The Flooded Future and How We’re Preparing For It
By Ellie Gabel
The climate crisis has become synonymous with the thought of rising sea levels for good reason. A few inches of rising oceans worldwide increases floods and sinking coastlines. While the world catches up on mitigating the climate crisis, many are working to develop immediate solutions for combating the increase in floods. How is the world managing this imminent threat in a way that aligns with sustainability concerns?
Flood Management: The Growing Urgency
Research explores the need for novel solutions to sea-level rise. Elevation models drafted by LiDAR sensors reveal how much experts and analysts have misunderstood and understated the concern. Sea levels may rise four meters soon, drowning countless coastal regions and other near-sea-level areas.
The research is crucial for multiple reasons. First, it solidifies LiDAR technology as the most accurate sea-level-analysis medium, essential for progress in flood preparation. It puts everyone in the sector on the same page, updating their flooding and sea-level expectations with the most recent and accurate data. Additionally, publicizing this research raises awareness of how creative humanity must become soon before many parts of the world flood.
Flood prevention goes past building gray infrastructure such as concrete to withstand walls of water. Sometimes, it is social and agricultural change that makes the most difference, alongside technology and bringing nature back to its original form.
Forecasting is one of the most impactful ways to catalyze long-lasting change within the industry. It does not have an immediately visible payoff as incorporating new technologies, but it is essential for boosting the efficacy of all flood-prevention techniques. It helps analyze meteorology reports on upcoming weather events and informs decision-making when it comes to unlocking dam reservoirs. How much will it damage downstream regions more than it protects upstream?
Better forecasting that leverages technology increases efficacy, minimizes human error and boosts workforce confidence. It does so by reducing the moral sacrifices reservoir-management operators must make in the name of safety. Additional resources — like improved technical manuals and updated compliance — reinforce the ability of workers to make decisions in emergency scenarios backed and researched by regulators.
Additionally, better forecasting gives communities more time and options when preparing emergency flood mitigation. Sandbags, a common and convenient choice for flood control, can actually become impractical and expensive in more severe or widespread cases. With new forecasting technology, areas at risk for flooding will have more time to prepare appropriate and effective solutions.
Any effort for flood prevention is valiant. Yet, local-level projects may become the most important. For example, the southern part of Los Angeles replaced a road previously fraught with potholes and trash with new asphalt, drains and greenery. The newly renovated “green alley” symbolizes out-of-the-box flood prevention. It eliminated a prior concern with waste pooling in holes around the neighborhood, surrounding it with beautiful plant life. It serves multiple functions.
It effectively redirects stormwater away from homes during heavy rains. The new systems transport that water to groundwater reservoirs that control temperature, radiating cool air from below ground. Finally, the water funnels into areas people can repurpose during droughts. The setup is inspirational for further roadway adjustments because it takes the problem and manipulates it for an environmental advantage.
Eliminating Systemic Disadvantages
Sometimes, flood preparation requires zooming out to look at the big picture. Fixing the severity of rising sea levels happens alongside poverty reduction, eliminating classism and dismantling environmental racism. Flood mortality correlates with income inequality and discrimination.
These concepts put undue pressure on lower-income and underprivileged regions and communities, where the impacts of flooding hit the hardest. Because these demographics are the most vulnerable, bolstering them is a global method of reducing overall damages.
Therefore, advocacy for equality in all forms directly promotes natural disaster risk management. Improving the livelihoods of citizens and what resources they have access to outfits them with the mentality they need to battle natural disasters with more optimism and faster recovery.
Investing in Infrastructure and Relocation
Another way nations are tackling flood prevention goes back to the root of the problem — poorly constructed buildings in less-than-ideal locations. Natural basins and flood plains are not the best places for people to live amid the climate crisis. Countries like China are using government funds to relocate susceptible households and improve buildings, focusing on areas they deem time-sensitive to minimize potential casualties.
It is a classic and effective strategy. Climate change ushered a reminder to many that buildings worldwide are old and need more than a patch job. They need retrofitting to withstand changes in temperature and geographical disturbances that may not have been concerning a decade or two ago.
Reimagining the Floodplain
Some areas want to eliminate floodplains in the name of prevention — other regions want to innovate on them. One rests on the Nooksack River in Whatcom County in Washington. Collaborations created the Floodplains That Work project — an initiative that focuses on prevention by restoring natural habitats and making agriculture more resilient. The project seeks to:
- Reintroduce riparian vegetation as a barrier.
- Improving fish habitats.
- Reduce levee repair expenses.
- Meld agricultural goals with flood reduction.
Doing this requires building new infrastructure, such as water treatment plants, roads, and barriers for farms and schools. The idea is revolutionary because instead of disrupting the environment through terraforming or relocating citizens, the county is finding ways to work with the floodplain’s advantages rather than succumb to its disadvantages.
Facing Floods With Eco-Friendly Optimism
Solving the climate crisis will hopefully lead to fewer floods worldwide, but in the meantime, humanity can develop sustainable solutions for flood management. It helps the world become more well-tended, and improves the safety and stability of global populations.
Flood prevention forces international collaboration and innovation that knows no boundaries. Eventually, this will result in the next generation of storm protection for a healthier world.
About the Author
Ellie Gabel is the sciences editor at Revolutionized, where she specializes in astronomy, environmental science, and innovative technologies.