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Natural solutions would be most effective flood resilience policies for Houston

New green infrastructure should be part of rebuild.

September 11, 2017 |
A street lamp sticking out of rising floodwaters

Pixabay Public Domain

Several articles with recommendations about what Houston can do to become more flood-resilient have emerged since Hurricane Harvey struck.

The keys, say experts, are better land use planning and more green infrastructure. Above all, the city should acknowledge that more floods are likely and plan accordingly.

Officials have encouraged development, even in low-lying areas, as an engine of economic growth. Instead, the city should consider more initiatives such as a planned buyout of two low-income apartment complexes so that the area can be repurposed as a flood basin that doubles as a park.

Harris County, which includes Houston, should limit new development in remaining wetlands and prairies to preserve water-absorbing acreage. New approaches to building design could also make a difference.

For example, a new hospital in Corpus Christi, a city which was also struck by Harvey, includes oversized roof drains, space for food and water storage for four days, emergency generators that can provide power for five days, and hurricane-resistant exterior materials. Green roofs and rain gardens, both cost-effective features, could also have a measurable impact if deployed at scale.

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