Aaron Flores Wins 1st Place in the CSBS Student Research Day Award
Geography PhD student Aaron Flores won First place in the Graduate Division of the 2021 CSBS Student Research Day Awards for his presentation Federally Overlooked Flood Risk in Houston, Texas.
In the United States, flood risk is delineated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA-delineated flood zones are used to define flood risks, regulate flood insurance premiums, and inform flood management. Studies have not consistently observed social disparities in FEMA-delineated 100-year flood risks, yet studies of actual flood events (e.g., Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey) indicate that socially disadvantaged groups tend to experience greater residential flooding than privileged groups. This suggests that current knowledge of disparities in flood risks may inaccurately reflect actual inequities in exposure to flood hazards in the US. This study utilizes spatial data from a state-of-the-art flood hazard model developed by Fathom-Global and sociodemographic data on census tracts from the American Community Survey (ACS) to examine social inequities in 100-year flood risk in the Houston metropolitan statistical area (MSA), where extensive flood damage induced by hurricanes and extreme precipitation events regularly occurs. In this research, I utilize dasymetric mapping techniques to accurately represent flood risk at the census tract level and test for inequities in 100-year flood zones that are “federally overlooked”, which are flood zones delineated by Fathom-Global that fall outside of FEMA-delineated zones. Results provide a more accurate depiction of flood risk in the Houston MSA and indicate that racial/ethnic minorities and those of low socioeconomic status are disproportionately at risk to “federally overlooked” flood zones.