Flood Plain Management

The City of New Braunfels is dedicated to minimizing the loss of life and property that is associated with flooding events. Education and prevention are valuable and proven tools that help communities become resistant to these natural disasters. The City of New Braunfels recognizes that its entire community is susceptible to flooding, not just those structures located within Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA’s). The following information has been provided to help inform property owners located within the SFHA, flood prone areas and also all property owners within The City of New Braunfels.

Flood Hazard
New Braunfels is located in central Texas between San Antonio and Austin in a region popularly known as the Texas Hill Country. With the rapid growth of urban cities, such as Austin and San Antonio, many once small cities, such as New Braunfels, find they are experiencing more severe and frequent flooding problems along small creeks, streams, and other low areas. Urbanization leads to an increase in impervious cover, channel rectification that reduces channel storage, channel obstruction, and floodplain development.

The CH2M Hill study (2002), commissioned by New Braunfels and used by FEMA for the new Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs), showed that increased development along the North Guadalupe and South Guadalupe Tributaries led to an increase in runoff. Caran and Baker (1986) claimed that earlier work by W.H.K. Espey et al. (1966) demonstrated that land use practices alone could increase peak flood discharges in central Texas by as much as 300 percent. These types of urban developmental problems are nothing new to burgeoning cityscapes, but history has shown that there are unique ways to balance growing populations and preserve natural processes. As New Braunfels grows and urbanizes, it will have the opportunity to plan for both population growth and the preservation of natural processes.

Ten Texas Flood Factoids

  1. Central Texas has been identified as the most flash-flood prone area in the United States by the National Weather Service.
  2. Texas holds 6 of 12 world record rainfall rates in 24 hours or less - source United States Geological Survey (USGS).
  3. Texas leads the nation in flood-related deaths most every year -- averaging twice the next nearest state: California.
  4. Texas leads the nation in flood-related damages most every year - sharing this distinction with Florida and Louisiana.
  5. Some 20 million of Texas' 171 million acres are flood-prone - more than in any other state. (Source: 2001 Blue Ribbon Committee Study -- Texas Senate Concurrent Resolution 68)
  6. Texas has approximately 8 million structures in floodplains. 3 million of these have no flood insurance. (Source: Blue Ribbon Study)
  7. Texas is among the top four states with repeat flood losses to the same properties. (Source: Blue Ribbon Study)
  8. From 1986 to 2000, Texas experienced 4,722 flash flood events. (Source: Blue Ribbon Study)
  9. Texas has 1.5 full-time employees to administer the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1000 communities (Source: Blue Ribbon Study)
10. "Texas has the fewest numbers of state employees devoted to disaster preparedness of any of the most populous states," Tom Millwee, past head of Texas Department of Public Safety and Chair of Blue Ribbon Committee

Flood Safety

  • Learn the safest route from your home or business to higher, safer ground, but stay tuned to reports of changing flood conditions.
  • If emergency officials tell you to evacuate or leave your home, go immediately to a safe shelter, hotel or relative’s house.
  • Turn off all utilities, gas and electricity at the main switch. Stay away from power lines and electrical lines. Be alert for gas leaks.
  • Do not walk through flowing water. Drowning is the number one cause of flood related deaths. Currents can be deceptive; six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet.
  • Do not drive through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than in any other location. Vehicles also push water into homes and cause additional property damage.

Flood Insurance
The purchase of federal flood insurance is highly recommended. Basic homeowner’s insurance policies don’t cover damage from floods. The City of New Braunfels participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which means that federally subsidized flood insurance is available to everyone in the city. Remember there is a 30-day waiting period before a policy becomes effective. Some people have purchased flood insurance because it was required by the bank or loan company when they obtained a mortgage or home improvement loan. Usually these policies just cover the building’s structure and not the contents. During the kind of flooding that happens in The City of New Braunfels, there is usually more damage to furniture and the contents than there is to the structure. Remember that a flood insurance policy must be renewed each year.

Mandatory Purchase Requirement
The mandatory purchase requirement applies to all forms of federal or federally related financial assistance for buildings located in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). This requirement affects loans and grants for the purchase, construction, repair, or improvement of any publicly or privately owned buildings in the SFHA, including machinery, equipment, fixtures and furnishings contained in such buildings. If a building is located in a SFHA, the agency or lender is required by law to require the recipient to purchase a flood insurance policy on the building. For more information about flood insurance contact:

Property Protection
Rather than wait for a flood to occur, you can act now to protect your property from flood damage. Various alternatives are available to help minimize flooding. If the floor level of your property or structure is lower than the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) located on the city’s Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), consider ways to prevent flooding from occurring such as retrofitting your building.

