Iowa Watershed Approach to Disaster Mitigation

Recent spring flooding in Iowa caused roughly $2 billion in damages. Just over a decade ago, in 2008, flooding caused an estimated $10 billion in damage across Iowa, destroying and damaging thousands of homes and businesses. In 2010, the state of Iowa created a watershed pilot program funded by disaster recovery funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), creating five watershed management authorities to assess flood risk and develop mitigation plans. The pilot carried out over 150 projects, and in 2016 the program was expanded to create the Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA) program, expanding the number of watershed authorities from five to nine with an award of $97 million from HUD.

The IWA aims to accomplish six specific goals in each watershed by 2021: 1) reduce flood risk; 2) improve water quality; 3) increase flood resilience; 4) engage stakeholders through collaboration and outreach/education; 5) improve quality of life and health, especially for susceptible populations; and 6) develop a program that is scalable and replicable throughout the Midwest and the United States.

The IWA acts as a state-wide planning and coordination resource by combining revenue streams and conducting cross-jurisdictional planning between local, state, and federal partners. As of 2017, the IWA has approved 10 projects at a combined cost of $1.4 billion.

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