Alliance for Community Trees News

Nature-Based Solutions To Reduce Community Flood Risks

By Conni Kunzler | July 3, 2017

Source: The Nature Conservancy, “Nature-based Solutions that Reduce Flood Risk is Focus of New Partnership, Interactive Website,” News Release

Washington, DC (April 4, 2017) – National Association of Counties, in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and five other key partners, launches an online guide to promote the role that nature-based solutions can play in helping reduce flood risk for communities, while also providing other benefits such as improved water quality, enhanced recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat, and stronger, more resilient local economies.

The Naturally Resilient Communities partnership developed this guide tool to help community leaders learn more about nature-based strategies by featuring specific solutions and highlighting case studies of successful projects to help local leaders identify solutions that might be replicable for their community. Specific strategies include Urban Forests and Green Streets.

The partners say the need for approaches that work with nature is growing. There have been at least 38 major floods in the U.S. over the past 16 years, and since 2005, five major hurricanes have caused a total of more than 2,200 deaths and some $230 billion in damages.

“Storms are increasing in frequency and severity, and the cost to society is increasing as well,” said Linda Langston, director of strategic relations with the National Association of Counties. “Ninety-six percent of the total U.S. population lives in counties where federally-declared, weather-related disasters have occurred since 2010, and average flood losses in the U.S have increased steadily to nearly $10 billion annually, driving the National Flood Insurance Program $24.6 billion into debt.”

A new website produced by Naturally Resilient Communities, NRCSolutions.org, features 30 nature-based solutions that range from giving rivers more room to access to their natural floodplains and the protection or restoration of coastal reefs and dunes to green roofs and permeable pavement in cities. The site, developed by Sasaki, also features case studies that serve as successful examples of the ways in which nature-based solutions have provided multiple benefits when used alongside more traditional, manmade infrastructure, like dams, levees, seawalls and storm water systems.

“From weather-related disasters and public health crises to needs for economic development, the demands on our communities’ limited resources are growing,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Nate Woiwode. “This is where the work of the Naturally Resilient Communities partnership comes in. In many cases, we’ve ‘over-engineered’ our approaches to flood-risk reduction, and in doing so, we’ve lost many of the benefits that nature provides. Nature itself can do a great job if we give it a chance. We need dams, levees and seawalls, but nature is an essential part of the solution, too.”

“Wetlands and floodplains can help store or slow down floodwaters while also providing us with cleaner water because of their ability to naturally filter excess nutrients and sediment that degrade water quality,” Chad Berginnis, Association of State Floodplain Managers executive director, said. “And marshes, mangroves, reefs and dunes can help protect coastal communities by reducing flood levels, wave height and erosion.”

These types of natural features also provide high quality habitat for birds, fish and other animals that can improve recreational opportunities, Berginnis said.

“Nature-based solutions positively impact a community’s economy because they often create green spaces for ball fields, parks and other recreational activities that can increase tourism, improve the health of citizens and attract businesses and professionals,” said James Schwab with the American Planning Association. “Because of the multiple benefits they provide, nature-based solutions pay dividends and save money over time.”

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