How "levee wars" are making floods worse

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  • Published on:  Monday, August 6, 2018
  • Explained with a giant, scientific model. Subscribe to our channel! At 4:27, we mistakenly wrote "Nijmegan" when it should be spelled "Nijmegen."In our latest Vox+ProPublica collaboration, we dive into how a structure that’s designed to protect us from floods, may actually be making them worse. High levees come at a high cost, often pushing water into communities that can’t afford the same protection. To demonstrate, we built a giant, scientific model of a river with levees — complete with adorable tiny houses. Be sure to check out ProPublica’s feature story here for more on America’s flood control problem: with the science explained here: sign up here for ProPublica's Big Story newsletter to get their best reporting in your inbox as soon as it’s published: our Vox+ProPublica collaboration, we create deep-dive, investigative video storytelling fueled by ProPublica's reporting. You can read the reporting at, and watch the rest of the series on YouTube at is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out our full video catalog: Vox on Facebook: Twitter:
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  • Vox


     a years ago +1429

    Correction: At 4:27 we show the city name as "Nijmegan". It should be "Nijmegen".

  • IE B

    IE B

     a years ago +1112

    This, like many other problems in the US, is a problem of extreme localism and the ridiculous ideas that local governments with limited budgets can solve problems of state or countrywide significance.

  • John Lemon

    John Lemon

     a years ago +518

    laughs in Dutch

  • Mobius One

    Mobius One

     a years ago +222

    4:03 "We can't just pick up and move major cities."
    4:11 *Picks up city and moves it

  • Fire Nation Files

    Fire Nation Files

     a years ago +469

    Global warming: "Not my problem. It's the next generation's!"
    Flooding: "Not my problem. It's the other towns'!"

  • MRTN13


     a years ago +178

    I'm a proud Dutch guy, we've been fighting the water for hundreds of years. Our levees are working like a charm because they don't compete with each other, but work together so it's one giant defence system. I think the American love for competition (the pillar for capitalism) is the problem here. Take water defence as serious as military defence and cooperate.

  • Tiago Miranda

    Tiago Miranda

     a years ago +885

    Europe: We need to give space for rivers to naturally flood without causing harm.
    US: My d... levee is bigger than yours!

  • Nils10Ip


     11 months ago +278

    "In Holland for example."
    Thanks Vox for making people even more confused about the name of my country.
    If you're gonna call it by the name of a province in the Netherlands, than at least call it Gelderland.

  • Legendary King

    Legendary King

     a years ago +78

    Just just keep building in repeated flooded area! Yayayay!

  • 666Tomato666


     a years ago +55

    "system for regulating them is broken" – USA in a nutshell

  • Tom Hardware

    Tom Hardware

     3 months ago +155

    Here is novel idea. Don’t build in the flood plain.

  • karthika murugan

    karthika murugan

     a years ago +764

    "dont be poor" :- rich people

  • MMHY


     a years ago +53

    Just call in the Dutch!!!

  • a box of feathers

    a box of feathers

     4 months ago +41

    they literally started construction in a floodplain what did they expect

  • E K

    E K

     a years ago +53

    It's the American way, focus on your own at the expense of others.

  • Lawrence Chen

    Lawrence Chen

     a years ago +56

    A more individualistic US will continue to have these problems until they stop telling others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and realize it's better to work together.

  • PoDH


     a years ago +417

    The best way to solve your problems.
    1. Pushing them somewhere else.
    2. Pretends it doesn't exist.
    3. ....

  • Conspiracy theories with tea

    Conspiracy theories with tea

     a years ago +9

    If the Netherlands do it, copy it. We are the absolute masters of water control, mostly because we're like 5 meters under sea levels at our lowest point. Makes me feel proud to be dutch 🇳🇱!

  • Arian Gh

    Arian Gh

     a years ago +13

    Nooo, we don't need no regulation. No big government. We must be free to screw each other (just like in wild west).

  • Moe Moe

    Moe Moe

     11 months ago +4

    the Netherlands is like 12 feet underwater but you can't tell. if they can do it so can we by just asking how you guys do it.