Our News

For media contact and resources, please contact: Stephen F Eisenman, Director of Communications 6263943311 s-eisenman@northwestern.edu, or Harriet Festing, Executive Director, Harriet@FloodForum.org.

What is a “Catalyst for Change”?

august 9th, 2018

  Residents in Lemmon Valley, Nevada protesting flooding.

Residents in Lemmon Valley, Nevada protesting flooding.

You’ve probably heard the phrase before; it’s become a cliché. But we want to introduce you to some real-life catalysts for change: our Flood Forum USA group leaders! Here’s what they’ve done: 

Susan Liley and Paula Arbuthnot from the Citizens Committee for Flood Relief in De Soto Missouri saved their town. We met them last year when we were just starting out, and their community was struggling to recover from four years of devastating floods. Susan and Paula organized residents, reached out to legislators and contacted the US Army Corps of Engineers. But as Susan explains, “it wasn’t until Flood Forum USA and their partners at TEX, [Thriving Earth Exchange] and The Elevated Studio entered the scene that stuff really started happening.” Read more.

Flood Survivors United! 

JUNE 2018

Available to tell their stories. Contact them.

For the first time in U.S. history, thousands of flood survivors from across the U.S. have united to protest persistent flooding and the devastation it causes.  More than 25,000 people from a dozen U.S. states have now come together in local alliances called Flood Forums. These in turn, have been united into a growing, national network called Flood Forum USA. The founder and ringleader of FFUSA is a 53-year-old British lady named Harriet Festing. “These are smart and energetic people, many of them poor, and they all deserve to be heard,” Harriet says. “While there are lots of worthwhile government and charitable initiatives, they often don’t reach the folks worst affected by flooding. It’s a national problem getting worse due to climate change.” 

The flood survivors united by Flood Forum USA live in urban and rural, inland and coastal zones. And they are diverse: white, black and brown, Republican and Democrat. Flooding and climate change are oblivious to geography and party (see the map). Research indicates that over 40 million people in the U.S. are currently at risk from river flooding alone, and by 2050 more than 60 million will be vulnerable to devastating 1-in-100-year floods. As hurricane season approaches, there is fear that 2018 may be as bad as 2017, the year of Harvey, Irma and Maria. 

Flooding causes property damage, high insurance premiums and payouts, loss of productivity, stress, injury and even death. The death toll of Hurricane Maria has recently been calculated at more than 4,000. Property damage from Harvey has been estimated at more than $65 billion.  “Until the voices of actual flood survivors are heard, government and business will remain slow to mitigate damage and reduce risk,” says Festing. “We aim to change that with our growing, Flood Forum USA. Flood survivors will be silent no more.”

Want to speak to a flood survivor? FFUSA can make introductions. Contact: Stephen F Eisenman, Director of Communications: s-eisenman@northwestern.edu; or Harriet Festing, Executive Director: Harriet@FloodForum.org.

Need raw footage of flooding? Subscribe to the Flood Forum USA YouTube channel or contact us.

When Science Doesn’t work, Try Magic

May 2018

Many people think flooding is a natural disaster. In fact, it's man-made. Flooding happens when people put homes and work places where they don’t belong. It also happens when cars and factories pump so much carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, that the climate changes. A warmer climate causes more intense rain storms and hurricanes.
Climate change requires national and international solutions.  But controlling development is usually a local or regional matter. Ask residents living in Brickhouse Gully and adjacent watersheds of west Houston, Texas. They’ve been flooded for each of the last three years and they’ve had enough. So, when they heard that a developer was planning to put 900 new homes on a 116-acre parcel close to them – one that was in a flood plain – they got mad and got organized. Read the full story.


april 2018

Last month, Flood Forum US met with flood survivor activists Beth Butler and Gwendolyn Adams of 'A Community Voice' in New Orleans, LA.

Beth and Gwen gave us a tour of the Lower Ninth Ward which was so badly affected by flooding after Hurricane Katrina, and discussed the challenges they are facing now. Through our initiative, Flood Forum USA, we are currently matching A Community Voice up with pro bono scientists to help residents understand where they should be focusing their advocacy efforts.

flooding and the g-word

chicago, march 13, 2018

I just got a lesson in flooding and gentrification. And it was ugly.
“Gentrification” means changing a neighborhood from working class to middle class, and from Black or Latino to white. It’s generally considered the result of educated, urban pioneers looking for affordable housing wherever they can find it, and the unfortunate, but unintended consequences that follow. In fact, it’s much more insidious. And many of you -- flood survivors and Flood Forum leaders – have experienced it yourselves. Here’s one story about gentrification in Pensacola, Florida.

you did it!

chicago, february 20, 2018

Rob Moore of the Natural Resources Defense Council explains the threat to FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds.

