Collaborative Research: Evaluating the potential for urban resilience planning to mitigate long-term flood risks

Project: Research project

Project Details


Project Summary

2017 was the most costly year on record for US disasters, with flooding alone accounting for over $3 billion in damages. By 2050, flood damages are projected to increase to more than $60 billion per year globally. Costs continue to rise in part due to the isolation of hazard mitigation planning from land use and other planning processes. Resilience planning has emerged as a new framework to coordinate flood mitigation and other planning processes. Resilience attempts to integrate flood mitigation with other community goals by recognizing the interdependencies between disasters and the constant stressors cities face, such as poverty, aging infrastructure, and climate change. As such, resilience planning is theorized to help increase collaboration and avoid counterproductive outcomes that arise from treating interrelated problems in isolation. Many cities are now ostensibly engaged in resilience planning, however the extent to which resilience is actually transforming planning processes, stakeholder collaboration, or mitigation of long-term flood risks is unclear. The central goal of this research is to assess the degree of coordination of government agencies and stakeholders engaged in resilience planning and to examine the influence of coordination on the integration of flood mitigation across multiple plans. By combining interviews, social network analysis, and plan evaluation in four cities at the forefront of resilience planning, this study will provide critical and timely information about the government structures and planning processes that address long-term flood risk. The study has four primary objectives:

Objective 1: Examine how public, private, and community actors engaged in flood mitigation interpret and operationalize the concept of resilience. Surveys of diverse actors engaged in flood mitigation will expose whether stakeholders have common or competing definitions of resilience.

Objective 2: Characterize inter-organizational dynamics around flood resilience planning by analyzing urban governance networks. Using network analysis, this study will map and measure the degree of coordination of government agencies and stakeholders engaged in flood resilience planning.

Objective 3: Assess and compare the quality, consistency, and level of integration among different types of city plans that impact flooding. Applying the latest techniques of plan evaluation, this research will examine the quality and consistency of plans and assess whether goals and strategies conflict, which may actually increase vulnerability to flooding.

Objective 4: Evaluate the influence of different conceptualizations of resilience and governance network structures on cities plans and policies. By assessing the coordination of government agencies engaged in resilience planning, and by evaluating the influence of coordination on plan integration, this study will test existing theories on resilience, urban governance, and planning.

Intellectual Merit. This study will provide missing empirical data to test a number of existing theories about resilience, urban planning and governance, and flood mitigation. This study would be one of the first to apply social network analysis to city flood resilience networks, providing a better understanding of what organizations are commonly included and excluded from resilience planning. Moreover, it would be an early effort to combine social network analysis with assessment of plan quality and integration. By comparing plan quality and integration with measures of network collaboration, results will address the widely cited claim that collaboration leads to better, more integrated plans that are more likely to reduce vulnerability to flooding. Resilience planning is a nascent but rapidly growing focus of urban research and policy, this study will provide a foundation for future inquiry and comparisons across cities.

Broader Impacts. This study will advance knowledge of how resilience planning shapes urban governance at a time when flooding and other shocks and stresses pose an increasingly serious threat for cities. The fragmented and siloed approach to hazard mitigation is a major barrier to reducing flood damage. This study will provide insights about the potential of resilience planning to engage a broader set of stakeholders and integrate flood mitigation across plans. Results will better inform local planners, emergency managers, and other officials about the governance of resilience efforts. Findings will also provide guidance to federal, state, and non-profits on how to foster local resilience. The project will help to educate future resilience planning professionals through the development and implementation of educational case studies and participation of graduate students throughout the research process.
Effective start/end date9/1/188/31/20


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $169,041.00

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