Rising waters. The causes and consequences of flooding in the United States (Brody, Highfield and Kang, 2018)

Neil Grigg

HD Brody, S.; Highfield, W.; and Kang, J.  2018.  Rising waters. The causes and consequences of flooding in the United States. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978 1 10844 683 9, 204 p., £ 30.00

(URL: https://www.cambridge.org/fr/academic/subjects/earth-and-environmental-science/hydrology-hydrogeology-and-water-resources/rising-waters-causes-and-consequences-flooding-united-states?format=PB)

Neil Grigg

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University, USA, neilg@engr.colostate.edu

To cite this Review: Grigg, N. 2019. Review of "Rising waters. The causes and consequences of flooding in the United States", Cambridge University Press, 2018, by Samuel D. Brody, Wesley E. Highfield and Jung Eun Kang, Water Alternatives, http://www.water-alternatives.org/index.php/boh/item/49-rising


The authors accepted an ambitious task to examine the causes and consequences of flooding in the United States and to advance policy recommendations about non-structural measures, the National Flood Insurance Program, wetlands, mitigation and regulatory strategies, organizational capacity, data and education and research. These are popular topics in the flood research world, and the authors arrived at them from a starting point of an award from the U.S. National Science Foundation. 

As the authors acknowledge, the book is primarily for scholars, but they believe that it contains information of use to practitioners of flood planning, mitigation, response and recovery.  The topics span disciplines from hydrologic science and water resources engineering to finance and policy issues such as flood insurance and regulation of flood plains.  It is difficult to address so many topics in a single volume, but the book does a good job, insofar as possible for such a broad subject.  

The book’s organization in four parts covers consequences, causes, learning about adjustments and policy needs. The focus is on flooding in Texas and Florida, where hurricane-induced flooding is severe and repetitive losses are a problem to policy-makers.  As the authors describe, some five years of empirical research are summarized, and this provides useful tips for researchers about subjects such as historical loss data.   

While the original publication was in 2011, the current paperback copy is dated 2018, which indicates that the authors and publisher believe the material remains relevant.  While the original publication date was post-Hurricane Katrina, the larger floods since then are not included in the discussion.  The absence of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 is an important gap in the analysis.

The discussion has an urban and regional planning flavor, as opposed to a more science and engineering focus.  This is appropriate as more and more people locate in harm’s way through land development in flood-prone zones.  In fact, many of the prominent flood policy issues deal with planning problems in developing areas.  

The authors display good understanding of the world of flooding, albeit with selective topics for discussion.  If one were to criticize, it might be about selectivity in discussion of flooding in only two states, the relatively-little discussion about how we got to where we are with flood policy, and the absence of discussion about the roles of the major U.S. flood agency, the Army Corps of Engineers.  There is no discussion of Missouri and Mississippi River flooding or about flash flood disasters such as those occurring in the West.  Another missing topic is the severity of the social issues that are created by massive flooding.  To this reviewer, the selectivity is handled well by the authors, who do a good job in handling the complex subject in a slim volume. 

As the authors promise, the book should interest flood and disaster scholars, albeit with the caveats that the discussion ends with events that are now a decade old, the selection of topics is guided by the focus of the researchers and, despite the title, the coverage misses some of the flood issues in the nation.




Additional Info

  • Authors: S.D. Brody, W.E. Highfield and J. Eun Kang
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Reviewer: Neil Grigg
  • Subject: Water policy, Water governance, Flood
  • Type: Review
  • Language: English