Dealing with Uncertainty in Flood Management Through Diversification

J.C.J.H. Aerts, W. Botzen, A. van der Veen, J. Krywkow, S.E. Werners

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


This paper shows, through a numerical example, how to develop portfolios of flood management activities that generate the highest return under an acceptable risk for an area in the central part of the Netherlands. The paper shows a method based on Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) that contributes to developing flood management strategies. MPT aims at finding sets of investments that diversify risks thereby reducing the overall risk of the total portfolio of investments. This paper shows that through systematically combining four different flood protection measures in portfolios containing three or four measures; risk is reduced compared with portfolios that only contain one or two measures. Adding partly uncorrelated measures to the portfolio diversifies risk. We demonstrate how MPT encourages a systematic discussion of the relationship between the return and risk of individual flood mitigation activities and the return and risk of complete portfolios. It is also shown how important it is to understand the correlation of the returns of various flood management activities. The MPT approach, therefore, fits well with the notion of adaptive water management, which perceives the future as inherently uncertain. Through applying MPT on flood protection strategies current vulnerability will be reduced by diversifying risk
Original languageEnglish
Article number41
Number of pages7
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • flood control
  • water management
  • climatic change
  • cost-effectiveness analysis
  • portfolio theory
  • climate-change
  • vulnerability


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