Skip to main content

Nashville’s Flood Buyouts

April 7, 2021

Courtesy of US Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Via Flickr

Even before Nashville experienced the devastating 2010 flood, the city had begun taking steps to ensure the safety of its citizens through home buyouts. With the tragic loss of life and property caused by the 2010 record rainfall event, the program was expanded using FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), TEMA (Tennessee Emergency Management Agency), and USACE (United States Army Corps of Engineers) aid to purchase over 400 homes. The voluntary program allowed qualifying homeowners to sell their property, allowing this acquired land to become an absorbent creekside buffer. 

The Home Buyout Program allows residents to move away from areas that are prone to repeated flooding. Rather than re-building a home, the flood buyout allows the residents to move to another location. With homes demolished and residents moved out of the danger zone near flood-prone streams, the recovery costs are lower. 

FEMA recently featured the flood buyout along Wimpole Drive, which details more about the program:

Planting Trees to Improve Water Infiltration

The most recent storms have showcased the importance of programs like these with the objective to reduce the risk of property damage, the loss of life, and the need for emergency response in flood-prone areas. Metro Water Services maintains these properties, and plants trees to reduce flooding and protect and strengthen our waterways from erosion. 

In partnership with Metro Water, the Cumberland River Compact has planted almost 5,500 trees and seedlings throughout these flood buyout sites in Nashville since 2016. These empty lots become a vegetated floodplain, providing water a place to go during heavy rainfall events. Adding trees to these open spaces preserves wildlife and aquatic habitat, reduces flooding and erosion, filters chemicals and sediment before reaching waterways and adds scenic and economic value to land nearby. All newly planted trees on these properties, since October 2018, are part of the citywide Root Nashville campaign. This campaign is a public-private partnership, led by Metro Nashville and the Cumberland River Compact, to plant 500,000 trees across Davidson County by 2050.

How you can help

Cities are covered in impermeable space, where water cannot soak into the ground. Areas like parking lots, roofs, and roads are all examples of impermeable space. Since the water that falls on these surfaces cannot soak into the ground, more water moves faster into our urban streams leading to flooding. 

We can all do our part by increasing permeable space in our communities or capturing water run-off before it enters our streams. 

Build a Rain Garden

Rain Gardens are a great way to create a natural sponge on your property that will soak up water and release it back into the ground. Creating this absorbent garden on your property reduces the risk of flooding and also collects pollutants along its way to nearby streams and creeks. Gardens are a natural and beautiful way to reduce and clean stormwater. Find out how to build your own rain garden, or contact us to schedule a consultation in Davidson County!


Pavement and other impervious surfaces prevent land from absorbing torrents of water. When water runs off of concrete and asphalt, it can exceed the capacity of storm sewers quickly during heavy rains and increases the chances of flooding and diverts this rainwater to nearby waterways. Find out more information about depaving here!

Install a Rain Barrel

A rain barrel is a system that collects and stores rainwater from the rooftop that would otherwise be lost to runoff and be diverted to our neighborhood streams and storm drains. This stored water can be used for watering the lawn and gardens, washing your car or cleaning windows! Rain barrels are a great option to conserve water and reduce the volume of stormwater runoff. Find out more on how to make a rain barrel or buy one here! 

Leave “no-mow” Areas

Vegetated areas help to slow, filter, and absorb stormwater. Additionally, they can be good for local pollinators! This is even more important if you have a waterway on your property. Mowing right up to a creek bank takes away the creek’s “buffer” system and also takes away from habitat for critters that live in and near creeks.

Plant Trees 

We can never plant too many trees! Planting trees bring beauty, increases property value, cleans the air and water, and keeps soil in place – reducing erosion. Trees can be a great addition to your creek buffer! If you live in Davidson County, the trees that you plant can be counted towards Root Nashville’s goal of 500,000 trees by 2050 – Learn More.

REMINDER: Always remember to call 811 before you dig and be mindful of power lines, underground pipes, and septic systems before choosing a location for your tree.

These efforts help infiltrate stormwater and can reduce flooding. However, small streams and creeks can still be prone to flash flooding, so it is important to avoid building in the flood zone and support natural areas to absorb floodwaters.