Retrofitting means altering your building to eliminate or reduce flood damage. Retrofitting measures include:

  • Elevating the building so that flood waters do not enter or reach any damageable portions of it
  • Constructing barriers out of fill or concrete between the building and flood waters
  • Dry-floodproofing to make the building walls and floor watertight so water does not enter
  • Wet-floodproofing to modify the structure and relocate the contents so that when flood waters enter the building there is little or no damage
  • Preventing basement flooding from sewer backup or sump pump failure

There are several good references on retrofitting in the New Braunfels Public Library. Many of these will inform you about retrofitting techniques and help you decide which is best for you.

Natural & Beneficial Functions
The City of New Braunfels is a beautiful place to live. The undisturbed rivers and wetlands provide a wide range of benefits to the human and natural systems. They provide flood storage and conveyance, reduce flood velocities and flood peaks. Water quality is improved through the rivers and wetlands ability to filter nutrients and impurities from runoff and process organic wastes. The local rivers and wetlands provide breeding and feeding grounds for fish and wildlife, create and enhance waterfowl habitat, and protect habitats for rare and endangered species. The floodplains are an important asset. They provide open space, aesthetic pleasure, and areas for active and passive uses.

Flood Warning System
If flooding is imminent and evacuation of the city is advised, The City of New Braunfels will notify you through the local radio station (KGNB/KNBT), Cable TV, and Reverse 911 (when appropriate). Additionally, the city will be receiving information from the National Weather Service Offices which broadcasts weather information 24 hours a day and from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Management in Texas. A local contact number will be established at the time of the flood event to call in reference to evacuation notices, procedures and shelters.

Floodplain Development Permit Requirements
All development in The City of New Braunfels needs local and state permits. Contact The City of New Braunfels’s Building Department at (830) 221-4020 or (830) 221-4060 for advice before you build, fill, place a manufactured home or otherwise develop. The zoning ordinance, flood control ordinance and the International Building Codes have special provisions regulating construction and other developments within floodplains. Without these provisions, flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) would not be available to property owners in The City of New Braunfels. Any development in the floodplain without a permit is illegal; such activity can be reported to the City of New Braunfels Building Department at (830) 221-4060.

Substantial Improvement Requirements
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requires that any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement of a structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure before the start of construction of the improvement, must conform or meet the same construction requirements as a new building and be constructed 2 feet above the minimum Base Flood Elevation (BFE) listed on The City of New Braunfels’s Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).

Substantial Damage
Substantial damage means damage of any origin sustained by a building or structure when the cost of restoring the building to its pre-damaged condition would equal or exceed 50% of the market value of the building before the damage occurred. Substantial damage is determined regardless of the actual repair work performed.

The City of New Braunfels requires by ordinance that any substantial improvement or substantial damage improvement must have a building permit. Permit information can be obtained at the Building Department located at City Hall or by calling at (830) 221-4060.

Drainage System Maintenance
It is illegal in The City of New Braunfels to dump any type of debris into a canal, stream, river or drainage ditch. This debris can become entangled in culverts and shallow streambeds, canals, or drainage ditches and impedes drainage causing the flow of water to back up. Citizens of New Braunfels should also keep drainage ditches on their property free of debris, foliage and vegetation that would impede the flow of water. Debris dumping should be reported to The City of New Braunfels’s Public Works Department (830) 221-4020 or the Building Department at City Hall by calling (830) 221-4060.

Flood Information
Citizens of The City of New Braunfels can obtain flood information concerning flooding, flood maps, mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements, flood insurance requirements and inquiries, and flood zone determinations from The City of New Braunfels’s Building Department located at City Hall, or by calling (830) 221-4060.

Elevation Certificates of all properties in the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA’s) are available and on file at the Office of Building and copies are available upon request.

Real time river gauge information can be obtained through the following websites:

Flood Protection Assistance
Concerned citizens and the general public can obtain information on flood protection assistance from The City of New Braunfels’s Building Department (830) 221-4060 or the Department of Public Works by calling (830) 221-4020. Flood protection assistance provided by The City of New Braunfels is site-specific flood and flood related data on floodways, data on historical flooding with historical photographs on some properties, as well as info on properties that back up to a drainage easement that could potentially flood and similar information so inquirers can relate the flood threat to their problems.
List of services provided:

  • Provide a list of names of contractors and consultants knowledgeable or experienced in retrofitting techniques and construction.
  • Provide materials on how to select a qualified contractor’s and what recourse citizens have if they are dissatisfied with the contractor’s performance.
  • Make site visits to review flooding, drainage and sewer problems and provide one-on-one advice to property owners.
  • Provide advice and assistance on retrofitting techniques, such as, elevating buildings above flood levels or the Base Flood Elevation (BFE), dry floodproofing, wet floodproofing and protecting basements from sewer backup. Also, information on the installation of barriers, levees, berms and floodwalls around individual buildings or structures is available.

Important Websites