Flood Priority Research

In 2019, the 86th Texas Legislature appropriated funding to the TWDB to support a variety of flood-related efforts, including research on topics of priority regarding flood. The TWDB subsequently initiated the Flood Priority Research Program and formed a TWDB Flood Priority Research Steering Committee, made up of TWDB staff, to develop research initiatives and oversee the program. In the program's first biennium (Fiscal Years 2020 - 2021), $600,000 was allocated to pursue four flood priority research projects:

  • Creating a Flood Resource Guide for Flood Officials and Communities
  • Creating a Flood Early Warning System (FEWS) Guidance Document for communities
  • Assessing the Causes and Predictability of Extreme High Rainfall and Linkages to Flooding in Texas
  • Updating the Texas Statewide Highwater Marks Inventory

More detailed information on these projects is included in the list of Fiscal Years 2020-2021 Projects below.

During the 2022 - 2023 biennium, $700,000 was made available to support flood priority research, and five topics were chosen for funding:

  • Effective Flood Awareness Communication
  • Infrastructure Assessment Methodologies
  • Model for Calculating Agricultural Flood Loss
  • Nature-based Solutions for Flood Mitigation in Texas
  • Developing Future Rainfall Frequency Grids

Note that funding for some projects is augmented by sources other than the Flood Priority Research Program, and occasional flood research projects are developed exclusively using funding from other sources. Information on each project is provided below.

All project completion dates are estimates and are subject to change. Reports or other products developed by contractors may not be immediately available upon project completion as the TWDB may consider further modifications prior to public release.

For questions on the Flood Priority Research Program or specific projects, please send an email to floodpriorityresearch@twdb.texas.gov.


FY 2020- 2021 Projects

Improving Flood Education and Communication in Texas

Project summary:
Anywhere it can rain it can flood. Communicating flood risk to communities has been a major challenge for community leaders. This project identified, assessed, and reported on the status of current flood education and communication efforts in Texas. To achieve these goals, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin - Moody College of Communication conducted a literature review to identify existing flood communication efforts, prepared a gap analysis on existing flood education and outreach, and conducted interviews with local officials to generate evidence-based data on the influence of flood-related messaging language on Texas audiences. The results of this project are intended to be useful to audiences across Texas, with a focus on improving flood literacy through both long-term and incident-specific messaging.
Project deliverable(s):
A best-practices guide for local officials to provide effective flood education and three proposals to showcase options for addressing flood education and communication gaps in Texas based on varying levels of funding.
Contractor (and Principal Investigator, if appropriate):
The University of Texas at Austin - Moody College of Communication, Dr. Keri Stephens
Contract amount:
$94,967
Project lead:
Yi Ling Chan
Project timeline:
July 2020 - October 2021

Flood Early Warning Systems (FEWS) Guidance Document

Project summary:
Flood early warning system (FEWS) can be essential for reducing loss of life during flood events. However, getting started with developing a FEWS can be challenging, particularly for smaller communities. For this project, the TWDB contracted with the University of Texas Arlington to develop a FEWS guidance document. The first objective of this project was to conduct outreach to communities around the state who have recently invested in FEWS and gain feedback on their experiences with FEWS. The second objective was to create a guidance document using this feedback and thorough research on available technical information. This guidance document is informed by Texas experiences and tailored to conditions in Texas. It provides a roadmap for Texas community leaders and others interested in establishing or updating a FEWS.
Project deliverable(s):
A guidance document for communities on how to implement flood early warning systems.
Contractor (and Principal Investigator, if appropriate):
The University of Texas at Arlington, Dr. Nick Fang
Contract amount:
$250,000
Project lead:
Cody Ransone
Project timeline:
January 2021 - August 2022

