FLOODSTexas’ First-Ever Statewide Flood Plan Estimates 5 Million Live in Flood-Prone Areas

By Alejandra Martinez

Published 28 May 2024

The state’s flood plan shows which Texans are most at risk of flooding and suggests billions of dollars more are needed for flood mitigation projects. Texas plans to reduce the risk for those people by recommending solutions to harden Texas against floods and rising sea levels.

More than 5 million Texans, or one in six people in the state, live or work in an area susceptible to flooding, according to a draft of the state’s first-ever flood plan.

The plan by the Texas Water Development Board is an effort to reduce the risk for those people by recommending solutions to harden Texas against floods and rising sea levels. The board was required to create the plan in a 2019 state law passed in response to Hurricane Harvey.

The public can make comments on the plan during a May 30 meeting in Austin and have until June 17 to submit comments online.

The plan, released in early May, estimates that close to 1.3 million Texas homes are in flood-prone areas.

Sarah Kirkle, the director of policy and legislative affairs for the Texas Water Conservation Association, which represents water professionals including water districts, water authorities and groundwater conservation districts, said the plan is significant because it gives the most complete picture yet of which areas of the state are most at risk for flooding.

The plan used existing flood data to create the maps that served as a baseline, but many state regions either didn’t have flood maps, or used outdated maps.

Local water managers filled the gaps with their knowledge and the TWDB contracted flood risk modeling data company Fathom to help.

“When the plan is approved, it’s going to be a historic moment for Texas,” Kirkle said. “This will be a really critical piece in understanding the topography and where you have higher and lower elevations in order to properly plan for which parts of the state are going to be subject to the risk.”

Climate change is increasing flood risks in Texas, bringing warmer temperatures that cause more water to evaporate from the land and oceans, leading to heavier rainfall. Climate change also intensifies hurricanes and sea level rise — all of which may cause river floods to become larger and more frequent.

Texas has a long history of flooding, and Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane that dumped more than 50 inches of rain in parts of the Houston area over four days, was the wettest tropical cyclone in U.S. history and caused nearly $125 billion in damages. More recently, back-to-back, heavy spring rains caused widespread flooding and evacuations across Southeast Texas.