Preparing communities for flooding
Some recent lessons and some ways forward. Keys, C. and Campbell, P. (1991) The Macedon Digest, 6(3), 1-5
There can surely be no doubt, after the widespread and frequently severe floods in New South Wales during 1990, that much remains to be done to prepare the state adequately for flooding. In that year the inundation of one small town, Nyngan, led to a damage bill estimated at $50 million, and numerous other communities also sustained serious losses. From time to time public criticism implied that government agencies were seen to be at fault for not having prepared communities appropriately for flooding or for having given them insufficient time to respond effectively to the arrival of flood waters.
There are numerous ways by which communities can be prepared for flooding. Probably the best known to the public at large are the so-called 'structural' or engineering works which attempt to modify the behaviour of flood waters so as to lessen the frequency or seriousness of impact of floods: levee banks, bypass channels, retarding basins and mitigation dams are examples. Less familiar to most are the 'non-structural' approaches which have no effect on flooding itself but which modify human activities in ways which mitigate the impacts of floods. Removing houses from the path of flood waters, discouraging future development by means of zoning provisions or financial disincentives, educating communities on flood risks and on appropriate behaviours to follow before and during flood periods, developing flood forecasting and warning systems and equipping emergency services for flood planning and flood combat work are cases in point. Actual experience of flooding, too, helps communities to be prepared.
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