Tag Archives: flood

Will Big Data Help Save Our Water?

Michael Sullivan from IBM writes on the Forbes Blog http://www.forbes.com/ :  “Massive forces are refashioning the relationship between humans and water.” Noting the current challenges presented by climate change, floods, droughts, population growth and increasing urbanization. “That’s why some countries and cities are getting very smart, very fast, not only about how they manage water, but also about connecting their water system to their energy, transportation and emergency management systems,” he says.

His article concludes with a call for the use of big data and analytics to help overcome complexity and truly manage water systems as systems.  Read More via http://www.forbes.com/sites/ibm/2015/03/19/world-water-day-will-big-data-save-our-water-systems/

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Midwest Flooding On the Rise

Flood SignThe journal Nature Climate Change points out that those who live in the U.S. Midwest are no strangers to devastating floods. Last summer, according to the journal, the region was “inundated with two month’s worth of rainfall in just one week, submerging farms and killing crops. Torrential downpours following a drought in Illinois in 2013 led to flooding that cost $1 billion.

The journal reports that Midwest flooding in 2008 caused “24 deaths and $15 billion in losses. Across the country, the United States has suffered from more than $260 billion in flood-related damages between 1980 and 2013 — it’s the most common natural disaster experienced by Americans, according to FEMA.”   The important message according to the research is to expect more of that in a climate-changed world.

>Read More via http://grist.org/climate-energy/flooding-is-on-the-rise-in-the-midwest-and-were-totally-unprepared/

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Flood Alleviation – Unpaid Engineers to Restore Floodplains

Following major floods in January 2014 Marina Pacheco, the chief executive of the UK Mammal Society, recommended that the UK Government promote beaver reintroductions as a means of reducing flood risk in the future.

“Restoring the beaver to Britain’s rivers would bring huge benefits in terms of flood alleviation. These unpaid river engineers would quickly re-establish more natural systems that retain water behind multiple small dams across tributaries and side-streams. As a consequence the severity of flooding further downstream would be greatly reduced, at no cost to the taxpayer,” wrote Pacheco.

This regulation in river flow may also help reduce flooding and bankside erosion downstream according to the biofresh blog http://biofreshblog.com/2014/04/18/beavers-ecological-stress-and-river-restoration/

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Yvon Chouinard: Tear Down ‘Deadbeat’ Dams

A recent New York Times Opinion piece by Yvon Chouinard titled “Tear Down ‘Deadbeat’ Dams,” rightly questions the values and highlights the environmental risks associated with dams, underlining that the benefits “for water use, flood control and electricity – can now be met more effectively without continuing to choke entire watersheds.”

He goes on to say that: “Of the more than 80,000 dams listed by the federal government, more than 26,000 pose high or significant safety hazards. Many no longer serve any real purpose.” For Chouinard, an adventurer and founder of Patagonia, this has long been an important issue.  “I’ve been working to take down dams for most of my life.  The idea, once considered crazy, is gaining momentum.”  >Read On


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“Emergency Response” for Streams and Rivers Becoming More Common

A scientifically-based assessment can aid quick, sound decision-making in an emergency.

A scientifically-based assessment can aid quick, sound decision-making in an emergency.

With unpredictable weather patterns becoming the new normal, it may be time to take a fresh look your flood risk.  At Trout Headwaters we are definitely seeing a distinct increase in the number of emergency calls we receive.  When a structure or critical resource is under threat of flooding time is of the essence.

Streams, rivers and wetlands do flood, most often during spring runoff or summer rain storms. An emerging pattern in the West of drought, followed by fire, followed by rain, can wreak havoc on the stability of streambanks. High spring runoff or heavy rain events can very quickly turn a peaceful stream into a raging torrent eating away at unstable banks.

