7 Effects of Flooding Explained

Effects of flooding are; ecologic disruption, pollution, related-hazard facilitation, infrastructural damage, resource depletion, waterborne disease spread, and loss of life. They may be broadly grouped into environmental, economic and social effects.

This article discusses the effects of flooding, as outlined below;


-Environmental Effects of Flooding

-Economic Effects of Flooding

-Social Effects of Flooding


-Environmental Effects of Flooding

1). Ecologic Disruption (as one of the Effects of Flooding)

Flooding can lead to the destruction and loss of natural habitats, thereby affecting biodiversity [4].

The effect of flooding on natural habitats may occur in all ecosystems, but tends to be most significant in inland wetlands, marine and coastal habitats.

Submergence of land by floodwaters causes the loss of oxygen in such areas, and can lead to mass death of land-based organisms like insects, reptiles, microbes, mammals and annelids. Surviving organisms are usually at risk of displacement when such events occur.

Flooding can physically disintegrate habitats like trees, nests and holes. They may also introduce pollutants into the ecosystem.

These effects can disrupt natural ecologic processes like the recycling of bioenergy and the creation of biomass.


2). Pollution

As floodwater flows across a given area, they pick up and transport materials which may be hazardous or toxic. This mechanism can lead to stormwater pollution, and the spread of such harmful materials across a vast area.

A common example of a pollutant that is carried by floodwater is sewage [1]. Others include domestic wastewater (greywater), particulates, hydrocarbon, sediments and industrial chemicals.

Polluted floodwater can cause health problems and can facilitate other types of pollution like oil spill, which can lead to severe environmental degradation.

Effects of Flooding: Pollution (Credit: SuSanA Secretariat 2009 .CC BY 2.0.)
Effects of Flooding: Pollution (Credit: SuSanA Secretariat 2009 .CC BY 2.0.)


Flooding can facilitate the occurrence of other closely-related environmental hazards.

Examples of such hazards include soil erosion and landslides [6].

Sloping areas are particularly susceptible to the ripple effects of floods. Soil conservation practices like contour terracing can help mitigate the risk of such events.


-Economic Effects of Flooding

4). Infrastructural Damage

It is not very uncommon for transport infrastructure like roads and bridges to be damaged by floods [7].

Because of the exposure of these facilities to the elements, they are usually affected by powerful floods.

Aside roads and bridges, other infrastructure like water dams, communication facilities, power plants and microgrids can be impaired significantly.

Flood-related damage can have huge economic consequences, especially when it involves essential public infrastructure like education, health, electricity, agricultural and water supply facilities [2].

Effects of Flooding: Infrastructural Damage (Credit: Patsy Lynch 2007)
Effects of Flooding: Infrastructural Damage (Credit: Patsy Lynch 2007)


5). Resource Depletion (as one of the Effects of Flooding)

Flooding can lead to loss of agricultural, marine, and mineral resources, among others.

Agricultural resources that can be lost due to flooding include soil sediments, nutrients, water reserves, livestock and crops.

Mineral reserves and stored hydrocarbons can also be lost.


-Social Effects of Flooding

6). Waterborne Disease Spread

Flooding can facilitate the spread of waterborne diseases like hepatitis A and E, and diarrhea [9].

The main mechanism by which flooding facilitates disease spread, is through the influx of flood waters carrying bacteria, viruses, and chemical pollutants; into drinking water reserves [8].

When ingested, such water poses a high risk of infection to the body.

Flooding can also make healthcare inaccessible for patients, by damaging health infrastructure.


7). Loss of Life (as one of the Effects of Flooding)

Flooding can lead to loss of life, through any of various means.

The most common way by which flooding causes death is by drowning. It is estimated that drowning is the cause of over 60% of flood-related deaths [3].

This could either occur as a result of driving vehicles in severely flooded areas, or being trapped in flooded buildings.

Other causes of flood-related deaths include electrocution, cardiovascular attack, and physical injury due to landslides and building collapse.

Aside death, flooding can also cause psychosocial trauma [5].



Effects of flooding are;

1. Ecologic Disruption

2. Pollution

3. Related-Hazard Facilitation

4. Infrastructural Damage

5. Resource Depletion

6. Waterborne Disease Spread

7. Loss of Life



1). Caradot, N.; Granger, D.; Chapgier, J.; Cherqui, F.; Chocat, B. (2011). “Urban flood risk assessment using sewer flooding databases.” Water Science & Technology 64(4):832-40. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2166/wst.2011.611. (Accessed 24 October 2022)..

2). Deshmukh, A.; Oh, E. H.; Hatak, M. (2011). “Impact of flood damaged critical infrastructure on communities and industries.” Built Environment Project and Asset Management 1(2):156-175. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/20441241111180415. (Accessed 22 October 2022).

3). Jonkman, S. L.; Kelman, I. (2005). “An analysis of the causes and circumstances of flood disaster deaths.” Disasters. 2005 Mar;29(1):75-97. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0361-3666.2005.00275.x. (Accessed 22 October 2022).

4). Kupika, O. L.; Gandiwa, E.; Ayuk, J.; Bandeira, S.; Kunedzimwe, F. (2021). “Evidence of the Impact of Cyclones and Floods on Biodiversity and Wildlife Resources in Southern Africa.” Cyclones in Southern Africa (pp.265-278). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-74303-1_17. (Accessed 24 October 2022).

5). Mason, V.; Andrews, H.; Upton, D. (2010). “The psychological impact of exposure to floods.” Psychology Health and Medicine 15(1):61-73. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/13548500903483478. (Accessed 24 October 2022).

6). Piacentini, T.; Galli, A.; Vincenzo, M.; Miccadei, E. (2018). “Analysis of Soil Erosion Induced by Heavy Rainfall: A Case Study from the NE Abruzzo Hills Area in Central Italy.” Water 10(10):1314. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/w10101314. (Accessed 24 October 2022).

7). Pregnolato, N.; Ford, A. C.; Wilkinson, S.; Dawson, R. J. (2017). “The impact of flooding on road transport: A depth-disruption function.” Transportation Research Part D Transport and Environment 55:67-81. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trd.2017.06.020. (Accessed 24 October 2022).

8). Yard, E. E.; Murphy, M. W.; Schneeberger, C.; Narayanan, J.; Hoo, E.; Freiman, A.; Lewis, L. S.; Hill, V. R. (2014). “Microbial and chemical contamination during and after flooding in the Ohio River-Kentucky, 2011.” Journal of Environmental Science and Health Part A Toxic/Hazardous Substances & Environmental Engineering 49(11):1236-1243. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/10934529.2014.910036. (Accessed 24 October 2022).

9). Yavarian, J.; Zahra, N.; Mokhtari-Azad, T. (2019). “Possible viral infections in flood disasters: a review considering 2019 spring floods in Iran.” Iranian Journal of Microbiology 11(2). Available at: https://doi.org/10.18502/ijm.v11i2.1066. (Accessed 23 October 2022).

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