Urban Flood Management Simulation Takeaways

BY EDM | 05 DEC 2017
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Flood management simulation exercise at InterAction in Washington, D.C.
When it comes to flood management, leaders face many challenges and many options. Every community will have a different solution. But communities will have to work together if they want to find solutions that last.

This was one conclusion attendees reached at a November simulation exercise focused on integrating a watershed approach into urban flood management. The exercise, which took place at InterAction's Washington, D.C., offices, was sponsored by WWF, and brought together members of the World Bank, the Global Disaster Preparedness Center, the International Organization for Migration, and InterAction.

Following a presentation by WWF staff on the WWF/USAID Natural and Nature-Based Flood Management: A Green Guide (FGG) methods, attendees were introduced to a simulated urban neighborhood that experiences repeated flooding. They received a description of the overall situation, as well as maps and flashcards describing possible flood management methods. Because they came from different locations and areas of expertise, attendees had many different ideas for how to address the hypothetical city's flood issues. Their ideas led to a discussion about challenges in urban flood management.

From development that impedes green recovery, to determining the feasibility of short-term versus long-term recovery options, to working with neighborhood residents (who often have their own ways of coping with flooding in their homes) planners and humanitarians have to take many conflicting factors into account. And because watersheds often encompass many communities spanning wide regions, those leaders must work across community boundaries if they hope to manage the underlying causes of flooding, rather than simply reacting to flooding itself.

There are "so many options here" to manage flooding, one participant noted during the simulation. That makes it tough for planners to decide which way to go. Another participant reminded the group that in the aftermath of flooding, community members have greater opportunity to advocate for policy improvements.

Attendees agreed they want to use natural and nature-based flood recovery methods. But they also noted that a combination of flood management methods is often necessary, including policies and regulations that improve land use codes in urban environments, and hard engineering too.

The exercise made it clear that no "one-size-fits-all" approach exists for how a community should deal with flooding. Urban areas are complex and diverse. Large, diverse populations come together in dense environments, meaning different needs must be addressed for effective flood management.

This simulation demonstrated the value of bringing together leaders with a range of expertise to discuss the challenges of urban flood management. Participants identified the need for multiple flood management methods spanning administrative boundaries to address upstream and downstream flood risk factors.

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