s a good answer. But it does acknowledge the limits of the program.
  4. Didn’t acknowledge the existence of ReduceFlooding.com, saying “it could be fictional or newly established” when I asked “What is ReduceFlooding.com?” However, Google ranks ReduceFlooding.com #6 in the world when asked “How do I reduce flooding?” In contrast, the Harris County Flood Control District’s website showed up at #26.

Putting ChatGPT in Perspective

ChatGPT is an impressive tool. But it’s only one tool in the tool box. You wouldn’t use a saw when you needed a hammer. Understand the best uses of ChatGPT, such as providing high-level outlines or introductions to topics, and you won’t be disappointed.

In short, it’s part of the answer, but not the answer. And as they say on every airplane before takeoff, “cross-check and verify all the doors.”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/29/23

2099 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

ChatGPT Recommends Construction BMPs that Reduce Flooding

Second in a series on ChatGPT and Flood-Mitigation Recommendations

Yesterday, I posted ChatGPT’s recommendations on the most effective techniques for flood control. The artificial-intelligence research tool compiled an impressive list, later validated by experts in the field. But they all said the recommendations were high-level. So I conducted another test in which I drilled down into various aspects of the topic.

For instance, I asked ChatGPT

ChatGPT Answer to Construction BMP Question

Q. “What are best management practices in construction that help reduce flooding?”

A. “Implementing best management practices (BMPs) in construction can help minimize the impact of construction activities on stormwater runoff and reduce the risk of flooding. Here are some key BMPs commonly used to address stormwater management and flood reduction in construction:

  1. Sediment and Erosion Control: Implementing measures to prevent sediment and erosion is crucial in construction sites. This includes installing erosion control devices such as sediment barriers, silt fences, and sediment basins. These structures help contain sediment on-site and prevent it from entering stormwater runoff, which can clog drainage systems and contribute to downstream flooding.
  2. Stormwater Management Plans: Developing and following a comprehensive stormwater management plan is essential. It should include strategies for capturing and controlling stormwater runoff during construction activities. This may involve installing sediment traps, using sediment filter socks, or utilizing temporary or permanent stormwater detention ponds to reduce peak flows and prevent flooding downstream.
  3. Site Grading and Drainage Design: Proper site grading and drainage design are critical to direct stormwater runoff away from vulnerable areas and into appropriate stormwater management facilities. By creating well-designed swales, channels, and berms, water can be efficiently directed to detention ponds or other retention structures, reducing the risk of localized flooding.
  4. Use of Best Construction Practices: Employing construction practices that minimize soil disturbance and protect natural drainage patterns can help prevent excessive runoff and erosion. This includes avoiding excessive clearing, preserving existing vegetation where possible, and using construction techniques that minimize soil compaction.
  5. Stabilization of Disturbed Areas: Prompt stabilization of disturbed areas is crucial to minimize erosion and sediment runoff. Implementing erosion control measures such as mulching, revegetation, or the use of erosion control blankets can help stabilize exposed soil and reduce the potential for sediment runoff into stormwater systems.
  6. Construction Site Runoff Control: Managing and treating construction site runoff is important to prevent contaminants from entering water bodies and exacerbating flood risks. Utilizing sediment traps, sediment basins, or construction site sediment filters can help remove sediment and pollutants from runoff before it is discharged into waterways.
  7. Education and Training: Providing education and training to construction site workers on proper stormwater management practices and BMP implementation is vital. This helps ensure that everyone involved in the construction process understands the importance of controlling runoff and minimizing flood risks.
  8. Regular Inspection and Maintenance: Regularly inspecting and maintaining stormwater management structures and erosion control measures is crucial to their effectiveness. Sediment traps, erosion control devices, and stormwater management facilities should be inspected, cleaned, and repaired as necessary to ensure they function properly and continue to reduce flood risks.

By incorporating these best management practices into construction activities, the potential for erosion, sediment runoff, and localized flooding can be significantly reduced. It is important for construction projects to comply with local regulations and guidelines related to stormwater management and flood control to ensure effective implementation of these practices.”

Experience Shows Value of Recommendations

Wow! It provides a good summary – without days of research of construction regulations in thousands of jurisdictions across the county.

