Step 2: Identify Your Community’s Challenges

It will be no surprise to decision-makers that knowing the details of the flooding and stormwater management challenges facing your community is essential to developing a sound plan to addressing those challenges. What can be more complicated is how to surface these challenges and prioritize among them, and how to explicitly and directly consider equity and justice when making those decisions. 

To unpack this complex process, Navigate the Flood Step 2 outlines how technical staff can identify the major flooding and stormwater challenges in your community, and provides guidance for determining which elements require immediate action versus elements that can be incorporated into a longer term strategy. Step 2 also highlights resources for centering equity and justice concerns in this decision-making. Explore Subsections (a)-(h) below to take Step 2 towards navigating the flood. Each Subsection includes case studies and technical and financial resources that will help identify challenges and priorities in your community.

With Step 1 and Step 2 completed you’ll have established critical building blocks for developing an evidence-based, jointly owned, actionable plan to address stormwater and flooding challenges.

(a) Identify major impacts of flooding challenges.

  • Potential impacts of flooding challenges
    • Infrastructure & Homes
      • Destruction and or damage of roads, bridges, paths, buildings, homes, infrastructure, and crops disrupting current and future economic activity
      • Power cuts that may disrupt water treatment
      • Displacement
    • Environment
      • Increased erosion and sediment mobility
      • Excessive sediment, nutrients and pollutants such as heavy metals and debris leading to degradation of water quality, ecological biodiversity, and adjacent soil health
      • Loss of livestock
    • Public Health
      • Increased risk of infection, particularly for humans living in neighborhoods with  combined sewer systems, in which wastewater may end up in the basement of homes
      • Increased risk of waterborne illnesses
      • Mold in homes and/or buildings and associated health challenges
      • Drowning
      • Injuries
      • Trauma/ Mental health challenge
  • *Note: pay particular attention to the most vulnerable, low-lying neighborhoods in your community and ensure that there are not disproportionate burdens for low-income, immobile residents.

Case Study



(b) Evaluate the likelihood of potential impacts of flooding challenges.

  • Review mapping of flood incidences in community and/or on national flood map
  • Identify and analyze neighborhood susceptibility to flooding in relation to income and mobility 
  • Identify and analyze the economic impact of flooding 
  • Conduct a future flood risk analysis, and identify asset and community vulnerabilities re: aging infrastructure
  • Consider climate change risk factors impacting the likelihood of future floods

Case Study



(c) Identify major impacts of stormwater runoff challenges.

  • Potential stormwater runoff challenges:
    • Environmental
      • Increased pathogen and nutrient contamination of waterways
      • Occurrence of harmful algal blooms in larger water bodies
      • Degradation of aquatic systems
    • Public Health
      • Non-point source and point source pollution that impact recreational waterways and drinking water supplies
      • Bacteriological impacts as stormwater passes over impervious urban and suburban streets, parking lots, roofs, and lawns
      • Consumption of seafood from contaminated waters
      • Pollutants often found in urban and suburban stormwater runoff which can lead to toxic effects in humans
        • Copper, zinc, lead, insecticides
    • Infrastructure, Homes, and other Economic considerations
      • Impairments to fisheries, shellfish, tourism, and recreation related businesses



(d) Evaluate the likelihood and potential impact of stormwater runoff challenges.

  • Identify and analyze neighborhood susceptibility to impacts from polluted stormwater runoff by mapping or reviewing maps that indicate impervious surfaces and topographical grade
  • Conduct a future stormwater risk analysis, and identify asset and community vulnerabilities re: water quality impacts
  • Ensure robust street cleaning and leaf removing plans
    • Connect with other departments or utilities responsible for street cleanings
    • Streets that are not cleaned can lead to clogged inlets and disrupt efforts to reduce impacts of polluted stormwater runoff

Case Study


(e) Explicitly consider equity when identifying how flood risks are distributed.

  • Areas of flooding often overlap with inexpensive properties, where homeowners often can’t afford or are ineligible for flood insurance
    • Opportunities for assistance should be explored
  • Include community member statements regarding their experiences with flooding in their neighborhoods
  • A greater shift towards more equitable decision making can be achieved by supplementing the internal problem identification process with a robust and ongoing community engagement
  • In order to effectively prioritize, decision makers must:
    • Consider community members as the holders of expertise and knowledge
    • Listen to the challenges they face, the solutions they offer, and acknowledge their visions for the community. Reference the Stakeholder Engagement Plan

(f) Explicitly consider equity when addressing stormwater runoff.