Because of your calls and letters, the US Senate stripped the poison pill from the Disaster Relief package that was just signed into law. That provision would have gutted funding for the Hazard Mitigation Grants Program, which pays for buy-outs and home elevation. Read our latest news.

launch of Chicagoland flood forum

chicago, february 20, 2018

It's flooding again in Chicagoland and it's time for action by politicians and government. We've set up the Chicagoland Flood Forum Facebook Group for people in the area to share stories and discuss strategies. Please join/share/invite.

flood forum USA advisor is awarded MBE.

Chicago, December 30, 2017


Paul Cobbing, Chief Executive Director of the UK National Flood Forum (NFF) and advisor to Flood Forum USA, was awarded an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in the UK's New Year's Honors List announced today. 

Flood Forum USA was inspired by the National Flood Forum, and Paul has spent considerable time advising before and after our launch last April.

In response to our note of congratulations Mr Cobbing said: "It's a real honour to receive an MBE and it of course reflects the hard work of communities and National Flood Form colleagues over many years. There is a huge job to be done, but we have made a start and this award is testament to the work so far. People's lives and fears are at the core of flood risk; our challenge is to give people hope that they can live ordinary lives in the future. I've been really impressed with the work you have been doing in the USA and am looking forward to catching up later in January."

We are so proud to have benefitted from Paul’s expertise, and that this expertise, and the issue of flooding, has been properly recognized.  Please join us in congratulating him! Happy New Year.


Chicago, December 20, 2017

Flood Forum USA launches “SPOUT!” to combat bad planning, corruption and climate change. 

Leaders of flood survivor groups from 15 cities and 9 states met last week to share stories, offer support and plan ways to reduce flooding and combat climate change.

Their slogans are “Organize or Drown” and “I Flood and I Vote!” and they want to be heard by politicians and developers from across the country. The leaders were brought together by Harriet Festing, head of Flood Forum USA, and director of Anthropocene Alliance, a Chicago-based non-profit launched last Spring. They call their gatherings SPOUT! and have started a Facebook group for dozens of other flood survivors and flood group leaders.  Read full press release.

Major Award to Help Flood Forum USA. 

Chicago, November 20, 2017

 Photo credit: CNT/RainReady

Photo credit: CNT/RainReady

Grant from Kresge Foundation called “transformative” by FFUSA Director Harriet Festing

Flood Forum USA, an initiative of the non-profit Anthropcene Alliance, has received a three-year, $350,000 grant from The Kresge Foundation. Read full press release.

Wondering how you can help flood victims?

27 september 2017

Volunteer scientists are invited to contribute to long-term flood resilience in a community near them through our partnership with the American Geophysical Union's Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX).

Read the article by TEX.

Chicago-area flood Resilience groups meet national urban flooding experts.

12 September 2017


Today, the Flood Resilience Group (FRG), Floodlothian Midlothian in Illinois, presented to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Expert Committee on 'Urban Flooding in the United States' via webinar. The committee meets next week in Chicago and will be touring the south side and talking to residents from another flood group, RainReady Chatham, in the South Side of Chicago. Harriet Festing, Flood Forum Director, is a member of the NAS committee.

residents take charge on flooding in the city of de soto, MO.

11 September 2017


This week we met with the Flood Resilience Group, Citizens' Committee for Flood Relief, from the City of De Soto, MO. The group of residents meets monthly to discuss the repetitive flooding in the city that affects over 100 homes and has resulted in three deaths. They will be getting a pro bono hydrologist, thanks to our partnership with the American Geophysical Union's Thriving Earth Exchange.

lemmon valley flood Resilience group, NV, gets pro-bono hydrologist.

1 september 2017

Thanks to our partnership with the brilliant team at the Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX) of the American Geophysical Union, nine Flood Resilience Groups are each getting a pro-bono hydrologist to work alongside residents. TEX is just starting to promote the positions, in this case for Lemmon Valley NV.

Read more on the TEX website.


Chicago, once a swamp, also could be walloped by a catastrophic flood.

1 September 2017

  Flooded homes are shown near Lake Houston following Hurricane Harvey Aug. 29, in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Flooded homes are shown near Lake Houston following Hurricane Harvey Aug. 29, in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Stephen F. Eisenman

The catastrophic flooding in Houston has been called “biblical” in scale, but unlike the Great Flood, it was widely predicted.

Read our opinion piece in the Chicago Sun-Times.

no road sign for climate change.

28 august 2017

The unfolding disaster in Houston and along the Texas and Louisiana coasts is a sign of things to come.

