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United States looks to Europe as Mississippi floods Iowa

Extensive flooding in the upper Mississippi this week prompted the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) to call for a radical rethink of United States river flood defence strategy.

Storms and flooding have caused 24 deaths and billions of dollars in damage since late May.
More than 40,000 people have been displaced, most of them in Iowa. Rains have washed out millions of hectares of farmland in the US corn-belt.

ASCE deputy executive director Larry Roth said the US must look to flood defences in Holland and Germany for guidance.

"The idea employed along the Rhine translates as ‘make room for the river’ – creating wetlands where the river can overflow naturally during flood events. We’ll also be watching the UK’s Pitt Review with interest," he said.

Flood defences, particularly on the upper Mississippi, are between 50 and 100 years old and designed to withstand a one-in-a-hundred years flooding event. Levees and dykes on the Rhine are designed to withstand a 1 in 1,250 event.

In the absence of such defences, the people of Iowa relied on UK engineering last week as devastating flooding swept through the region.

As the flood waters rose in Iowa, the State’s National Guard ordered over 8km of prefabricated Concertainer units from Leeds based Hesco Bastion to replace 1.4M sandbags.

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