Floodplain lands and adjacent waters combine to form a
complex, dynamic physical and biological system found nowhere
else. When portions of floodplains are preserved in (or
restored to) their natural state, they provide many benefits
to both human and natural systems.
These benefits range from providing aesthetic pleasure to
reducing the number and severity of floods, helping handle
stormwater runoff and minimizing non-point water pollution.
For example, by allowing floodwater to slow down, sediments
settle out, thus maintaining water quality. The natural
vegetation filters out impurities and uses excess nutrients.
Such natural processes cost far less money than it would
take to build facilities to correct flood, stormwater, water
quality and other community problems.
Natural resources of floodplains fall into three
- Water resources;
- Living resources, and;
- Societal resources.
The following describe each category's natural and
Natural flood and erosion control
Over the centuries, floodplains develop their own ways to
handle flooding and erosion with natural features that provide
floodwater storage and conveyance, reduce flood velocities and
flood peaks, and curb sedimentation,
Natural controls on flooding and erosion help to maintain
water quality by filtering nutrients and impurities from
runoff, processing organic wastes and moderating temperature
These natural controls also contribute to recharging
groundwater by promoting infiltration and refreshing aquifers,
and by reducing the frequency and duration of low surface
Biologic resources and functions
Floodplains enhance biological productivity by supporting a
high rate of plant growth. This helps to maintain biodiversity
and the integrity of ecosystems.
Floodplains provide excellent habitats for fish and
wildlife by serving as breeding and feeding grounds. They also
create and enhance waterfowl habitats, and help to protect
habitats for rare and endangered species.
Societal resources and functions
People benefit from floodplains through the food they
provide, the recreational opportunities they afford and the
scientific knowledge gained in studying them.
Wild and cultivated products are harvested in floodplains,
which are enhanced agricultural land made rich by sediment
deposits. They provide open space, which may be used to
restore and enhance forest lands, or for recreational
opportunities or simple enjoyment of their aesthetic beauty.
Floodplains provide areas for scientific study and outdoor
education. They contain cultural resources such as historic or
archaeological sites, and thus provide opportunities for
environmental and other kinds of studies.
Floodplains can increase a community's overall quality of
life, a role that often has been undervalued. By transforming
floodplains from problem areas into value-added assets, the
community can improve its quality of life. Chicago's
lakefront, Peoria's riverfront, Naperville's Riverwalk, and
Lockport's historic canal district are well-known examples.
Parks, bike paths, open spaces, wildlife conservation areas
and aesthetic features are important to citizens. Assets like
these make the community more appealing to potential
employers, investors, residents, property owners and tourists.