I’ve documented numerous instances of what happens to neighbors when contractors do NOT follow these BMPs.

There was the case of Woodridge Village, the aborted Perry Homes development in Montgomery County at the headwaters of Taylor Gully. Workers there violated virtually every one of those recommendations and up to 600 neighboring families paid the price. They flooded twice in a matter of months. Perry, its subsidiaries and contractors wound up offering a substantial settlement to the flooded families to compensate them for damages.

And just blocks away, a 200+ acre development called Royal Pines made many of the same mistakes. Royal Pines didn’t flood as many neighbors, but it flooded them more often – twice in one month last last year and then again more recently.

Use ChatGPT to Drill Down Quickly

As with yesterday’s post about the “most effective techniques to reduce flooding,” the question about construction BMPs yielded fairly high level results within seconds.

This illustrates one of the most important aspects of using ChatGPT: DRILL DOWN into subjects. Don’t just take the first answer you get.

For instance, ask variations on the original question. Example: When you ask, “What are the consequences for flood control of NOT following construction BMPs,” you find information about:

  1. Increased erosion that can clog water bodies and increase the risk of flooding
  2. Stormwater runoff pollution that can degrade water quality clog drainage systems
  3. Reduced infiltration capacity that increases stormwater runoff and flood risk
  4. Inadequate stormwater management leading to inadequate storage and conveyance capacity
  5. Legal and financial consequences

Explore Different Aspects of Topic

You can also drill down quickly to explore different aspects of a topic. For instance, when I asked ChatGPT about “the most effective environmental solutions that reduced flooding,” it listed six more recommendations:

  1. Natural Water Retention Measures
  2. Reforestation and Afforestation
  3. Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS)
  4. River and Channel Restoration
  5. Floodplain Management and Zoning
  6. Climate Change Adaptation

I then drilled down on Sustainable Urban Drainage Design and found eight more recommendations including:

  1. Permeable Surfaces
  2. Green Roofs
  3. Rain Gardens
  4. Bioretention Systems
  5. Detention and Retention Basins
  6. Wetlands and Ponds
  7. Water Harvesting: Systems
  8. Education and Awareness

ChatGPT gave clear, concise explanations of each of these topics, plus a summary that put them all in perspective. I just didn’t list them here to keep the length of this post manageable.

Tomorrow in Part 3 of this series on ChatGPT, I’ll describe some of the limitations of this impressive research tool: What happens when it makes a mistake?

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/28/2023

2098 Days since Hurricane Harvey

ChatGPT Advice on Most Effective Techniques for Flood Control

First in a three-part series about ChatGPT and Flood Knowledge

The flood of articles about ChatGPT recently prompted me to wonder whether the artificial intelligence application could accurately answer questions about flooding. So I set up an account, started asking questions, and checked the answers with experts. The responses revealed patterns of strengths and weaknesses.

  • The more general the questions, the better the answers.
  • The more specific the questions, the more it missed.
  • In one test, it seriously missed an answer and gave misleading advice.
  • In another, it omitted an important component of the answer.
  • Sometimes I got no responses at all.

Despite ChatGPT’s considerable strengths, my test raised a red “caution flag” on this newly minted intellectual booster rocket. In my opinion, the biggest danger in using it is this.

The answers to questions seem so competent, an unsuspecting user may not question them.

My advice:

  • Use it, but also use it with caution.
  • Understand the limitations.
  • Drill down into topics and cross check the answers with other sources.

Test Run and Validation

I first asked ChatGPT, “What are the most effective techniques for flood control?” I sent the results to an industry leading hydrologist who specializes in flood control and the leaders of two leading conservation groups in the Houston area.

I asked them to grade the answer on a scale of A through F and to answer two simple questions. Was the ChatGPT response accurate? And did it omit anything important?

ChatGPT Response to Test Question

Below are my question and the ChatGPT response reproduced verbatim:

Q: “What are the most effective techniques for flood control?”

