Iowa’s rising flood risk

The Iowa River. Photo by Jim Malewitz

Thanks to changes in Iowa’s weather patterns, landscape, cities and farms, some of the state’s most trusted flood prevention safeguards outmoded and inadequate, a review by The Des Moines Register shows.

That includes the state’s system of dams – including Saylorville upstream from Des Moines – which were designed to meet climate conditions and a lay of the land that some scientists say haven’t existed for decades.

That leaves Iowans, their homes and their businesses increasingly at risk for the sort of devastating floods that ravaged the state in 1993, 2008 and again last year, causing damage in the billions of dollars.

The Register report details much of what we have reported here – like that rainfall in Iowa has increased in frequency and intensity and that man-made changes to the landscape lead to increased runoff and streamflows. Other finding include:

  • Iowa’s rivers and streams are running harder and faster. In some places, the changes are drastic.
  • Computer models used to predict floods and control Iowa’s system of dams do not account for the changes, making some flood threats easier to miss.
  • The state’s four reservoir dams – which protect the state’s largest population centers – were not designed in anticipation of the changing conditions.

Along with the report, the Register published a sidebar detailing a concept that IEF addresses frequently: Reducing runoff key to flood fight.

Check out our extensive coverage of Iowa’s flood issues.


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