Building Community Climate Resilience

Following major New York State storm events Irene, Lee, and Sandy in 2011 and 2012, concern and attention paid to extreme precipitation and flooding seemed to be at an all-time high. Though 2016 brought New York State one of its worst droughts in history, 2017 was again a year of serious flooding, this time on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway as regional precipitation hit record highs. Additional heavy precipitation events followed in 2018, this time impacting many Southern Tier counties bordering Pennsylvania. Across the state, citizens and decision makers are increasingly faced with complex choices about land use, economic development, and infrastructure investment in the context of flooding, extreme precipitation, and drought. Researchers and extension staff are increasingly being asked to forecast the probability of such flooding and drought events and provide support to individuals and communities seeking to plan for, and respond to, flooding and drought in more effective ways. The research and outreach work we do on flood and drought resilience for NYS communities focuses on: predicting and reducing exposure to flooding and drought, characterizing the sensitivity of natural and human systems, and enabling the adaptive capacity of communities to deal with flooding and drought.

Check out WRI's climate resilience work in partnership with HREP staff.

Research Goals

  • Better understand how individuals and communities perceive flood risk and define resilience with the goal of improving extension and outreach to achieve flooding mitigation and adaptation
  • Identify barriers to adaptation adoption and strategies to overcome those barriers
  • Identify how equity concerns intersect with flooding and adaptation planning
  • Advance our understanding of how human decision making and infrastructure systems can impact drought likelihood
  • Help to develop methods for predicting flood flows and their impacts in NYS under future climatic and landscape conditions
  • Identify means and strategies for reducing the magnitude of flooding, particularly through the use of green infrastructure and nature-based solutions
  • Develop probabilistic forecasting streamflow models based on historic records, and accounting for climate non-linearity

Outreach Goals

  • Create and support networks of research, outreach, and implementation practitioners that promote learning and coordinate to leverage opportunities to promote flood resilience in NYS.
  • Promote tools, materials, and practices that reduce inequities in flood resiliency.
  • Establish links between different NYS, other state, and federal programs designed to assist communities become more flood resilient: CSC, CRS, EDEN, Flood Smart, etc.
  • Help develop regional and extension networks.
  • Help watershed-based staff create strategies for effectively engaging with Hudson-based communities on flood resilience.
  • Translate work in the Hudson to be useable for other NYS communities, particularly in the undeserved, Southern Tier.
  • Promote and develop web-based applications that allow users to better understand and plan for drought.
  • Assist in the creation of drought management plans where appropriate.
  • Communicate understanding about and means to lower the inequitable distribution of flood vulnerability in NYS.
  • Create summaries of research findings and engage with local/regional stakeholders involved in drought forecast and response.

Diversity Equity Inclusion/ Environmental Justice

  • Move towards using and spreading equitable engagement in the planning process through trainings, materials, and funding.
  • Facilitate listening to the needs of marginalized communities.
  • Work towards identifying, understanding, and lowering the inequitable distribution of flood, drought, and water scarcity vulnerability in NYS.
  • Incorporate that understanding into flood and drought management planning and response exercises.
  • Identify and reduce barriers to adapatation, particularly through participation in government programs designed to improve community flood resilience.
  • Research and employ approaches, when possible, that minimize green gentrification from green infrastructure projects, particulary for projects that we facilitate or fund.

Select Projects & Publications

Equitable Engagement Resources

MAY 19, 2022

Quick Guide to Equitable Engagement for NYS Adaptation Professionals, including frameworks, case studies, and tools.

Climate Action Council Draft Scoping Plan Quick Guide

FEB 17, 2022

The Climate Action Council Draft Scoping Plan (1/22) is the plan developed by the Climate Action Council, including its advisory groups, to lay out how NYS will achieve the goals of the Climate Leadership Protection Act (Climate Act) to: reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net-zero emissions, increase renewable energy usage, and ensure climate justice and just transition. However, action needs to be both quick and thoughtful, so there are not unintended consequences such as exacerbating inequities or hindering adaptation efforts. This guide provides a road map for practitioners to provide their insights, which can be key to making this a thoughtful process.

Webinar: Developing Resilient Stormwater Systems with a Municipal Downspout Disconnect and Green Infrastructure Program

NOV 15, 2021

This free, 90-minute webinar provided an opportunity for municipalities to learn about the regulatory, financing, and implementation of a coupled disconnect/GI municipal program from experts who have experience working with municipalities to implement these types of projects. Participants learned how these approaches can – and have – helped NYS communities manage their stormwater.

NYS Office of Climate Change celebrates Climate Week with the Climate Smart Communities Scorecard

OCT 6, 2021

For NYS Climate Week (9/19-9/25/21) the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Office of Climate Change (OCC) encouraged communities certified through their Climate Smart Communities Program (CSC) to celebrate their achievements made in support of New York’s climate future by showcasing their work through the CSC scorecard. The CSC scorecard is a new tool developed by the NYS Water Resources Institute (NYS WRI) to help communities communicate the actions they have taken to become certified. 

Publication: Flood risk perception and responses among urban residents in the northeastern United States

OCT 1, 2021

Growing flood risks raise difficult questions regarding risk perception, protective actions, and government response. Drawing on behavioral decision theory, protection motivation theory, and the protective action decision model, Zinda et al. examined the roles risk salience and immediacy, response efficacy, and trust in government authorities play in perceptions of flood risk and adoption of protective actions, with a focus on flood insurance. Zinda et al. argue that emergency managers will need to be responsive to people's multiple concerns in order to build the awareness and trust on which effective natural hazard preparedness depends.

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