To build effective flood resilience at the state level, states must coordinate across state agencies, local governments, regional entities, and nongovernmental partners. This requires an empowered state leader and has permanent staff to establish flood resilience priorities across agencies, data, and budgets.
Because watersheds ignore jurisdictional boundaries and span multiple communities, regional entities can play a key role in state flood resilience. When empowered to manage flood risk at the watershed level, these entities can lessen the burdens on state and local governments and drive effective solutions.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for state leadership on flood resilience. Some states may establish a resilience office, either within the governor’s office or as a separate agency. Others may create a chief resilience officer within an existing department, or assign necessary duties to an existing position, like the head of a water conservation board or emergency management agency. The map below provides a snapshot of flood resilience entities at the state level.
As states determine what structure works best for them, certain criteria will help make this position — and the state’s flood resilience — more successful. In general, effective flood resilience requires a senior state leader who has a holistic view of flooding and adaptation, and has the following:
Watershed-based entities, like watershed districts or regional flood planning groups, are key for activities like large regional-scale flood modeling; stakeholder coordination; project fundraising, financing, and construction; and community engagement and education. When floodwaters come, they follow watershed dynamics, flowing downhill and into rivers, lakes, and streams.
By fostering collaboration, coordination, planning, and funding at the watershed level, states can improve flood resilience in several ways:
As flood risk intensifies and infrastructure ages, states will increasingly need watershed-level governance to manage and plan for floods. The following recommendations can allow states to effectively manage flood risk at the watershed-scale.
Watershed-based flood entities need statutory authority to effectively collaborate and coordinate across a watershed. State leaders should grant entities authorities to do the following:
Additionally, these entities should collectively cover the full state to ensure adequate coordination and flood protection.
Communities should consider flood risk beyond political boundaries by developing watershed-based flood planning and management practices. To effectively carry out a watershed approach to flood resilience, watershed-based entities need funds for staff time, partner and community engagement, data analysis, and policy research.
State leaders should encourage watershed-scale approaches to flood risk planning and management. Such support signals the importance of collaborative and coordinated action and legitimizes new ways of working at the local, regional, and state scale.
By including the whole community in watershed-based flood planning and management, states can build resilient communities that address past injustices and equitably protect upstream and downstream communities.
States interested in managing flood risk at the watershed scale have many ways to carry out flood management and planning across jurisdictions.