Why should housing not be built in flood-prone wetlands?

Floods are a frequent occurrence: The State of Hawai‘i is a mountainous tropical archipelago, making floods a frequent occurrence. Flooding in the state is caused by numerous sources, including rainfall from storms, storm surges, tsunamis, dam failures, and coastal flooding including tidal flooding. (Source: dod.hawaii.gov)

Building in flood-prone areas: It is generally not advisable to develop housing in flood-prone areas because it can be bad for the economy and the community. Flooding can cause a range of negative impacts, including high costs of disaster recovery, insurance claims, disruptions to economic activity, human suffering, property loss, and injury.

Increased Flood Risk: When housing is developed in flood-prone areas, it is at a higher risk of damage from flooding, which can lead to costly repairs or even the need to rebuild homes. This can be a financial burden for homeowners, who may be required to pay for repairs or rebuilding out of their own pockets or through insurance claims. In addition, flooding can disrupt economic activity in the area, as businesses may be forced to close or may experience losses as a result of flooding.

Property loss and human impacts: Furthermore, flooding can cause human suffering and injury, as people may be forced to evacuate their homes or may be harmed by floodwaters. Property loss is also a common consequence of flooding, as homes and personal belongings can be damaged or destroyed by floodwaters.


Flooding in Kihei neighborhood near Ewa Wetlands in Kihei
Flooding in Kihei neighborhood near Ewa Wetlands in Kihei

Building housing in flood-prone wetlands in Hawaii can have negative impacts on the environment and human communities. Wetlands are important ecosystems that provide a variety of ecological services, such as water filtration, shoreline stabilization, and habitat for wildlife. When housing is built in these areas, it can disrupt these natural processes and lead to a loss of biodiversity.

Additionally, building in flood-prone wetlands increases the risk of flooding and property damage during heavy rains and storms. Coastal wetlands can reduce the impacts of storm surges and waves, and slow the movement of flood waters, reducing damage to coastal communities.

Furthermore, Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rainforests and coral reefs.  They are also home to a wide variety of plant and animal species that would be at risk if housing were built in these areas. The negative impacts of flooding make it ill-advisable to develop housing in flood-prone areas, as it can be costly and harmful to the economy and the community. 

Building housing in flood-prone wetlands in Hawaii should not be done due to the risk of flooding and the potential impacts it can have on the environment and people’s safety. Wetlands in coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to flooding due to their proximity to the ocean and their low elevation, making them more susceptible to tidal flooding and storm surges. The majority of wetland protection and restoration efforts in Hawaii have focused on coastal wetlands, and upon concerns about native waterfowl habitat and water quality impacts associated with development. Thus, it is clear that building in flood-prone wetlands in Hawaii should not be done in order to protect the environment and the safety of people.

In conclusion, It is important to preserve wetlands and avoid building in flood-prone areas to protect both the environment and human communities.


Further Reading:

Caution: Building in a Wetland Can Be Hazardous to Your House.  https://www.nwf.org/Magazines/National-Wildlife/1998/Caution-Building-in-a-Wetland-Can-Be-Hazardous-to-Your-House

Valuing natural habitats for enhancing coastal resilience: Wetlands reduce property damage from storm surge and sea level rise. Rezaie, A. M., Loerzel, J., & Ferreira, C. M. (2020). PLOS ONE, 15(1), e0226275. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0226275

State of Hawaiʻi, Hazard Mitigation Plan 2018: Special Flood Hazard Areas in the County of Maui https://dod.hawaii.gov/hiema/files/2018/06/Draft-Section-4.7-Event-Based-Flood.pdf