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Should Floodplains Be Encouraged for Development? Strategies for Responsible Floodplain Development

Floodplains are areas adjacent to bodies of water that are periodically flooded during high-flow events. These regions have been attractive for their fertile soil, access to water, and transportation routes. However, they are also susceptible to flood-related hazards, including property damage, economic loss, and loss of life. The issue of whether floodplains should be encouraged for development remains a contentious issue (Barlow et al., 2021).

Proponents of floodplain development contend that these areas provide valuable land for residential, commercial, and industrial development. In addition, floodplain development can increase tax revenue and create jobs, which can stimulate local economies. They also argue that modern building techniques and flood control measures can mitigate the risks associated with floods, making floodplain development a viable option (Barlow et al., 2021).

Conversely, opponents of floodplain development argue that the risks associated with flooding cannot be completely eliminated. They assert that the costs of flood damage and cleanup can outweigh the benefits of development. Moreover, development in floodplains can exacerbate flooding by altering natural drainage patterns, and flood control measures can be costly and may not be effective in all situations. They contend that development in floodplains can increase the risk of life-threatening hazards, such as flash flooding or dam failures (Barlow et al., 2021).

Despite these concerns, floodplain development remains a prevalent practice in many regions globally. For instance, in the United States, around 13 million individuals reside in flood-prone areas, and the number of individuals at risk from flooding is projected to increase in the future (FEMA, 2021). In numerous cases, floodplain development is driven by economic factors, such as the demand for affordable housing, the desire for waterfront property, and the availability of federal flood insurance programs (U.S. GAO, 2013).

To encourage responsible floodplain development, a range of strategies have been proposed. One approach is to require that new developments in flood-prone areas be built to strict building codes and flood-resistant standards. This can include elevating structures above the floodplain, installing flood barriers or seawalls, and using materials that are resistant to water damage (FEMA, 2021). In addition, floodplain development can be guided by zoning regulations and land use policies that limit development in high-risk areas and encourage development in safer locations (NRC, 2013).

Another strategy is to invest in natural flood control measures, such as wetlands restoration, riverbank stabilization, and floodplain reconnection. These measures can help to absorb and slow down floodwaters, reducing the risk of property damage and erosion. They can also provide additional benefits, such as wildlife habitat and improved water quality (NRC, 2013).

However, it is essential to note that these strategies are not foolproof and may not be suitable in all situations. For example, natural flood control measures can be expensive and require ongoing maintenance, and they may not be effective in extreme flood events. Similarly, building codes and flood-resistant standards may not be sufficient to protect against all flood hazards, particularly if they are not enforced or if structures are poorly maintained.

In conclusion, the question of whether floodplains should be encouraged for development remains a complex and contentious issue. While floodplain development can provide economic benefits and valuable land for development, it also carries significant risks and can exacerbate flooding hazards. Employing a combination of strategies, including strict building codes, zoning regulations, and natural flood control measures, can help to balance the economic benefits of floodplain development with the need to protect public safety and natural resources.


Barlow, J., Ahlfeld, D., & Price, J. (2021). Ecological and social perspectives on floodplain development. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 1-20.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (2021). Floodplain management. Retrieved from

National Research Council (NRC). (2013). Levees and the National Flood Insurance Program: Improving policies and practices. National Academies Press.

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). (2013). National Flood Insurance Program: Continued attention needed to address financial and operational challenges. Retrieved from