From Flood Control to Integrated Water Resource Management: Lessons for the Gulf Coast from Flooding in Other Places in the Last Sixty Years
Oct 18, 2006
Hurricane Katrina, the storm surges it produced, and the subsequent levee failures caused unprecedented death and destruction over a 90,000-square-mile area in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. As the region continues to recover from the devastating flooding, it is important to recognize that such natural disasters will continue to occur throughout the world and that studying approaches to the reconstruction that followed previous flooding disasters may be a way to glean lessons for dealing with both the aftermath of Katrina and of future floods.
RAND Corporation researchers studied four floods that occurred since 1948—two in the United States (in Vanport, Oregon, in 1948; and in the Upper Mississippi River region in 1993)—and two outside the United States (in the province of Zeeland, the Netherlands, in 1953; and in the Yangtze River basin, China, in 1998). The four cases were examined in terms of the "cycle of restoration"—anticipation of a possible flood; the actuality of an event, from the awareness that the event is inevitable until the passing of the immediate crisis; and the aftermath, both the recuperation from the event and the decision about what changes must be made to better anticipate the next cycle.
The study reached several general observations that span the cycle of restoration:
The study also found that in the aftermath of disaster—with its disruption of the status quo—it can be worthwhile to consider improvements to the social and physical infrastructure that go beyond flood control. Such improvements can offer opportunities for broader-based social and economic progress that might have been delayed or not happened at all in the absence of the crisis.