Flood risk and mitigation

Wisconsin: Flood risk and mitigation

Figure 1 in this fact sheet has been updated to show that the flood damage amounts are in millions of dollars. In Figure 2, the notes have been updated to clarify how “potential losses” are calculated.


Floods and storms are becoming more intense in Wisconsin, with floods occurring every two weeks, on average, and causing over $72 million in property loss annually.1 According to the Wisconsin Emergency Management Division, flood damage tends to be the most widespread disaster in the state.2 As these events become more serious, the physical and economic damage to communities and the threats to human lives and ecosystems also increase. Between 2000 and 2015, 12 federal disasters and emergencies were declared for floods and severe storms in Wisconsin, which exceeded $274 million in total assistance from the U.S. government.3

Wisconsin flood risk

Federal flood insurance helps communities prepare

Seventeen communities in Wisconsin participate in the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System. The voluntary program provides reduced insurance premiums in communities that proactively implement flood plain management practices—such as acquisition and relocation of flood-prone structures, elevation of structures, and flood proofing—that exceed the program’s minimum requirements.4 The highest-rated communities in the state are Elm Grove and Kenosha County, which each earned 25 percent discounts for eligible properties.5

Wisconsin flood risk and mitigation

Importance of policy

Communities must prepare for weather-related catastrophes such as floods and hurricanes, and U.S. policymakers should consider reforms that improve protection and preparation; minimize disruptions to the economy; and reduce costs to the federal government and taxpayers by:

  • Increasing federal investment in proactive mitigation programs that help communities prepare for and reduce risk of floods.
  • Improving resilience and durability requirements for infrastructure that is rebuilt after disasters.
  • Protecting ecosystems, such as wetlands, salt marshes, and dunes, which can absorb storm impacts and help shield property.
  • Reforming the National Flood Insurance Program to better communicate actual risk, break the cycle of repeated loss and rebuilding in the most flood-prone areas, and provide incentives to compel communities and homeowners to prepare in advance of floods.


  1. U.S. Department of Energy, “State of Wisconsin Energy Sector Risk Profile,” accessed Aug. 4, 2016, http://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/05/f22/WI-Energy%20Sector%20Risk%20Profile.pdf.
  2. Wisconsin Emergency Management Division, State of Wisconsin Hazard Mitigation Plan (October 2011), http://emergencymanagement.wi.gov/mitigation/state_plan.asp.
  3. Sum of individual assistance and public assistance for Wisconsin flood-related major disaster and emergency declarations from 2000 to 2015. Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Disaster Declarations,” accessed May 26, 2016, https://www.fema.gov/disasters.
  4. National Flood Insurance Program, “Community Rating System (CRS),” https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/crs/community_rating_system.jsp.
  5. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Community Rating System (2014), http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1398878892102-5cbcaa727a635327277d834491210fec/CRS_Communites_May_1_2014.pdf.

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