A Benefit-Cost analysis of floodplain land acquisition for U.S. flood-damage reduction

Kris A. Johnson, Oliver E. J. Wing, Paul D. Bates, Joe Fargione, Timm Kroeger, William D. Larson, Christopher C. Sampson, Andrew M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
251 Downloads (Pure)


Flooding is the costliest form of natural disaster and impacts are expected to increase, in part, due to exposure of new development to flooding. However, these costs could be reduced through the acquisition and conservation of natural land in floodplains. Here we quantify the benefits and costs of reducing future flood damages in the United States by avoiding development in floodplains. We find that by 2070, cumulative avoided future flood damages exceed the costs of land acquisition for more than one-third of the unprotected natural lands in the 100-yr floodplain (areas with a 1% chance of flooding annually). Large areas have an even higher benefit–cost ratio: for 54,433 km2 of floodplain, avoided damages exceed land acquisition costs by a factor of at least five to one. Strategic conservation of floodplains would avoid unnecessarily increasing the economic and human costs of flooding while simultaneously providing multiple ecosystem services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-62
Number of pages7
JournalNature Sustainability
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2019


  • economics
  • environmental sciences
  • hydrology
  • water resources


Dive into the research topics of 'A Benefit-Cost analysis of floodplain land acquisition for U.S. flood-damage reduction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this