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Living with Levees: It's a Shared Responsibility

This page provides information and useful links on how to live with levees and steps that can be taken to mitigate levee and flood risk. Living with levees is a shared responsibility among the whole community, know your risk. Know your role, take action today!

The Reality of Levee Risk

The United States has thousands of miles of levee systems built to help contain or control the flow of water to reduce the risk of flooding; but not all levees are alike. For example, some levees around residential areas were originally built long ago to reduce the risk to farmland. Other levees in urban areas were designed to reduce the impacts of flooding, but only from a certain size flooding event.

While levees can help reduce the risk of flooding, it is important to remember that they do not eliminate the risk. Levees 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. View the So, You Live Behind a Levee! brochure developed by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to understand the basics about levees and how to prepare for flood events.

For those living or working near levees, it is important to understand the risk, learn the facts, and be aware of steps that can be taken to reduce the risk to their families, businesses, and communities from the threat of flooding. Use the tools FEMA has created to better understand the relationship between levees and flood risk.

Home and Business Owners

Many people living or working near a levee believe that it will protect them from flooding. Although levees may be designed to the highest engineering standards, levees can and do fail.

Learn more about flood and levee risk, the steps that can be taken to minimize that risk, and common Myths and Facts about levee systems.

Community Officials

As a leader, it is important to understand and clearly communicate the risk and issues surrounding levees with your constituents. By working with FEMA and other federal agencies, information and local plans can be developed to better educate citizens, make communities safer, and help assist in making a rapid recovery when levees do fail.

Learn how to communicate effectively about levee risk with outreach tips, customizable document templates, and other resources available through FEMA’s Levee Outreach Toolkit. Materials are available for community officials and real estate, lending, and insurance professionals.

Real Estate, Insurance, and Lending Professionals

For most property owners, their homes or businesses are their greatest investments. Property owners turn to you as a trusted source of information whether buying, selling, or providing the proper financial risk reduction.

Learn more about helping your customers understand their risk of living or working behind levees and what they can do to reduce it.

Cooperating Technical Partners (CTPs), Engineers, Surveyors, and Contractors

Review the Final Approach Document to better understand FEMA's approach to analyzing and mapping flood hazards in the vicinity of non-accredited levee systems. Find detailed information on FEMA’s levee system accreditation and mapping requirements, and learn about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) role in levee risk assessment at the CTPs, Engineers, Surveyors, and Contractors Levee page.

Don't forget to visit the Levee Resources Library, your one-stop shop for resources about levees, levee safety, and levee mapping!

Federal Agencies

FEMA, USACE, and the Bureau of Reclamation continue to work together to align the nation’s federal levee processes and procedures. Review the progress these agencies have made on the recommendations provided by the National Committee on Levee Safety.


Members of the media play a vital role in telling the stories about levees. The FEMA Levee Resources for the Media web page outlines resources to help members of the press accurately report the risks associated with living and working near levees and inform the public how they can take steps to reduce these risks.

Additional Links and Resources

FEMA Links and Fact Sheets

  • Levee Tools, Templates and Success Stories for Community Outreach, contains additional helpful resources such as:
    • A number of infographics to explain the levee analysis and mapping procedures process and the corresponding community engagement, including:
      • Stakeholder Engagement for FEMA Levee Analysis and Mapping Procedures of Non-Accredited Levee Systems
      • At-a-Glance National Levee Process for Non-Accredited Levees
      • Flood Hazard Mapping Projects with Levee Systems
    • Various sheets to provide additional background on levees, including:
      • Levees and Insurance Fact Sheet
      • Zone D and Levees Fact Sheet
      • Risk and Mitigation Fact Sheet for Property Owners
      • Risk and Mitigation Fact Sheet for Community Officials
      • Commonly Used Terms and Acronyms for Levee Systems
  • Levee Resource Library
  • Map Service Center
  • The NFIP and Levee Systems: Frequently Asked Questions

Non- FEMA Resources

Get Assistance

Visit FEMA’s Levees Resources Library, a one-stop shop for information available online about levee-related topics, including levee basics, levee risk, levee safety, and mapping. Highlighted resources include webpages, interactive learning tools, and topical fact sheets.

For more information or additional assistance, contact a Map Specialist at the FEMA Map Information eXchange through the following methods:

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

Subscribe to receive updates on levee and other FEMA Flood Hazard Mapping activities via e-mail.

Take Action!

Are you Ready? View maps of your area, assess potential losses, and Determine Your Risk.

Take action to Plan & Prepare for yourself, your family, and your community.

Learn more about Dam Safety and the Dam Safety Program.

Last Updated: 
10/22/2019 - 08:49