Floods in the United States: Magnitude and frequency

Water Supply Paper 771

Prepared in collaboration with the Water Planning Committee of the National Resources Board and its predecessor the Mississippi Valley Committee



From time immemorial floods have transformed beneficent river waters into a menace to humanity. Man's progress toward economic stability has been repeatedly halted or even thrown backward by the interruption of his efforts to make effective use of rivers and of valley lands. This handicap is not imposed by the destructiveness of large rivers alone, or of rivers in widely separated areas, for there are few if any streams, brooks, or rivulets that are not subject to flows beyond their channel capacities. Yet, though man for ages has suffered seriously from recurring floods, he has not been deterred from continuing to extend his activities in areas that are virtually foredoomed to flood damage.

Today in the United States serious floods may occur in any section in any year, and even, in some regions, several times a year. Many of these floods leave behind them the tragedy of death and disease and of property irreparably damaged. The aggregate direct property damage caused by floods in this country has been estimated roughly to average $35,000,000 a year. In addition there are serious indirect and intangible losses of great but not precisely calculable magnitude.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Floods in the United States: Magnitude and frequency
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s):
U.S. Geological Survey, Utah Water Science Center
495 p.
United States