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Dealing with Uncertainty in Flood Management Through Diversification

Jeroen C. J. H. Aerts
Wouter Botzen
Anne van der Veen
Joerg Krywkow
Saskia Werners


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This paper shows, through a numerical example, how to develop portfolios of flood management activities that generate the highest return under an acceptable risk for an area in the central part of the Netherlands. The paper shows a method based on Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) that contributes to developing flood management strategies. MPT aims at finding sets of investments that diversify risks thereby reducing the overall risk of the total portfolio of investments. This paper shows that through systematically combining four different flood protection measures in portfolios containing three or four measures; risk is reduced compared with portfolios that only contain one or two measures. Adding partly uncorrelated measures to the portfolio diversifies risk. We demonstrate how MPT encourages a systematic discussion of the relationship between the return and risk of individual flood mitigation activities and the return and risk of complete portfolios. It is also shown how important it is to understand the correlation of the returns of various flood management activities. The MPT approach, therefore, fits well with the notion of adaptive water management, which perceives the future as inherently uncertain. Through applying MPT on flood protection strategies current vulnerability will be reduced by diversifying risk.

Key words

adaptive water management; diversification; flood risk; Modern Portfolio Theory; uncertainty; vulnerability.

Copyright © 2008 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087