Coastal Preservation, Partner Spotlight, Updates, Climate Change
January 18 2017

Cool Program: FEMA’s High Water Mark Initiative

by Matt Gove

FEMA's High Water Mark Initiative is a simple but powerful program that educates communities about the exact height of past flooding by placing signs marking high water levels at specific geographic spots. Projects can refer to riverine or coastal flooding.

Interested communities partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), signing a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to build awareness through communication efforts, as well as complete mitigation actions to build community resilience against future flooding. As of 2016, the program has successfully launched in 37 communities around the United States. 

Although flooding is the costliest and most common natural disaster in the United States, many people are unaware of the risks they are taking when they decide where to live. In a recent FEMA survey, 90% of respondents did not believe flooding was the primary hazard their communities faced.

To address this education and communication challenge, FEMA created the High Water Mark Initiative to help improve the public’s awareness of flood risks and encourage communities to take long-term action to mitigate those risks.

This program is a great opportunity for Surfrider chapters to engage their local governments in community resiliency issues. Participation in this program is a relatively simple, and straightforward step that citizens can take to fortify their communities, homes, and livelihoods for the next storm.

Some additional details on the program can be found here. Please contact for the East Coast and for the West Coast if you are interested!

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