Toward flood resilience cities: Lessons from four North American Cities

Authors: Heejun Chang*, Portland State University, Chang-yu Hong, Portland State University, Sam Markolf, Arizona State University, David Yu, Purdue University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: Urban floods; urbanization, climate change, resilience, urban planning, flood governance
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Cleveland 1, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban flood is a major concern in many North American cities. Together with continuous urbanization, extreme weather events are likely to increase the magnitude and frequency of flood hazard and exposure in populated areas. This paper examines the linkages among climate change, urbanization, and changing pathways of flood management in Portland, Phoenix, Baltimore, and Miami, USA. We used hydroclimate data, land cover data, flood damage, and policy documents to identify the main causes of changing flood risks over space and time. Together with population encroachment to flood-prone areas, increasing precipitation intensity and industrial development have contributed to increasing flood risks in those cities. While structural measures such as levees reduced flood risks to some chronic flood events, they have increased communities’ exposure and vulnerability to extreme floods and transferred the risks to downstream areas. The recent paradigm shift in urban flood risk management, such as the adoption of non-structural measures, including floodplain restoration and green infrastructure installation, is a response to making cities resilient to anticipated floods. However, the pathways that cities have taken and the main actors in flood governance are different from each other, suggesting that opportunities exist for learning from each city’s experience collectively to tackle this global issue.

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