Lush streamside vegetation and a healthy stream hydrology mean resilient streambanks, but if you do find yourself in an emergency situation, our firm’s expert team of engineers, hydrologists and biologists can  deploy quickly to provide an assessment of the damage and potential threat to your property.  Our patented RiverWorks Rapid Assessment System allows us to complete a thorough stream or river assessment quickly, even turning around a report and suggested remedies within 24 – 48 hours.

THI’s “green” approaches to streambank stabilization not only stave off further damage, but also strengthen over time as banks recover the type of deep-rooted, woody vegetation that means stability long term, along with added habitat values for fish and wildlife.

For more information or to discuss your concerns, contact THI today.

You may also like: For Builders, Architects, and Homeowners – Building Near a River or Stream?

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Father of Floodplain Management Said, “Build Away from Floodplains”

When rivers flood severely enough that there is loss of life, it’s not too long before emergency meetings are held to discuss new flood control measures.  Often these measures include armoring riverbanks.  Although a tragedy, the recent floods near Boulder, Colo. could have been worse.

Some of Boulder’s protection could be attributed to Gilbert White, the late University of Colorado professor known as the “father of flood plain management,” who believed that people should move structures out of flood-prone areas instead of relying on dams and levees.  White advocated  for adaptation to, or accommodation of, flood hazards rather than the “structural” solutions (dams, levees, and floodwalls, for example) that dominated policy in the early 20th century.

Dams, levees and floodwalls, developed by engineers, are designed to modify flooding hazards so that humans are protected and can continue to live in areas that are periodically subject to flooding (i.e. floodplains). White’s thought governing bodies (local, regional, or national) should restrict the use of floodplains. In his influential dissertation entitled “Human adjustment to floods,” published in 1945 by the University of Chicago Department of Geography, White argued that an over-reliance on structural works in the United States had actually increased damage by flooding, rather than decreasing them, and famously said, “Floods are an act of God, but flood losses are largely an act of man.”

Despite his many honors and accolades, including the National Medal of Science from the National Science Foundation (2000), during White’s lifetime, public confidence in structural works significantly increased building in floodplains.

You may also like: Know Your Risk: Floodwaters Can Transform Small Streams into Raging Rivers

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-flood-risks-20130920,0,7805513.story

Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_F._White

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The Science Behind Colorado’s Catastrophic Floods

colorado-national guard

Photo credit: Colorado National Guard.

Just a few months ago, Boulder, Colorado was in the grip of yet another drought, reports TIME magazine online, and the state also experienced its worst wildfire on record earlier this year. But after days of heavy rainfall that the National Weather Service called “biblical,” drought and fire are the last things that Boulder and the rest of the northern Front Range of Colorado has to worry about. The more lasting effects will be caused by the catastrophic flood events that have ravaged portions of the state over the last few weeks.

With weather extremes becoming more common, it is more important than ever to be sure we encourage resilient landscapes. Healthy, functioning floodplains and wetlands can protect freshwater resources, and infrastructure from the extremes of drought and flood.

Andrew Freedman of Climate Central described the climate factors contributing to the Colorado floods: “An increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events is expected to take place even though annual precipitation amounts are projected to decrease in the Southwest…That may translate into more frequent, sharp swings between drought and flood, as has recently been the case.”

Many experts agree that climate-change-related severe weather events all around the country are here to stay.  Fires due to drought will, in turn, exacerbate flooding due to fire-exposed soils, and fire-damaged vegetation. Protection and restoration of fire-damaged areas, floodplains, and wetlands can help protect both life and property.

Read more: http://science.time.com/2013/09/17/the-science-behind-colorados-thousand-year-flood/#ixzz2fS83Pfy9

You may also like: Wildfire and Water: Post-Fire Assessments Provide Quick Answers, and Know Your Risk: Floodwaters Can Transform Small Streams into Raging Rivers

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How a City Can Be More Like a Forest

from Greenbiz.com

green infrastructureOne defining characteristic of a city is that it is full of hard surfaces. Streets, sidewalks, buildings and bridges shed water when it rains. All that water has to go somewhere, and it usually gets there fast. So for a city to function more like a forest or a field, step one is to slow down the water.

