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When Planning for Sea-Level Rise Turns to Play

Marin County’s “Game of Floods” teaches citizens how to make tough decisions for the future.
But who will build the Longest Flood Wall?
But who will build the Longest Flood Wall?Courtesy of Marin County

Super-high king tides hammered homes and roads in Marin County, California this past winter, and residents can expect worse as rising seas threaten to super-soak their lives. If nothing is done to adapt, highways and utility connections eight miles inland in the mostly rural Bay Area county could get doused within 15 years, on top of hundreds of buildings inundated closer to shore. Tens of thousands of residents could be affected.

So when Marin County wanted to invite the public into the process of planning for that hazardous future two years ago, officials decided to try something different. Enter “The Game of Floods,” a choose-your-own-hazard-mitigation romp created by a team of local public works engineers and planners. Climate change may have its winners and losers, but this game—which earned Marin County a national award for public outreach by the American Planning Association on Wednesday— focuses on the value of collaboration and small steps in the face of a huge challenge.