Date of Award

2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

Christopher J. Koliba

Abstract

In April of 2011, heavy rainfall paired with snow melt from the Green and Adirondack Mountains caused unprecedented flooding in the Lake Champlain Richelieu River (LCRR) basin. A study was subsequently convened by the International Joint Commission (IJC), and was tasked with identifying how flood forecasting, preparedness, and mitigation could be improved in order to reduce the impact of flooding in this transboundary watershed, and build the greater community’s resilience to flooding. A component of this study includes an assessment of the social acceptability and political feasibility of potential flood mitigation measures, which was in part carried out through the development and administration of a survey that assessed how residents of the LCRR basin perceive risk and engage with criteria used to make decisions regarding flood mitigation.The objective of this research is to provide insight into how members of the public in the LCRR basin consider flood risk and flood mitigation, and how those perceptions impact the feasibility of various flood mitigation measures, and can point policymakers in directions that are socially acceptable. To set the stage for the applied nature of this study, this thesis begins with an introduction to the operationalization of flood management research. That is followed by a review of relevant literature, including theories related to resilience of social-ecological systems, disaster resilience, and natural hazard risk perception. The third chapter of this thesis offers a case study of the social, political, and economic implications of the spring 2011 floods in the LCRR basin. Two articles are then presented. The first article uses the results of a household risk perception survey (N=151) designed and administered in 2019 to primarily investigate how flood experience, adoption of flood preparedness measures, and opinions regarding flood mitigation measures impact perceptions of flood risk. Socioeconomic and geographic variables are also considered. Findings indicate that perceptions of flood risk are primarily based on prior flood experiences, rather than dependent of characteristics that make respondents more vulnerable to flooding. Additionally, there are disconnects between perceptions of flood risk and likelihood of adopting preparedness measures, and where respondents get information versus who they trust for that information. In the second article, the results of a multi-criteria decision analysis from the same household risk perception survey are investigated. Respondents engaged with nine decision criteria, provided by the study, through ranking and scoring exercises. Results were assessed through a process called Technique for Ordered Preference Similarity to the Ideal Solution (TOPSIS), where the ranks and scores were weighted and normalized. Respondents were broken into a variety of clusters, and their ranks were assessed in comparison with other clusters. Findings indicate that respondents primarily preferred criteria which indicated altruistic outcomes from flood mitigation measures, although later rankings indicated significant variation based on demographic characteristics, geographic location, and flood experiences. This thesis concludes with a summary, policy implications, and recommendations for future research. A further investigation into the value of flood early warning systems is provided, in addition to an agenda for exploring these concepts more deeply.

Language

en

Number of Pages

174 p.

Available for download on Thursday, February 17, 2022

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