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Living with Levees: Information for Homeowners, Renters, Business Owners, and the General Public

This section provides useful information to people living near levees. Homeowners, renters, business owners, and the general public can find useful tips on how to reduce risk and understand the level of flood risk in their community.

Know Your Risk, Know Your Role, Take Action Today!

  West Memphis, Ark., March 27, 2008 -- Flood waters remain high near the Mississippi River.  The levee in West Memphis has received mitigation funding in the past from FEMA.Jocelyn Augustino/FEMAMom and Dad discuss the family communication plan with their son.   Mom holds pen and paper.Clofax, Iowa, August 16, 2010 -- Workers from the Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS) assist with removing flood waters form the downtown area of Colfax. The waters of the South Skunk river began to recede after record rains inundated the town.  Jace Anderson/FEMA

Understanding Your Flood Risk

Living and working near levees comes with risk. Levees may reduce risk during certain flood events, but they do not provide protection from flooding. They can and do deteriorate over time and must be maintained to retain their effectiveness. When levees fail, or are overtopped, the results can be catastrophic. In fact, the flood damage can be greater than if the levee had not been built.

Even without a major flood, levees can fail if they are not properly maintained. Improper drainage, erosion, seepage, subsidence, and even earthquakes can all lead levees to fail and result in catastrophic flooding.

If you are living or working near a levee, it is important to understand the risks associated with levees and the steps you can take to prepare for potential floods and help provide a financial safeguard.

Take an Active Role in Reducing Your Risk

You can take steps to reduce the risk to your property, and more importantly, your life and the lives of your family members in the event of a flood. It is important to take action now, to be aware of your risk, and to be prepared should flooding occur. Steps you can take include the following:

  • Be aware of any levees in your area. Check with your local government officials to find out if you live in an area near a levee, or if nearby levee-related construction or restoration projects are planned in the future. If you do live in a levee-impacted area, ask your local government officials if your area is being re-mapped and if the levee system’s accreditation for providing the minimum level of flood hazard reduction is changing. Learn more about what changes in accreditation mean and how that may impact your risk of flooding at Levee Mapping Status.
  • Understand your flood risk. Find out where your home is in relation to any levees, and whether you are in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). Use the tools FEMA has created to help communities understand the relationship between levees and flood risks. Again, ask your local government officials if remapping is occurring and if so, how will that impact the levees and the area where you live or work. For more information on flood hazard remapping, visit FEMA’s Flood Hazard Mapping Homepage.
  • Prepare for the worst. Make sure you have an emergency plan for your family and be aware of local evacuation procedures. For more information on preparing a plan, go to
  • Safeguard your financial future by purchasing flood insurance. Levees do fail, and they can fail catastrophically. Those living or working near levees should safeguard what may be your most important asset, your home or business. Most homeowner insurance policies and many business owners policies do not cover damage from flooding. To learn more about flood insurance and to find an insurance agent in your area who can provide you coverage, visit

For More Information

For additional information on levees, levee risk, levee safety, and mapping, visit FEMA’s Levee Resources Library or use the resources listed above. Additional resources can be found in the Levee Tools, Templates and Success Stories for Community Outreach, which contains useful fact sheets on:

  • Levees and Insurance Fact Sheet
  • Zone D and Levees Fact Sheet
  • Risk and Mitigation Fact Sheet for Property Owners

For additional information or assistance, contact a Map Specialist in the FEMA Mapping and Insurance eXchange (FMIX) through the following methods:

  • Call (877) FEMA MAP (877-336-2627) Monday through Friday, 8:00 am through 7:00 pm (ET)
  • Email the FMIX
  • Chat with a Map Specialist Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (ET)

Subscribe to receive flood hazard mapping updates via email.

Last Updated: 
06/05/2020 - 08:29