Playing for Keeps: Using Game Theory to Address Flooding and Drought in the Cedar River Basin
ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA. Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District, Institute for Water Resources, and local partners held a “Multi-Hazard Tournament” (MHT) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A MHT is a simulation exercise designed to aid decision-making by playing out potential strategies to reduce drought, flood risk, and other water-related risks. The tournament challenged Iowa-Cedar river basin stakeholders to jointly address issues of major flooding, severe droughts, and water quality.
Broken into seven teams, the hum and competitive energy could be felt as teams discussed their options to reduce the impacts of forecasted climate conditions on the basin. Sixty participants ranged from federal, state, and local governments to academia, non-governmental organizations, and the agricultural sector. Investment options included restoring or adding wetland spaces, reclaiming property, raising houses out of flood zones, infrastructure improvements, and reinforcing levees.
Participants quickly grew frustrated as they found their allotted funds for annual investments, based on realistic funding options in the Cedar River basin, significantly limited their ability to invest in basin infrastructure on an annual basis. Facing this limitation, teams began to innovate on how to capitalize on investments made in the previous turns and the importance of thinking strategically about long-term investments.