A: “Flood control involves a combination of structural and non-structural techniques to minimize the impact of flooding. Here are some of the most effective techniques used for flood control:

  1. Dams and Reservoirs: Constructing dams and reservoirs helps regulate the flow of water in rivers and store excess water during heavy rainfall. This reduces downstream flood risk by controlling the release of water.
  2. Levees and Flood Walls: Building levees and flood walls along riverbanks and coastlines can provide physical barriers to prevent floodwaters from reaching populated areas. These structures are designed to withstand the pressure of water and redirect it away from vulnerable regions.
  3. Channelization: Modifying and straightening river channels can increase their capacity and improve the flow of water, reducing the risk of overflow. This technique involves reshaping riverbanks, removing obstacles, and dredging to deepen the channel.
  4. Floodplain Zoning: Implementing land-use planning measures such as floodplain zoning helps prevent development in high-risk areas. By restricting construction and promoting open spaces or green infrastructure, floodwater can be absorbed or diverted, reducing damage to buildings and infrastructure.
  5. Stormwater Management: Effective stormwater management systems capture and store rainwater, reducing the volume of water entering rivers and drainage systems during storms. Techniques include the use of retention ponds, green roofs, permeable pavements, and sustainable drainage systems (SUDS).
  6. Wetland Restoration: Wetlands act as natural buffers against flooding, absorbing and storing excess water. Restoring and preserving wetlands can help regulate water flow, reduce flood peaks, and provide habitats for wildlife.
  7. River Embankments and Terracing: Strengthening riverbanks through embankments and terracing helps contain floodwaters within the river channel. These techniques can reduce erosion and prevent water from spreading onto surrounding floodplains.
  8. Urban Drainage Systems: Well-designed urban drainage systems, including storm sewers, culverts, and retention basins, efficiently collect and transport stormwater away from urban areas. Proper maintenance of these systems is crucial to prevent blockages and ensure effective flood control.
  9. Early Warning Systems: Implementing advanced monitoring and early warning systems allows for timely dissemination of flood alerts to at-risk communities. This gives people more time to evacuate or take necessary precautions to protect life and property.
  10. Public Awareness and Education: Raising public awareness about flood risks, safety procedures, and emergency response plans can significantly reduce the impact of floods. Educating communities on flood preparedness, including evacuation routes and the importance of insurance coverage, helps people respond effectively during flood events.

It’s worth noting that the most effective flood control strategies often involve a combination of these techniques, tailored to the specific characteristics and challenges of the area at risk. Additionally, climate change adaptation measures and sustainable water management practices play a crucial role in mitigating the long-term effects of flooding.”

Evaluation of Response by Experts

Hydrologist/flood expert: “That response is pretty good. It really depends on the audience. I would give it a B+ because it is thorough, but very general. Obviously, it doesn’t take into account the location, development, topography, etc., so that is why it can’t ever give an “A+” answer.”

Environmentalist #1: “I would give this an A. It’s basic, but it’s pretty comprehensive. Especially items 5,6,7, which are not always considered as common strategies employed for flood mitigation.”

Environmentalist #2: “I would give it an A- or B+. It hit many of the green strategies. But it did not seem to talk about preservation of natural ecosystems, like forests, floodplains, beaches, and grasslands. Nor did it discuss the use of hybrid solutions that incorporate engineered features with natural materials that mimic the functioning of natural ecosystems. I would also add another item to the list, ‘Use of native vegetation in residential and commercial areas to increase infiltration.'”

My Impression

I concluded ChatGPT is a research tool like any other.


It’s definitely faster than search engines that would require you to explore dozens of links in order to compile a list like the one above.

It even composes well-formed summaries/answers for you in simple, easy-to-understand language.

It feels as though you are conversing with a knowledgeable, patient teacher.

It’s a great jumping-off point to start intellectual exploration.

If this were an “Intro to…” or “Principles of…” course, I would give it an A- or B+. It gives good, comprehensive, well-formed answers. The grammar is impressive for something computer generated.


But that last strength can inspire a dangerous overconfidence that will become more apparent in the next two posts.

Also, it never quantified “most effective,” but in fairness, the last paragraph of the response (“worth noting”) explains why that would be problematic.

Down the Rabbit Holes

Armed with my expert’s evaluations, I started down some rabbit holes that revealed more strengths, weaknesses, limitations and an outright error on different aspects of flood control.

But more on those in the next two posts. One involves construction best management practices. Another will focus on the capabilities of a government agency, the Texas General Land Office.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/27/2023

2097 days since Hurricane Harvey