Read our blog on the Anthropocene Alliance website.


Preparations for Hurricane Harvey, Houston, TX.

25 August 2017

In advance of Hurricane Harvey, homeowners in Houston, TX are making preparations - see our gallery.

As Flooding Gets Worse Nationwide, Flood Victims Get Louder.

5 august 2017

Over 100 Local Flood Resilience Groups Mobilizing Across U.S.

Read the article about our work in the Huffington Post.

Diary of a Flood Victim: Louisiana.  

3 August 2017

One year on from the devastating flooding in Louisiana in August 2016, we share the uplifting and distressing diary of Shannon Cooper.

Survivors speak out about man-made flooding, City of Houston, Texas.

3 August 2017

'Residents Against Flooding' is a group of flood survivors that is fighting the City of Houston, TX. 

Partnering with the Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX), American Geophysical Union.

July 12, 2017

  Poster Hall - AGU fall meeting 2015.

Poster Hall - AGU fall meeting 2015.

Thanks to our partnership with TEX, nine Flood Resilience Groups from across the US are now benefitting (pro bono) from the services of hydrologists who will help them develop Flood Action Plans.  The TEX folks are brilliant. They draw upon the expertise of nearly 200,000 researchers to build teams of community leaders and scientists to advance local resilience, protect people from pollution, and encourage sustainability in an era of changing climate. We want to increase our collaboration with them!

guiding politicans.png

How to Get Politicians to do Things for You.

June 10, 2017

People sometimes ask: “Why don’t elected politicians hear us?” Flood Forum has produced a brief guide is intended to make sure they do. If you follow its three guidelines, you won’t always get what you want, but at least you’ll have a fighting chance.

spout megaphone.jpg

Announcing SPOUT – flooding Facebook group.

May 16, 2017

Last week, the folks at Flood Forum (USA) launched SPOUT!, a facebook group for people to speak out about harmful flooding and sewer backups.

Flooding is expensive, stressful, and isolating. Many people are unclear where they should go to get help, who is trustworthy, and whether their local or regional government bears any responsibility. The goal of SPOUT! is to helps neighbors come together, form Flood Resilience Groups, and get some answers. 

So far, leaders of 25 flood groups from across the country have joined.  Although every flooding event is different (coastal, riverine, overland and sewer backups) many of the solutions are surprisingly similar. And allgroups benefit from organizing, talking to each other, and contacting their local elected officials and government agencies. 

SPOUT! offers flood groups the chance to share best practices, find moral support, and gain collective strength. If you know of people affected by flooding and sewer backups, please tell invite them to SPOUT!

Candidate Runs for Village Mayor on Unity and Anti-Flooding Platform.

April 6, 2017


Sometimes the struggle to protect a community from flooding exacerbated by global warming requires neighbors to roll up their sleeves and …get into politics!

That’s exactly what a group of residents from Midlothian Illinois did. Frustrated by the lack of leadership shown by their Mayor and Clerk, they formed the Unite Midlothian Party and put forward their own candidates. Their platform was collective action to halt the flooding that for years devastated their homes and upended their lives. The new mayor, Gary L’Heureux told the Chicago Tribune: "I just think we gave a better vision. We stayed positive, talking about the issues and the problems.”

Midlothian residents first began to organize around flooding in 2013. Their leader was a dynamo named Helen Lekavich, supported by several Village trustees. Their medium was Facebook. That's when Harriet Festing, founder of the RainReady program at the Center for Neighborhood Technology and now Executive Director of Anthropocene Alliance, stepped in. She helped them organize face to face meetings with community members, and hearings with elected legislators and state administrators. As a result of these efforts, village trustees in 2016 adopted an action plan and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District decided to invest in flood solutions to the tune of $8.3 million. 

Groundbreaking for the project is slated for 2017 and it is a safe bet that Helen, Harriet, Mayor L’Heureux and Unite Midlothian Party members will be present for the ribbon-cutting.

Flood Forum USA co-founder, Harriet Festing, Joins Prestigious Group to Study Urban Flooding.

February 6, 2017

In 2013, Harriet Festing undertook research that for the first time revealed the scale and severity of flooding in the Chicago region. The resulting publication garnered national attention and prompted federal legislation requiring a comprehensive study of urban flooding in the U.S.  Now Harriet has been appointed to the committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine tasked with drafting that report. “It’s an honor to serve with so many brilliant and committed researchers,” Festing told her colleagues at their first meeting in Washington D.C. in January. “I have great hopes that our final report with reveal the depth and complexity of the problem and point the way to economical and people-centered solutions.” The next meeting of the NAS committee is scheduled for April 24 in Baltimore, MD. Stay tuned. 

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