Atmospheric Rivers

Project summary:
Texas is repeatedly subjected to extreme rainfall events, resulting in flooding, catastrophic loss of life, infrastructural losses, and major impacts to water and wastewater treatment facilities. Several impactful flood events in recent years were not associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, or extratropical cyclones but with other large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns. The goals of this project were to detect and classify these events in addition to understanding their origins, physical mechanisms, and evolution. This knowledge will help Texas and other regions in the south-central U.S. increase preparedness for floods and better plan for water resources management. This project addressed the following questions:
  1. What are the drivers of extreme rainfall over Texas that are not related to the tropical cyclones within the last seven decades (1948-2020)?
  2. Are atmospheric rivers and events with high integrated water vapor transport over Texas predictable?
Project deliverable(s):
A report on the findings of this research.
Contractor (and Principal Investigator, if appropriate):
The University of Texas at Austin - Bureau of Economic Geology, Dr. Bridget Scanlon
Contract amount:
$95,392
Project lead:
Nelun Fernando
Project timeline:
April 2021 - December 2022

Highwater Mark Collection Assessment

Project summary:
Listed on the Texas Natural Resources Inventory System DataHub as the Highwater Marks Inventory 2014, these data represent highwater marks documented in the field by trained technicians following flood events along rivers and the coast. Applications of these data by local, state, and federal partners include estimations of peak stream flow, calibration of models, updates to flood hazard maps, and flood inundation mapping efforts. This project aimed to determine the feasibility of reviving this Highwater Marks Inventory dataset from 2014 to better inform flood science and decision making in Texas. Per the United States Geological Survey, “Documenting the peak height of high water is important information for historical purposes and for planning future development alongside rivers.”
Project deliverable(s):
A report to determine the feasibility of reviving the Highwater Marks Inventory for Texas.
Contractor (and Principal Investigator, if appropriate):
AECOM Engineering
Contract amount:
$191,940
Project lead:
Nathan Brock
Project timeline:
April 2022 - December 2022

FY 2022- 2023 Projects

Effective Flood Awareness Communication

Project summary:
Many Texans are unaware of their flood risk. According to a survey conducted by the University of Texas at Austin in 2021, there are almost no differences in Texans' perception of their flood risk based on whether they live in a flood-prone zip code or not. In order to help reduce loss of life and protect property during flood events, it is essential that Texans better understand their flood risk. The goals of this project are to
  • Identify end-users for a flood awareness campaign,
  • Create a flood awareness outreach campaign for the identified end-users, and to
  • Develop best practices for effective flood risk communication for the identified end-users.
For this project, the TWDB has contracted with the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin to conduct a literature review of existing flood risk reduction campaigns and best practices for creating flood awareness and outreach campaigns. Using this information, the researchers will identify end-users to target with flood risk messaging. Ultimately, the project will provide tools for both the TWDB and local communities to use to promote flood risk awareness.
Project deliverable(s):
Flood communication campaign materials and implementation strategy for communities in Texas.
Contractor (and Principal Investigator, if appropriate):
The University of Texas at Austin - Moody College of Communication, Dr. Keri Stephens
Contract amount:
$239,938
Project lead:
Raddiete Sogaolu
Project timeline:
August 2022 - August 31, 2023

Infrastructure Assessment Methodologies

Project summary:
The regional flood planning process asks each of the 15 Texas flood planning regions to identify its flood infrastructure and the associated condition (functional vs non-functional; deficient vs. non-deficient). Few communities have been able to generate and provide this information during the first planning cycle, which is currently underway.

The goal of this research is to develop readily usable planning-level infrastructure condition assessment methods, including a toolkit for assessing the condition of flood infrastructure at a regional planning level for future planning cycles. This research will also look at infrastructure assessment indicators currently identified in the TWDB Flood Planning Program and recommend enhancements as applicable.
Project deliverable(s):
A toolkit to support two levels of flood infrastructure assessment:
  1. A high-level assessment template that can be used directly by a city or county engineer, and
  2. A more sophisticated version that consultants or municipal staff, including those supporting the regional flood planning groups, can employ. This option may entail more sophisticated efforts, including use of GIS and other technical expertise.
Contractor (and Principal Investigator, if appropriate):
To Be Determined
Contract amount:
Approximately $200,000
Project lead:
Reem Zoun
Project timeline:
September 2022 - February 2024

