Natural and Beneficial Functions of Floodplain

Floods are natural processes. Throughout time they have shaped the landscape, provided habitat for wildlife, and created rich soils. A floodplain is the lowland adjacent to a river, lake, creek, or ocean. Floods happen when runoff exceeds the capacity of the river, stream channel or lake. Water overflows onto the nearby low-lying lands, called floodplains. In hilly and mountainous areas, flooding is likely to be rapid, deep and dangerous. When people use flood-prone areas along rivers, streams and lakes, their homes, businesses and activities get in the way of the natural overflow of the waterway. Sooner or later, they will be damaged or destroyed. The buildings, pavement, landscaping, roads and other facilities take up space in the normal floodplain that is needed to carry extra water during a flood. This forces the flood water to move farther away from the natural waterway, flooding more land. It sometimes also increases the velocity and height of the floodwater. There may be flood hazard areas along the smaller streams and watercourses that have not been identified or mapped through a study of its flood problems. New development can increase water run-off, causing flooding in places that have never been flooded before. Additional flood problems result from water runoff or its accumulation in low-lying areas. Development may make the situation worse.

Floodplains are also critical wild life and natural habitat areas; these areas need to be protected. The beauty of the river is inviting. Many people chose to live in Colorado for its outdoor appeal. If you live close to a river or creek, you might be in a floodplain area. If you believe you live in a floodplain area, or if you're not sure, please check with the county before beginning any improvements or construction on your property.

Natural Functions of Floodplains - Natural or relatively undisturbed floodplains:

  • limit flooding naturally, by temporarily storing flood waters
  • maintain water quality by filtering sediments, nutrients, and impurities
  • preserve and recharge groundwater supply
  • support natural vegetation
  • provide fish and wildlife habitat
  • provide many kinds of recreational opportunities
  • provide places for outdoor education and scientific study