Cost-benefit analysis of flood-zoning policies: A review of current practice

Paul Hudson, W. J. Wouter Botzen

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One commonly proposed method to limit flood risk is land-use or zoning policies which regulates construction in high-risk areas, in order to reduce economic exposure and its vulnerability to flood events. Although such zoning regulations can be effective in limiting trends in flood risk, they also have adverse impacts on society, for instance by limiting local development of areas near the water. In order to judge whether proposed land-use or zoning policies are a net benefit to society, they should be accepted or rejected based on a societal cost–benefit analysis (CBA). However, conducting a CBA of zoning regulation is complex and comprehensive guidelines of how to do such an analysis are lacking. We offer guidelines for good practice. In order to assess the costs and benefits of zoning as a climate change adaption strategy, they should be assessed at a societal level in order to account for public good features of flood risk reduction strategies, and because costs in one area can be benefits in another region. We propose a multistep process: first, determine the spatial extent of the zoning policy and how interconnected the zoned area is to other locations; second, conduct a CBA using monetary costs and benefits estimated from an integrated hydro-economic model to investigate if total benefits exceed total costs; third, conduct a sensitivity analysis regarding the main assumptions; fourth, conduct a multicriteria analysis (MCA) of the normative outcomes of a zoning policy. A desirable policy is preferred in both the CBA and MCA.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWIREs Water
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2019

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© 2019 The Authors.

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