Water Resources People and Issues
One of the arguments that a number of us had made from the very earliest
time of critical examination of Corps of Engineers flood control projects and
of the policies embodied in the Flood Control Act of '36 was that we needed
to recognize that the proper concern with floodplains was not in preventing
flood damages. The concern was making optimal use of floodplains. With
that different objective one then needs different data, different forms of
Q: But optimal use of floodplains would necessarily depend on knowledge of past
floods, would it not?
A: Yes. But then the knowledge of past floods that is required is of a different
character than the knowledge that's required when the aim is to reduce flood
damages, because one then is interested in what the floodplain has been used
for, what its social value has been, and what its social liabilities have been.
Q: Would one also be interested in finding out how long after a flood you could
not use the floodplain for the purpose intended?
Q: I'm just probing.
A: Well, take an example of one cultivated field in a floodplain. The traditional
method of examining that in terms of a flood control project is to ask what
losses have occurred with past floods in that field. Now, this is significant
but one would like, I think, to know what the production has been on that
field year after year, how this production may have been affected by flooding,
not only in terms of crops lost but yields gained. And one would then want
to know what sort of measures the farmer takes to optimize his returns from
that field, including cultivation practices, the kind of seed he uses, any
technical measures that he may take within the field to, for example, minimize
scouring by stubble in the post-harvest season, and so on. This requires a
different mode of examination than just collecting the flood damage data.
Some of it can be done without a long historical record, but one also is
interested in an historical record as a means of indicating what the range of
experience has been and what some of the possible constraints in the future