What it was
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) held a briefing titled “Surging Waters: Science Empowering Communities in the Face of Flooding”
Why It Matters
Floods are the costliest, most frequent type of disaster in the United States, accounting for hundreds of deaths and costing the U.S. economy an estimated $54 billion annually. To illustrate the role of science in finding solutions and mitigating impacts, AGU released a report looking at flooding in the United States and how science is shaping management policies for three types of inundation: flooding due to hurricanes, floods in the central United States, and coastal flooding.
Discussion centered around three key points: science is essential to combat flood events; effective, proactive collaboration is necessary for successful policy; and federal and local government have an important role to play in ensuring active, innovative, and accessible research.
All panelists agreed on the vital importance of collaborative data collection to mitigate destructive impacts of flooding on people and property, especially critical infrastructure such as military installations and nuclear power plants. Dr. Jennifer Jurado (Director and Chief Resiliency Officer, Environmental Planning and Community Resilience Division, Broward County, Florida) explained how with more data, Broward and surrounding counties successfully created a unified sea level rise projection and groundwater table map. By using data from federal agencies — including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U. S. Geological Survey — and partnering with academic institutions, they created planning baselines with regional support. However, not all city managers have access to the needed data. For example, in some areas, roads are being elevated and sea walls are being built higher, but without enough data, these actions may not prove as effective as hoped (e.g., a seawall is built higher but not to a height deemed appropriate based on modeled future conditions).
Panelists expanded on the importance of collaboration within the physical science community as well as between scientists and communities. All agreed that no one sector can provide every solution to flood management, so agency partners, academic institutions, and community leaders must all prioritize proactive partnerships. Dr. Michelle Covi (Assistant Professor of Practice, Ocean, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion University) cited the success of the Hampton Roads region in facilitating community use of science by bringing together agencies, industry, and academic institutions in forums and by utilizing the Virginia Sea Grant program. Several panelists also spoke on challenges of stepping out of the technical world and working with communities, such as communicating complex issues clearly and engaging residents not directly affected.Read more >