Illinois State Water Survey and U of I Extension Team up to Reduce Flood Risk, Illinois State Water Survey

ISWS Press Release

For Immediate Release September 15, 2010
Illinois State Water Survey and U of I Extension Team up to Reduce Flood Risk
Sally A. McConkey - (217) 333-5482,
Lisa Sheppard - (217) 244-7270,

The Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) and the University of Illinois (U of I) Extension are teaming up to help Illinois communities better understand and reduce their flood risk.

Starting in the fall of 2010, a series of meetings will be held in various communities to initiate an ongoing exchange of information about flood hazards and options for reducing exposure to flooding, according to Sally McConkey, water resources engineer at the Illinois State Water Survey.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), sponsor of these efforts, has initiated the Risk MAP plan to improve flood-prone area Mapping, Assess flood risk, and encourage communities to Plan to reduce their exposure to flood losses.

Through the Risk MAP program, the ISWS and Extension will reach out to communities to obtain input on flooding issues and technical information, while providing new maps and reports that show additional information beyond the traditional flood maps, such as flood depths and potential flood costs.

Information will be collected on a watershed scale to provide a comprehensive picture of flooding issues, identify areas that require additional or new flood studies, and provide information that can be used to prepare mitigation plans.  The first watersheds to be visited are the Lower Fox, Middle and Lower Wabash, Saline, and Upper Sangamon.

Flooding is the most predictable natural disaster, yet flood losses continue to increase.  Maps showing areas prone to flooding (having a 1% chance of inundation each year) are produced by FEMA, but these Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) become out of date and are often wrongly interpreted, McConkey said.  Many people and communities do not fully appreciate their flood risk and fail to take steps to reduce their exposure to flood loss.

"Through this partnership, ISWS and the U of I Extension will ensure that their programs maximize the benefits of their combined investments in our communities," McConkey said.

Local Extension staff will coordinate and facilitate meetings within the watersheds, collect data, and record local input.  Extension and ISWS will work together to identify opportunities to better coordinate their programs and encourage information sharing and review processes to facilitate better-informed, educated decisions within the communities they serve.

The ISWS Coordinated Hazard Assessment and Mapping Program (CHAMP) in the Center for Watershed Science has been working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Water Resources to prepare Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps under FEMA’s Map Modernization Program since 2004.

The Illinois State Water Survey is a division of the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

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