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Texas Calling out to International Cities

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Rising Sea Levels Aren't Putting the Brakes on Coastal Development

By: Adam M. Matheny

Living With Water

Houston, after experiencing six flooding disasters, federally acknowledged, over the course of five years, has decided to take a global approach to preparing for the next potential disastrous storm. In a new report called Living With Water, the city declares its current goals and the impetus for them.

Studies of flood risk are becoming higher priority for a number of cities around the world, and a group called 100 Resilient Cities has formed to collaborate on their findings. Houston recently joined in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The city has developed a number of mitigation strategies to combat the expected increase in flooding, including expanding and widening bayou areas and retrofitting parking areas for rainwater storage. Additionally, the study addresses the flood risk that is especially high in Independence Heights, Greenspoint, and Kashmere Gardens, three of the city’s neighborhoods.

The Living with Water Report recognizes a number of top priorities:

  • Safety above all. This highlights the need to elevate or retrofit access corridors and critical facilities. Flood-safe areas should be incentivized as development targets.
  • Keep the water contained. By containing runoff where it falls, it is easier to estimate and lessen downstream impact. It is more difficult to handle water once it enters the bayou areas.
  • Both the public and private sectors need to be better educated about flood risks.
  • Transportation system and waterway alignment. Improvement of choke points is high on the list here, and major transportation corridors need to take proactive steps to safely manage their own runoff.
  • Give bayous more space. Constriction in the bayous has been an ongoing challenge when managing floods. Efforts must be maid to lessen constriction in a manner that doesn’t amplify downstream flooding or displace residents.
  • Prairie revival. Conservation efforts aimed at the prairie reduce runoff. As an added bonus, they lower the urban heat island effect and provide recreational outlets.
  • Continually increase water storage. Recognize the need to continue to improve water storage efforts as climate change continues to change flood predictions.

The report is a positive step toward the city taking notice of the ongoing need to prepare for storms of increasing frequency and intensity.

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