Model for Calculating Agricultural Flood Loss

Project summary:
There have been many studies on economic losses on agricultural lands due to drought. However, there is little knowledge of economic losses due to flooding events. For this project, the TWDB will contract with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to create a model for calculating economic losses due to flooding events on agricultural lands. For their first task, AgriLife Extension will perform an extensive literature review on existing methods. Using their findings, AgriLife Extension will create a Microsoft Excel-based tool for estimating economic losses due to flooding events. This tool will help farmers and local planners better assess potential economic damages due to flooding on agricultural lands.
Project deliverable(s):
A Microsoft Excel-based tool for estimating economic losses of crops and/or livestock due to flooding events, a report describing the literature review and the tool's methodology, and a user guide for the tool.
Contractor (and Principal Investigator, if appropriate):
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Contract amount:
$90,448
Project lead:
Heather Rose
Project timeline:
September 2022 - June 2024

Nature-based Solutions for Flood Mitigation in Texas

Project summary:
The goal of this project is to synthesize guidance on the use of nature-based flood mitigation solutions into a single, statewide manual for Texas communities. The intent is to help address flood risk, water quality, groundwater recharge, habitat improvement, and community enhancement goals as independent nature-based solutions or in combination with traditional flood mitigation infrastructure. There have been many studies on this subject; however, more focused guidance that considers the efficacy of nature-based solutions within the various geographic regions of Texas is needed to support regional and statewide flood planning efforts and to help guide Texas communities to better understand and utilize these approaches.

The TWDB will contract with Freese and Nichols to examine and describe the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of a variety of possible nature-based solutions for varying regions in Texas. The focus of this research is to identify the variety of nature-based solutions best suited for floods of varying magnitudes; the types of associated flood mitigation benefits, including additional co-benefits within social, ecologic, and economic categories; and the various methods by which these benefits may be described and quantified.
Project deliverable(s):
A guidance document for communities on pursuing nature-based solutions for flood mitigation in Texas.
Contractor (and Principal Investigator, if appropriate):
Freese and Nichols
Contract amount:
Approximately $200,000
Project lead:
Kelley Rich
Project timeline:
September 2022 - February 2024

Developing Future Rainfall Frequency Grids

Project summary:
Texas is vulnerable to flooding driven by extreme storm events. Designing hydraulic structures such as dams, levees, and bridges planned to last for many decades should account for potential future changes in rainfall frequencies. For this project, the TWDB will contract with Texas A&M University to develop projected future rainfall frequency grids for the state of Texas by incorporating information from historic trends and climate model projections. These future rainfall grids can be utilized for future flood mapping, planning, hydraulic infrastructure design projects, and in flood mitigation efforts.
Project deliverable(s):
A report on projected future rainfall frequency grids for the state of Texas incorporating information from historic trends and model projections.
Contractor (and Principal Investigator, if appropriate):
Texas A&M University, Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas State Climatologist
Contract amount:
Approximately $130,000
Project lead:
Rewati Niraula
Project timeline:
September 2022 - June 2024

Non-Flood Priority Research Funded Research

Benefit Cost Analysis Guidance Document

Project summary:
A benefit-cost analysis (BCA) remains the most common measure used to estimate the cost-effectiveness of a proposed flood mitigation project and affects whether, and in what priority, projects are funded. As the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) states, BCA is a method for determining the potential positive effects of a mitigation measure and comparing them to the cost of the measure. The primary purpose of this project is to develop a Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA) Guidance document that identifies scalable approaches to BCA and a range of new damage/benefit tables to support communities and professionals in developing more reasonable, and comprehensive, benefit to cost ratios (BCR) for different levels of analysis. This includes detailed BCAs for specific, identified projects that are seeking financial assistance as well as broader BCAs for general planning purposes.
Project deliverable(s):
A guidance document for communities on best practices and improvements for completing a BCA.
Contractor (and Principal Investigator, if appropriate):
AECOM
Contract amount:
Approximately $225,000
Project lead:
Jenna Rao
Project timeline:
July 2022 - October 2023
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