Blum Center researchers have published a landmark article in Nature Sustainability showing an enormous disparity between the federal government’s estimates of the risk posed by flooding and what their updated models show in LA.

The team found that nearly 1 million people live in areas that would be affected by a 100-year flood event, which is about 30 times greater than predictions previously made by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Blum Center team’s models show a more substantial impact because they account for the area’s aging water infrastructure, which may reduce the effectiveness of flood control channels when flooding occurs.

The research team also found that flooding poses a much more significant threat to Black and low-income communities. Inequities stem from historical biases where investments in infrastructure favored White and higher income communities. Now, this means that marginalized groups are far more likely to face life-threatening water levels, property damage, and exposure to sewage discharge.

The implications are significant for equity and security. The research also demonstrates how more sophisticated modeling can challenge existing beliefs about climate-related risks. Harrison Wollman, a spokesman for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, told the New York Times that this research will help Los Angeles better prepare for extreme weather events.

The Blum Center team is already applying their flood modeling techniques to many other areas–such as Malawi, Mexico, Nepal, and Paraguay. They expect to find similar disparities throughout the US and around the world, with greater flood risks that previously believed and disproportionate impacts on lower income communities and marginalized groups.

Read early coverage of the article in: