Flood Resilient Infrastructure and Sustainable Environments (Flood RISE)

The Flood RISE project is funded by the National Science Foundation.  

Principal Investigator (PI): Sanders, Brett F., UCI Henry Samueli School of Engineering. Co-PIs: Basolo, Victoria, UCI School of Social Ecology; Famiglietti, James S. (Jay), UCI School of Physical Sciences and UCI Henry Samueli School of Engineering; Feldman, David L., UCI School of Social Ecology and UCI School of Social Sciences; Houston, John Douglas, UCI School of Social Ecology; Matthew, Richard A., UCI School of Social Ecology; Reyes, Abigail S., UCI Sustainability Initiative.  Associate Faculty: Balsdon, Edmund M., SDSU Department of Economics.

This project seeks to understand what factors and conditions allow parcel-level prediction of urban flooding to catalyze behavioral change in flood vulnerable communities. It is hypothesized that a parcel-level flood prediction model, coupled with transformative communication strategies, is a more powerful tool for people to understand vulnerability, visualize flood risk, and plan for future hazards than coarse-level modeling conveyed via a singular disaster narrative. To test this hypothesis, this project focuses on the two largest estuarine systems in Southern California, a region where the damages from a major flood are expected to be greater than from a major earthquake of the same probability, and one to which national sea level rise studies point as being among the most likely to experience increased flooding. The project convenes an interdisciplinary team of researchers and a broad range of stakeholders and partners to understand the type of flood risk information that is needed to catalyze behavioral change, investigate and test communication strategies, identify interventions that can be implemented to build community resilience and mitigate expected flood losses, and model how these interventions would affect the flood hazard and its expected impacts.

For decades scientists have tried to characterize what they know about climate change and translate it into actionable information. By most metrics, this effort has failed. Emissions continue to increase, climate change impacts are tracking worst-case scenarios, and skepticism about climate change is at an all time high. The poor response to climate change science is consonant with research that shows that top down communication of information that is often abstract and outside the immediate experience of the audience tends to have very little impact on behavior. This project fosters innovative interdisciplinary science that builds a broad knowledge base for flood resilience, articulates a strategy for more effectively translating climate science into actionable information to catalyze behavioral change, and advances understanding of whether, and to what extent, parcel-level flood data can contribute to more flood resilient communities. Specifically, this project also: 1) trains hazard practitioners through collaborative workshops designed to transfer knowledge, facilitate two-way communication, and evaluate resilience options; 2) informs local climate action planning through targeted recommendations for infrastructure adaptation, emergency preparedness and response, and policy; 3) delivers lessons learned to national and global climate action planners and interdisciplinary hazards researchers; 4) trains emerging hazards scholars through a specialized undergraduate and graduate education program; 5) develops and delivers high school teacher training on flood education and 6) provides bilingual education for adults in vulnerable communities; 7) creates a project website to communicate research and disseminate education materials to external audiences; and 8) informs national security by encouraging the model's application to other flood-vulnerable locales within the national security and development assistance purview.


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FloodRISE Top: Flooding in the Tijuana River canyon communities, Tijuana, Mexico. Bottom: Flooding on the Balboa Peninsula, Newport Beach, CA, caused by a combination of high tide and swell (photo credit City of Newport Beach, Aug. 2011).