Improve flood resilience with natural and nature-based features

Posted in: Municipal, Water


flood resilience for communitiesFlood resilience is the ability to adapt to, withstand, and rapidly recover from floods. Concerns about changing hydrologic conditions have caused an increased interest in reducing flood risk and improving flood resilience.

There are a suite of approaches to accomplish this—traditional options include “grey infrastructure” such as levees, floodwalls, dams, drainage canals, and retention basins. Recently, however, natural and nature-based solutions for reducing flood risk are receiving more and more attention at a local, national, and international level. These strategies alter, restore, or use natural landscape features to reduce flood risk. Some examples include beaches, dunes, wetlands, and fluvial floodplains.

Since the mid-2010s, Congress has directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to evaluate the use of natural and nature-based features (NNBFs) when conducting flood risk reduction activities along rivers and coasts. USACE has increased its efforts to incorporate natural process into its flood risk reduction activities.

Benefits of NNBFs

Nature-based solutions can be a more cost-effective option. They may also be implemented and operated/ maintained by local stakeholders. Including these strategies in urban planning can not only help reduce flood risks, but avoid them in the first place. This becomes increasingly important today as we face global climate change.

As engineers, it is vital that we incorporate shifting trends and ideas into our solutions. As the industry evolves, we must evolve with it. A nature-based approach to flood protection, or a hybrid approach combining traditional measures and NNBFs, may be favorable as we move forward to remodel our nation’s infrastructure.


Karen Wiemeri

About the Author

Karen Wiemeri, P.E., is a project manager in the Water Group. She provides design and technical support for structural flood mitigation measures. Through her work with structural flood mitigation and stormwater management, Karen has an increased interest in more sustainable approaches to flood risk management that can complement existing defenses.

Read more posts by Karen Wiemeri

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