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The role of urbanization in resilience of communities under flood risk




Hemmati, Mona, author
Mahmoud, Hussam N., advisor
Ellingwood, Bruce R., advisor
Crooks, Andrew T., committee member
Zahran, Sammy, committee member

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Flood risk is on the rise worldwide due to climate change and urbanization. Although urbanization has a significant role in placing the lives and livelihoods of people at flood risk, it has received less attention in comparison to climate change. Urbanization is expected to increase in the future; based on a report by the United Nations, 68% of the world population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050 compared to 50% in 2020. Perceptions of economic opportunity, accessibility to recreational facilities, and agricultural development have made floodplains and coastal areas desirable places to live. The nature of the risk brought about by urbanization in flood-prone areas must be thoroughly understood to develop effective policies for mitigating risk in rapidly growing flood-prone communities. This dissertation aims at understanding the effect of urbanization on future flood risk and how policymakers can integrate nonstructural flood mitigation measures, in terms of urban planning policies and socioeconomic incentives, in their urban development plans to help future communities move toward resilience. We begin by conducting a comprehensive literature review of how current studies have tackled the impact of urbanization on hazard and exposure components of flood risk through alternative policies. Since urban development plans are among the most influential factors in shaping the growth of a community over time, we evaluate these studies through the lens of how effective these policies have been in controlling the flood consequences. In this first step, we also identify some of the gaps and challenges in current flood risk mitigation planning and suggest a path forward, which will be considered in the upcoming sections of this dissertation. Next, we introduce a new approach to assess the effect of urbanization on future flood risk. The objectives of this step are to: (1) establish a framework for flood risk assessment to account for the impact of urbanization on flood risk; (2) develop a spatial model for simulating the growth of a community over time, considering geographical, physical, social, and economic factors associated with urbanization; and (3) evaluate the role of land-use policies and socioeconomic incentives, such as acquisition, zoning, and taxation in mitigating flood consequences. We believe that this methodology could be used to assist city planners and stakeholders in examining tradeoffs between costs and benefits of future land development, considering uncertainties in flood hazards, the performance of the built environment, and population and economic growth. Finally, we demonstrate how changes in human behavior affect urbanization and flood risk. To do so, we show how human behavior impacts urbanization by modeling the principal agents and their interactions that lead to changes in the urban expansion of a community over time. We evaluate how the risk perception of households affects their decision as to where to locate. Then, we investigate the driving factors and incentives in human decision-making on locational choices and how these incentives can be adopted by local authorities and policymakers as nonstructural flood mitigation measures to shape urbanization and to achieve resilient and sustainable development of urban communities.


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community resilience
socioeconomic developments
climate change
flood risk


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