From Flood Control to Integrated Water Resource Management

Lessons for the Gulf Coast from Flooding in Other Places in the Last Sixty Years

by James P. Kahan, Mengjie Wu, Sara Hajiamiri, Debra Knopman

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Abstract

The loss of life and devastation in the Gulf coast region of the United States following the hurricane season of 2005 has led to considerable debate about what should be done and not done in recovering from the damage and mitigating the consequences of future floods. This document reports the experiences of four major floods since 1948 (two in the United States, one in the Netherlands, and one in China), to draw lessons for the Gulf coast restoration effort. The authors conclude that (1) attending to history leads to mitigating the potential damage of floods even when major floods are few and far between; (2) the critical concept of integrated water resource management policy — particularly its implication that flood damage control includes conceding land to the water from time to time — is necessary but may be difficult to accept; (3) delineating roles and responsibilities clearly in advance produces better outcomes; and (4) out of disaster can come improvements to the social and physical infrastructure that go beyond flood protection.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Four Recent Historical Examples

  • Chapter Three

    Synthesis of the Lessons from the Case Studies

  • Chapter Four

    Lessons for the Aftermath of Katrina

The research described in this report results from the RAND Corporation’s continuing program of self-initiated independent research. Support for such research is provided, in part, by donors and by the independent research development provisions of RAND’s contracts for the operation of its U.S. Department of Defense federally funded research and development centers. This research was conducted under the auspices of the Environment, Energy, and Economic Development Program (EEED) within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE). This report is being released jointly by EEED and by the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute (RGSPI).

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