At THI our main business is slowing down the water with a process we call Experience EcoBlu.  Healthy floodplains with lush, streamside vegetation provides ecological services like water filtration, absorption, and storage.  When floodplains are destroyed, the inevitable result is lower water quality, more flooding, and more damage to life, limb and property.  We answer many calls from landowners concerned about erosion and flooding.

The issue is becoming more urgent. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading New York–based policy, science and advocacy organization, over the past 50 years the number of days with heavy precipitation events has increased more than 50 percent. If this trend continues, as climate models suggest it will, flash floods will pose an ever greater risk both to people and to the infrastructure built over decades — even centuries, in some places — to handle stormwater. On the flip side, droughts elsewhere will put drinking water supplies under greater stress and increase conflicts among agricultural, industrial and residential water users.

The role of water is so important to green infrastructure that some experts speak of blue-green or turquoise infrastructure. The reason is clear: in natural conditions, rocks, soil, plants and trees keep water where it falls, or slow water down on its way into wetlands, streams and rivers. As a result, only 10 percent of rain becomes runoff, half gets absorbed and the rest goes back into the air as water vapor. The páramo in Ecuador is a great example; a giant sponge that soaks up water where it falls. When the ground cannot absorb rain — whether because cattle have pounded it solid or because people have built office towers, apartment complexes, roads and parking lots on it — nearly all the rain washes away, carrying pollution with it, and with increasing frequency overrunning stormwater systems.

Read more: http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2013/05/13/how-city-can-be-more-forest


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New White House Water Resource Guidelines Are Not “Rules” – Will They Make a Difference?

Author Kelli Barrett writing for Ecosystem Marketplace summarizes the new White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) recent updates to the 1983 Principles and Guidelines on Water and Land Related Resources and Implementation Studies.  The updates focus on an ecosystem services approach to the evaluation process, while previous guidelines focused almost exclusively on economic factors.

“The Principles and Requirements for Federal Investments in Water Resources, or Proposed Guidance for short, were released in March of this year,” writes Barrett. “The guidelines are meant to instruct federal water and land related investments in projects ensuring that the agencies’ actions contribute to economic development while preserving the environment…While the Proposed Guidance do represent a possible shift in policy that recognizes the value of nature as an important component in economic development, it’s important to note that they are guidelines and not the rule for federal water resources investments. It’s unsure how effective they will be in moving toward a more balanced investment.”

Ecosystem services like water filtration, nutrient regulation and mitigation of floods and droughts can be difficult to quantify which is one reason why investment decisions have been mostly based on economic gains. The report argues that measuring water resources investments purely on economic gains no longer reflects national needs and the integrated ecosystem services approach will lead to more socially beneficial investments.

Read more: http://www.ecosystemmarketplace.com/pages/dynamic/article.page.php?page_id=9742

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Flooding and Floodrisks Defined at FloodSmart.gov

Anywhere it rains, it can flood. Many conditions can result in a flood: hurricanes , overtopped levees, outdated or clogged drainage systems and rapid accumulation of rainfall.

Just because you haven’t experienced a flood in the past, doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. Flood risk isn’t just based on history, it’s also based on a number of factors: rainfall, river-flow and tidal-surges, topography, flood-control measures, and changes due to building and development.

FloodSmart.gov provides flood-hazard maps to show different degrees of risk for your community, which help determine the cost of flood insurance.  We suggest you check  these maps annually as they do change.

Trout Headwaters advocates for, and works to restore healthy functioning floodplains, which can slow and filter floodwaters, reducing flood damage.  You may want to read our recent article: “Know Your Risk: Floodwaters Can Transform Small Streams into Raging Rivers,” and call our offices if you own, or are thinking of investing in, streamside or river front property.

Read more: http://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/flooding_flood_risks/ffr_overview.jsp

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