State Guidance, Information and Tools

Assessing Water Hazard Risks

Comprehensive planning can help to identify and avoid a variety of water-related risks that are being amplified by climate change; one of the most prevalent in Maryland is riverine and coastal flooding. Other water-related risks amplified by climate change include saltwater intrusion and salinization, increased water temperatures, higher water tables, and altered surface water flows. Comprehensive plans should: (a) assess and consider flood prone areas (whether prone to nuisance flooding or large-scale flood events) during plan development; (b) be integrated with all local plans that assess water hazards; and (c) seek to avoid or minimize development in flood prone areas as well as help mitigate any current, and prevent any future, flooding impacts. See the Flood Management Process subsection within the CWA Framework section for detailed guidance on flood management considerations for the WRE.​​

The FEMA has created a comprehensive framework for hazard management planning, which can help to inform your plan. The FEMA framework focuses on seven community lifelines​ that enable the continuous operation of critical business and government functions. These seven categories of assets and services are essential to human health, safety and economic security.​​

Flooding can sever the lifeline to any of these categories of assets and services. An assessment of water hazard risks should consider questions like the following and others:​​

  • During a flood event, would build-out of the land use plan and transportation element ensure safe travel between critical services and the locations where those services are needed?
  • During a flood event, would build-out of the land use plan and transportation element ensure reliable water and energy supply to support the seven critical lifeline assets and services?
  • How might build-out of the land use plan and transportation element affect the capacity of hurricane or wildfire evacuation routes?
  • During a flood event, would build-out of the land use plan (e.g., industrial or high-density development zones) result in threats to water supplies or communities due to the presence of hazardous materials that could be released during those events?

Seven Community Lifeline Assets & Services​​

  1. Safety and security – law enforcement, fire service, search and rescue, government service, community safety centers.
  2. Food, water, shelter – food (including non-profit food banks), water (and wastewater), shelter, agriculture, food storage and processing facilities.
  3. Health and medical - medical care facilities, public health personnel and services, patient transport, medical supply chain
  4. Energy – power generating facilities, power grid, fuel storage and transport
  5. Communications – physical infrastructure, management facilities and staff.
  6. Transportation - highway/roadway/motor vehicle, mass transit, railway, aviation, maritime
  7. Hazardous material – hazardous material storage and generation facilities

Resources to support water hazard risk assessment​​

In addition to reviewing FEMA materials on protecting your community’s seven lifeline assets and services, local governments should consult the following resources. The goals and strategies from the WRE and Sensitive Areas Element should be integrated with, and can set general goals and policy direction, for other local plans and studies that outline water hazards:

  • Sea Level Rise Projections - from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and in the DNR Coastal Atlas​
  • Local Hazard Mitigation Plan
  • Nuisance Flooding Plan (coastal counties)
  • Local Emergency Operations/Response Plans (these may be general or sector specific to critical facilities; consult your local Office of Emergency Management for advice on aligning long range planning with emergency management principles)
  • Comprehensive watershed plans, studies, or capital projects implemented pursuant to Maryland’s Comprehensive Flood Management Grant Program​​
  • Stormwater infrastructure system maps including those required under MS4 permits and any conveyance bottlenecks, etc. identified within those systems.
  • Monitoring data and information regarding local groundwater levels, saltwater intrusion, stream flows and/or tidal fluctuations in areas planned for new growth.
  • Local citizen feedback or complaints regarding repeat or nuisance flooding in communities downstream of planned new growth and development.

If any of these plans or studies identify needs or other deficiencies that still need to be addressed, the WRE or Sensitive Areas Element should include strategies for completing the necessary studies or actions to resolve them.

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