Assessing the Potential for Reducing Peak Flood Flow and Enhancing Summer Base Flow in the St. Joseph River Basin

Managing floods and mitigating droughts

The St. Joseph River. Image from Wikimedia Commons

The St. Joseph River Basin and other watersheds in Indiana have experienced heavy spring flooding in recent years exacerbated by environmental change. Without better alternatives for managing waterways, government units will likely default to traditional flood control solutions, such as river channelization and large, costly reservoirs, to deal with increased flooding. These infrastructure projects come with high environmental costs, including loss of biodiversity and social and ecological damage.

One suggested alternative envisions utilizing natural lowland along rivers and diverting floodwaters to small reservoirs that would enhance the natural capacity of those lowlands to hold floodwaters. This approach has the advantage of restoring natural water management systems. 

A team led by Bill Weeks of IU’s Maurer School of Law is partnering with Burke Engineering and the St. Joseph River Basin Commission to identify potential sites for this type of water storage. The team is also studying the legal implications of such a project and working with local partners to inform a report that can be shared with government entities with a stake in the watershed.