Flood risk and mitigation

California: Flood risk and mitigation


Floods are becoming more intense in California and are one of its most common disasters.1 Since 1992, every county in the state has had at least one federally declared flood disaster.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 California, which exceeded $956.8 million in total assistance from the U.S. government.3

California flood risk and mitigation
California flood risk and mitigation

Federal flood insurance helps communities prepare

Ninety-nine communities in California 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 the city of Roseville and Sacramento County, which earned 45 and 35 percent discounts, respectively, for eligible properties.5

California 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. Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, California Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan (2013),
  2. Ibid.
  3. Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Disaster Declarations,” accessed May 26, 2016, Sum of individual assistance and public assistance for California flood-related major disaster and emergency declarations from 2000 to 2015.
  4. National Flood Insurance Program, “Community Rating System (CRS),”
  5. Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Community Rating System” (2016),