The Challenges of Flood Management

 The challenges flood managers face can be summarized as follows:

  • Population growth, the need for enhanced economic activity for livelihood and food security, and the construction of infrastructure exert considerable pressure on the natural system and increase the damage potential on flood plains.
  • Climate change tends to intensify the hydrological cycle, potentially resulting in increase in magnitude and frequency of extreme flood events or changes in the saisonality of floods. Sea level rise affects the flood risk of coastal areas and estuaries.
  • Absolute protection from flooding is neither technically feasible nor economically and environmentally viable.
  • The poorest and most vulnerable people are the ones that are exposed to flooding as they have no other choice but to settle in the most exposed areas.
  • The shortage of alternative land for economic activities in many countries, means for those countries that abandoning flood-prone areas cannot be a sustainable option for flood management.
  • Rapid urbanization and large-scale urban sprawl with ever more impervious surfaces leading to accelerated runoff and accentuate downstream flood peaks.
  • Need to preserve or restore riverine ecosystems that provide many services such as: water purification, food, flood mitigation and recreational benefits.
  • Large-scale deforestation driven by farming, mining or urbanization results in larger sediment yields which reduce the discharge capacity of the conveyance system. 
  • Decision making is increasingly becoming multi-dimensional and concerned with resolving multiple, often conflicting, objectives.

Given the augmenting challenges of flood management and the shortcomings of traditional measures it is widely recognized that there is a need for a new approach to flood management that balances development demands with flood risk. Since evidence world-wide is that people will not, and in certain circumstances cannot, abandon flood-prone areas, ways have to be found to make life sustainable in the flood plains even if there is considerable risk to life and property. This can be approached through the integrated management of floods.  

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