“Stark warning” to people selling flood-damaged homes

“A couple whose new home was repeatedly hit by flooding are to sue the previous owners, claiming that the problem was deliberately hidden from them before they bought the property. …””

https://www.moneywise.co.uk/home-mortgage/flooding-case-‘stark-warning-to-sellers-say-legal-experts

“Study: mild floods are declining, but intense floods are on the rise”

“… What this study does is to show, using just data and no model projections, that flood risk is indeed increasing but at the rare to very-rare flood end. The milder floods that are more of a nuisance than a threat to property and lives, are actually decreasing. This is worse news than before though, as it is these milder floods that make up the bulk of the refill to our water supply reservoirs.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/sep/08/study-mild-floods-are-declining-but-intense-floods-are-on-the-rise

“The real villains in Harvey flood: urban sprawl and the politicians who allowed it”

Houston has quietly become [the USA’s] fourth largest and fastest-growing city, due in large part to cheap housing. But the latter has come at an exorbitant cost to its safety. The swamps and wetlands that once characterized Houston’s hinterland have been replaced with strip malls and suburban tract homes.

Those landscapes once served as a natural flood protection system for the city. Research shows that, if they hadn’t been filled and developed, Harvey’s impact would have been lessened. Sam Brody and his colleagues at Texas A&M University in Galveston have been predicting an event like this for nearly a decade. That their work went unheeded by Texas policymakers should not be forgotten.

Worse, a generation of civic leaders have completely deregulated Houston’s land development market. In that process, they helped build a far-flung network of poor neighborhoods on top of a swamp. In Houston, there is a simple truth: the poorer you are, the closer you live to a petrochemical plant and the likelier your home is to flood.

There will be an impulse to elide past the political choices that led us to this point. We shouldn’t allow our politicians to use the use Harvey’s victims as human shields by pronouncing that now is not the time for criticism or blame. There’s never been a more important time to understand the political machinations that led to Harvey’s destructiveness, and to do everything in our power to dismantle them. …

Coastal infrastructure is incredibly expensive to build and nearly impossible to maintain, especially when you realize that the maintenance is borne entirely by local governments – none of which have the financial or technical capacity to do so effectively.

Some have already begun to point to Holland, where the world’s most complex flood control system operates, and to proclaim that if the Dutch do it, so can the United States. This simply isn’t true.

The Netherlands has a much higher tax rate, giving it more resources per person to invest in its infrastructure. Dutch storms are also less intense and bring lower surge heights and less rainfall than their American counterparts.

For a lasting recovery, Houston will need to supplement whatever barrier system it builds with a broader, regional network of wetlands, retention ponds, and green infrastructure to restore the once-robust, natural flood protection lost to a half-century of urban sprawl.

Designers have been calling for such an approach since Ike made landfall. Houston should look to New York’s landscape architect-led recovery process as a model worthy of consideration.

A half-century of bad design choices and impotent planning led Houston to this crisis. Now, it’s up to a new generation of Houstonians to do what their predecessors could not – prepare the Magnolia City to rise up and meet its wetter future head on. …

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/31/real-villains-harvey-flood-urban-sprawl

Flood standards – a familiar tale with shades of Grenfell Tower – what happens when business trumps safety

“Hurricane Harvey has caused huge damage in Texas as 30 inches of rain in less than 48 hours resulted in massive flooding.

The current US President, however, has abolished a number of flood standards in an attempt to get infrastructure projects approved more quickly. The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard is among those to have been rolled back.

In 2015, Mr Obama introduced measures that made it harder to build roads, bridges and other infrastructure in areas that were susceptible to flooding. Plans for such projects would legally have to take into account the impact of climate change and be built to withstand future changes.

While the new regulations had not yet come into effect, they have now been scrapped entirely after Mr Trump decided they were too likely to slow down plans for new infrastructure.

Announcing the decision earlier in August, the billionaire businessman said: “We’re going to get infrastructure built quickly, inexpensively, relatively speaking, and the permitting process will go very, very quickly.”

“It’s going to be a very streamlined process, and by the way, if it doesn’t meet environmental safeguards, we’re not going to approve it.”

However, some of those safeguards have now been removed. The order also introduces a two-year time limit for permission to be granted for major infrastructure projects, in which Mr Trump has pledged to invest $1 trillion.

The move was praised by business groups but strongly opposed by environmentalists.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-barack-obama-flood-protections-flooding-hurricane-harvey-houston-texas-a7916476.html

Flooding – the past doesn’t predict the future

“Nearly every major city and town in Europe is built on a river and we protect this urban infrastructure by using past floods as a gauge of the potential risk,” said Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology at University College London.

“The study shows that this approach underestimates the risk, as climate change has made European floods occur earlier in the year, increasing their potential impact.

“This means all the infrastructure that we have built to protect our cities needs to be reviewed as much of it will be inadequate to protect us from future climate change-induced extreme flooding. … “

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-40889934