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Understanding Flood Risks, Mitigation Efforts

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Many communities across the country lack full understanding of the flood risk that may adversely affect them, that’s according to research conducted by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Louisiana Watershed Flood Center, the Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Public Policy Center, and the Guilbeaux Center for Public History. Frontiers in Water published the research findings last month.

This public-impact research project – funded by the National Science Foundation’s Smart and Connected Communities program – worked with community stakeholders and groups in flood-prone communities to co-develop technological tools to promote a broader and more comprehensive understanding of flood risks.

In particular, this project used data from the 2016 flood that impacted Lafayette Parish. Using focus groups, researchers delved into better understanding the disconnect between individual and community perceptions of flood risks, and how emerging hydroinformatics tools can bridge these gaps.

Using qualitative analysis, the study evaluated the resources individuals use to learn about flooding, how definitions of community impact flood mitigation efforts, how individuals define flooding and its causes, and where gaps in knowledge exist about flood mitigation efforts.

“We want the public to be knowledgeable about their flood risk, have a better dialogue as a community about the source of flooding and possible solutions, and be able to make more informed decisions as individuals and the community as a whole,” said Dr. Emad Habib, director of the Louisiana Watershed Flood Center and professor of Civil Engineering and the Principal Investigator on the grant. “An information deficit can lead to increased risk of flooding and a lack of engagement in mitigation efforts.”

The research demonstrated that individuals think of flooding in relation to themselves or their immediate circle. In addition, the study revealed division within the community in how individuals think about the causes of flooding and the potential solutions for reducing flood risk.

Next steps for the UL Lafayette team include applying for a full research grant and further developing innovative tools that help users understand what a flood could mean for their home, neighborhood, and community. More information can be found at the project website.