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Reconnecting rivers with their floodplains is a green infrastructure approach that focuses on removing barriers along the edges of the river. This allows the river to re-establish its natural course over time, eventually connecting it to its historical floodplain, or creating a new one. It can include removal or setting back of levees, raising of a deeply engraved riverbed, or expanding a river’s bank. Faster solutions include manually restoring (by digging) the river close to its original form, and establish human made connections between the river and its original floodplain wetlands.
Floodwalls and levees have historically been established along rivers to mitigate flooding. This, however, creates several environmental problems. The levees often restrict river waters to a small area, resulting in faster movement and more sediment, and in turn increased chances of erosion and flooding.
The cost of maintaining floodwalls and levees can be high, and they do not always withstand the heavy storms that are increasingly likely due to climate change. Levees and floodwalls remove the critical connection between rivers and their floodplains and interrupt important ecological processes that deliver numerous benefits. Floodplains connected to rivers create vital habitats for species and contribute to biodiversity, in addition to playing an important role in the provision of ecosystem services to people and nature.