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Statewide flood hazard information forms a flood data quilt Posted on November 09, 2021


Transcript

Saul Nuccitelli – Director of Flood Science and Community Assistance, Texas Water Development Board

We're going through a statewide flood planning process now, and that cycle is every five years. And so right now, we need to understand statewide who's possibly in harm's way. The best mapping that we have currently doesn't cover the whole state of Texas.

Reem Zoun – Director of Flood Planning, Texas Water Development Board

In an ideal world, we would have very good coverage of flood hazard information for the entire State of Texas. But as I stand here today, we do not have that.

Saul Nuccitelli – Director of Flood Science and Community Assistance, Texas Water Development Board

FEMA does their floodplain mapping on a national scale, and they have limited budget to refresh their mapping each time, and their process is also just time consuming. Each FEMA map takes three to five years to produce. And so, in addition to being costly and time consuming, FEMA can't refresh maps across the country fast enough. We're working with FEMA to develop Base Level Engineering, which is a more rapid way to do flood mapping. And that Base Level Engineering process is underway at our agency, and FEMA contractors are doing work as well as our folks are doing some work. So we said, 'OK, well, we got the FEMA maps, we got Base Level Engineering in some areas, but we still don't have statewide coverage for good flood risk data.'

Reem Zoun – Director of Flood Planning, Texas Water Development Board

The TWDB has put together all the available information and also provided a hierarchy to start with, telling everyone, ‘this is the best available data NFHL layer, and this is the next best available data, and this is the oldest data you have here, which is the 1990s paper map, which was digitized.’

Saul Nuccitelli – Director of Flood Science and Community Assistance, Texas Water Development Board

And so once we started to piece together the different data sources, we're like, 'well, now we're at three, four, five data sources; it's kind of becoming a quilt.' The flood quilt is a combination of different sets of floodplain data.

Reem Zoun – Director of Flood Planning, Texas Water Development Board

So when we realized, even with putting all those data together, there is a gap in West Texas and other parts of Texas. We went ahead and purchased this Fathom data, which is really cursory floodplain data, so they know where their flood hazard is rather than an entire blank county map. You have something.

Saul Nuccitelli – Director of Flood Science and Community Assistance, Texas Water Development Board

The private insurance industry has been utilizing different sources for a long time because they, too, have struggled with accurate maps and models, right? And so they want to understand for insurance purposes what's the best flood risk data. So they hire private firms like Fathom. Private firms like that have been producing statewide, nationwide, worldwide flood risk data. 

Reem Zoun – Director of Flood Planning, Texas Water Development Board

Hopefully, in the future, after a few planning cycles, we'll have better information for the entire state of Texas. And we will not need to rely on the various sources of information.

Saul Nuccitelli – Director of Flood Science and Community Assistance, Texas Water Development Board

The best mapping that we have currently doesn't cover the whole state of Texas, and so we're pulling from all these different data sources to get the best available data that can cover the whole state for what we have right now. The data that we're putting out is in a GIS format, and so it's mainly intended for professional practitioners. And so, if you have GIS software, it'll be available on our Texas Water Development Board website on our flood planning page.

Reem Zoun – Director of Flood Planning, Texas Water Development Board

We probably will never get rid of flood because that's not within the realm of possibilities for us. But what we can do is reduce the risk of flooding, prepare well, and plan well. So one, we're not putting more people in harm's way and buildings in harm's way, and we're minimizing the current existing risk and preparing for it well.

This article is posted in Financial Assistance .