  • Particularly in a combined sewer system, consider where sewer overflows are happening more often 
  • In CSO or MS4 system, consider which communities are negatively impacted by polluted stormwater runoff
  • Work with upstream and downstream neighbors when developing equitable solutions
  • Include community member statements regarding their experiences with stormwater runoff in their neighborhoods.
  • A greater shift towards more equitable decision making can be achieved by supplementing the internal problem identification process with a robust and ongoing community engagement
  • In order to effectively prioritize, decision makers must:
    • Consider community members as the holders of expertise and knowledge
    • Listen to the challenges they face, the solutions they offer, and acknowledge their visions for the community. Reference the Stakeholder Engagement Plan

(g) Conduct a risk and opportunity assessment.

  • Develop internal scoring metrics that reflect priorities agreed upon after identifying flooding and polluted stormwater runoff challenges
  • Develop a range of environmental, social, and economic (“Triple Bottom Line”)  criteria to assist in the decision making process when prioritizing strategies to address flooding and polluted stormwater runoff challenges

Case Study


(h) Develop, and distinguish between, long term and crisis plans.

  • Long term planning should include goals, and actionable steps to achieve those goals with a 5, 10, or 25 year timeline depending on the scope and level of innovation
    • Consider and prioritize the following: rate/fee structure, feasibility/appropriateness of developing a stormwater utility, aging and overwhelmed infrastructure, continued urbanization and increase impervious services, localized flooding, basement back-ups, coastal retreat, green and gray solutions to manage stormwater, need for long-term control plan (LTCP)
  • Crisis planning should include a representative set of planning scenarios, identify a response team, as well as outline steps to address assets/ elements that may require immediate action
    • At the time of developing the crisis plan, create an emergency budget and fund 
    • Within the response team there should be  a designated chain of command and clear communication channels 

Case Study

All Step 2 Resources

City of Tigard Stormwater Master Plan | 2017

The Plan addresses Tigard’s existing flooding, water quality, erosion, and maintenance issues, and provides several corresponding recommendations.

Estimating the Value of Water: A Literature Review | US EPA, 2017

This resource provides insight into ecosystem service benefits and corresponding case studies.

The Growing Threat of Urban Flooding: A National Challenge | Texas A&M University, 2018

This resource provides information on the effects of floods across the United States.

A Guide to Assessing Green Infrastructure Costs and Benefits for Flood Reduction | NOAA, 2015

This resource provides a 6-step framework to inform planning assessments and prompt conversations regarding green infrastructure.

National League of Cities Grant Opportunities | NLC

NLC provides hands on technical assistance, education, and training in addition to supporting cities to connect with funding opportunities

Flood Funding Finder | American Flood Coalition, 2021

This resource serves as a free, interactive digital tool that simplifies the federal grant access process.

Community Led Research Toolkit | River Network, 2021

This resources provides tools for equitable climate resilience and fostering community-led research and knowledge.

Flood Factor | First Street Foundation

This resource serves as a tool to help residents identify their home's flood risk.

Flood Risk Templates and Other Resources | FEMA, 2019

This resource provides a variety of documents used to support the implementation of Flood Risk Projects. This is a "searchable resource."

Technical References for Flood Risk Analysis and Mapping | US EPA

This resource provides list of 8 technical references essential to the success of a program, yet are not considered to be standards.

Know your Flood Risk and Take Action | FEMA, 2020

Learn how to Identify what properties are in the flood zone within your municipal boundary. Know your risk, know your role, and take action.

Manage Floodplain Risk | FEMA

This resource provides information on how to meet the National Flood Insurance Program Requirements - the most affordable way to reduce flood risk.

Identify Your Community’s Stormwater Situation | New Jersey Future

The first thing to consider when establishing a stormwater utility is to acknowledge what you envision for your community now and in the future.

Urban Stormwater Management in the United States | National Research Defense Council, 2008

This resource aims to understand the connection between stormwater pollutant discharges and water quality to assess current management practices.

Stormwater Financing and Outreach | UMD EFC

This resource provides a series of stormwater and flood management case studies.

Impaired Waters and Stormwater | US EPA, 2019

This resource provides guidance in assessing impaired waters potentially contaminated with pollutants from stormwater sources.

CREAT Risk Assessment Application for Water Utilities | US EPA, 2020

This resource will help you identify grey infrastructure vulnerabilities within your system.

National Stormwater Calculator | US EPA, 2017

This tool is a software application intended to help users control runoff and promote the natural movement of water.

Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority: A Wet Weather Case Study of Incorporating Community Interests into Effective Infrastructure Decision Makings | US EPA, 2018

See specific sections: The Problem: Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), Need for a Long-Term Control Plan, and Camden’s Sewershed Alternatives Analysis

Estimating Benefits and Costs of Stormwater Management, Part 1: Methods and Challenges | EFC at Sacramento State, 2019

This resource provides information on methods and approaches to analyze benefits and costs of stormwater management practices.

The Water Center at Penn and WaterNow Alliance Flood and Stormwater Management Guide

With support from the Kresge Foundation

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