Skip to content


    Ansari, Rashid, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, PennState, 235 Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Shortlidge Road, University Park, State College, Pennsylvania, 16802,; Mejia, Alfonso, , Civil and Environmental Engineering, PennState, 217 Sackett Building, College Avenue, University Park, State College, Pennsylvania, 16802,; Cibin, Raj, Agricultural and Biological Engineering PennState 247 Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Shortlidge Road State college Pennsylvania, 16802,

    Levees play a pivotal role in safeguarding countless lives and assets across the U.S. Yet, national evaluations by the American Society of Civil Engineers reveal alarming concerns about their state, with a staggering 80% failing to meet crucial safety criteria. The Susquehanna River Basin (SRB), encompassing over 140 levees across 180 miles, mirrors this issue. A significant portion of these levees, about 65%, do not satisfy FEMA’s accreditation criteria, and many have exceeded their design life. While levees offer localized flood protection, they inadvertently transfer flood risks elsewhere within the river network. This not only shifts but can also amplify flood risks to communities both adjacent and distant from these structures, which are not fortified by levees. Such regional flood teleconnections can modify flood inundation across varying distances, potentially escalating flood threats in neighboring and remote areas. 

    To delve deeper into the implications of these flood teleconnections, especially in the SRB, we developed a comprehensive risk model that synergizes data analytics, hydrodynamic assessments, and economic evaluations. Drawing from information across 118 USGS sites, our model scrutinizes potential flood patterns, gauges economic consequences, and pinpoints societal vulnerabilities. Our investigations underscore that the presence of levees can augment the extent of a 100-year flood by approximately 25% of the total area shielded by levees. Disturbingly, specific locales might witness flood depths surging by up to 2 meters. These findings not only highlight the often-overlooked ramifications of levee systems but also demonstrate the expansive spatial effects, unaccounted costs, and potential impacts on vulnerable communities. Given the rising concerns related to climate change and its repercussions on flooding patterns, our insights emphasize the pressing need for a re-evaluation of current levee systems. Addressing these challenges is imperative for enhancing flood resilience and ensuring climate adaptation not just within the U.S., but globally. 

    Flood Infrastructure, Flood Risk, Adaptation, Equity