Tag Archive for: Texas Water Journal

Conservation Flood Planning in Texas

Texas has a dubious distinction that not many people realize. We lead the nation in flood events and their impacts. Not one of Texas’ 254 counties has escaped flooding. Despite our prowess in engineering, engineering alone has not prevented flooding. As a growing number of leaders are now starting to recognize, success will require the marriage of engineering and conservation.

Historical flood impact since 1996, by county. Each of the state’s 254 counties has plenty of experience with flooding, and the state leads the nation in number of recorded flood events. Visualization by FEMA Historical Risk and Costs. Data from NOAA Storm Events Database.

In 2019, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Texas Legislature set the stage for future flood-mitigation efforts. A diverse collection of stakeholders worked with legislators to include language for conservation-based projects in both the flood planning process and project funding framework overseen by the Texas Water Development Board.

Recently, Dr. Matthew Berg published a paper describing the roles that conservation projects are starting to play in flood planning.

Dr. Berg is the CEO & Principal Scientist or Simfero Consultants. He has given ReduceFlooding.com the right to review and reproduce his copyrighted paper which first appeared in the Texas Water Journal.

Wide Spectrum of Conservation Solutions

Berg begins by describing the wide spectrum of conservation projects related to flood mitigation. They include:

  • Preservation and restoration toward one end
  • Smaller-scale features like bioswales, green roofs, and rain gardens somewhere in the middle
  • Revegetating with native plant species after construction of otherwise traditional structural projects on the other end.

Berg sees a role for nature-based approaches as a component of virtually every flood mitigation project.

Programs Aligning to Promote Use of Natural Solutions

Berg also cites research that has found these strategies can return $7 in benefits for every $1 in project costs.

Benefits range from flood reduction and improved water quality to erosion control, heat moderation, wildlife habitat, property value increases, recreation, reduced maintenance costs, topping up groundwater storage and more.

As a result, Berg is able to cite dozens of nature-based solutions from all around Texas. The sheer volume, diversity and practicality of these examples is a real eye opener.

Even the Army Corps of Engineers is embracing the effort with its “Engineering with Nature Program.” The Corps designed it to bring conservationists and engineers together.

In addition, FEMA introduced a program last year called BRIC (Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities). It emphasizes boosting resilience before a disaster strikes rather than reacting after the damage has already been done. 

The Water Resources Development Act of 2020 ensures a meaningful evaluation of nature-based solutions and clarifies the eligibility of natural infrastructure for cost-sharing. 

President Biden has joined the bandwagon, too. On his first day in office, he signed an executive order requiring federally funded buildings and facilities to be located away from flood corridors.

These are just a tiny sampling of the dozens of conservation efforts reviewed by Berg.

To See Full Study

To see Dr. Berg’s entire publication, click here. It’s a catalog of solutions right under our feet. All we need to do is recognize the opportunities and seize them.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/28/2021 with thanks to Dr. Matthew Berg and the Texas Water Journal

1429 Days after Hurricane Harvey