Improved delineation of natural infrastructure and capital as improved strategies for flood attenuation in support of State’s “Clean Water for Maine Bond”

Institution: University of Maine
Sponsor: Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions

A Critical Regional/State Water Problem

The 2014 enactment into law of Chapter 589—“General Fund Bond Issue to Ensure Clean Water and Safe Communities”—and passage of the general fund bond affords increased investments towards natural and built infrastructure while seeking to improve Maine’s freshwaters through resource protection (quantity and quality), hazard mitigation (flood risk), and ecosystem integrity (natural capital and services in river corridors and linked stretches of riparian zones and floodplains).

Current and future developmental/urbanization trajectories and changing envelopes of climate variability are likely to increase community vulnerability to hydrologic extremes. The ability to strike a balance between built and natural infrastructure is largely contingent upon creative and collaborative solution strategies that integrate natural and engineered systems information, as well as decision constraints and priorities. To that end, as a first step, one salient question is: are there meaningful ways to quantify, analyze, and integrate relevant information to assess the natural infrastructure assets at the watershed level?

This project seeks to develop analysis and visualization tools to support decision-making, and pursue analyses of geospatial data at watershed scales to understand their relative potential for buffering flood-related effects. This will consist of an active partnership with state and federal partners with a view to improve the design and content of information delivered.

A University of Maine and Nature Conservancy (TNC) partnership will extend ongoing work on this topic at TNC, with a goal to provide decision support tools. Given the one-year duration of the project, we limit focus to the flood attenuation service provided by natural infrastructure.


  • Development of a methodology based on spatially explicit integration of geodata, community information, built infrastructure details, as well as floodplain information targeted at assessing the flood pulse attenuation and co-benefits to multiple sectors (including recreation).
  • Analysis of historical flow records to understand the relationship between watershed characteristics and hydrologic regime to gain comprehension of the relative coherence and roles of various factors such as forest cover, watershed storage, channel network characteristics, soil types, and floodplain extent and volume.
  • Application of GIS methodology to the lower Presumpscot watershed with retrospective analyses and semi-quantitative validation of the approach for past storms, using historical hydro-meteorological records and documentary.

Team Leader:

Shaleen Jain, Associate Professor, University of Maine

Team Members:

Dave Courtemanch, The Nature Conservancy

Daniel Coker, The Nature Conservancy