April 23 (UPI) -- The number of people affected worldwide by substantial flooding will double by 2030 due to climate change and other factors, new research said in a report Thursday.
The World Resources Institute said its Aqueduct Floods prediction tool shows 147 million people per year will be impacted by flooding events along rivers and in coastal area within 10 years, up from just 72 million in 2010.
The Aqueduct Floods tool analyzes global flood risks and solutions.
The 28-page report says economic damage in riverine urban areas, meanwhile, will soar from $157 billion to $535 billion annually, and from $17 billion to $177 billion along sea coastlines. That's a combined economic flooding impact of more than $700 billion by 2030.
"Flooding has already caused more than $1 trillion in losses globally since 1980, and the situation is poised to worsen," WRI water program associate Samantha Kuzma wrote in a blog post.
Researchers said the worsening situation has been compounded by the convergence of three factors -- heavier rains and storms fueled by climate change, population growth near coasts and rivers and the overdrawing of groundwater for subsistence farming.
The group called on governments to take flood mitigation into account when spending to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
"At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is already threatening human health and economies, it's clear that flood protection should be a priority investment for governments and other decision-makers," Kuzma said.
Along with traditional dikes and levees, researchers urged greater investment in "green infrastructure" such as mangroves, reefs and sand dunes, which can act as natural buffers to coastal storms.
"Protecting and restoring this natural infrastructure offers flood protection and other benefits like water filtration and reduced greenhouse gas emissions," Kuzma added.
Returns on flood control investments are strong, according to the analysis. It said every dollar spent on an ongoing project to upgrade dike infrastructure in Bangladesh, for example, will result in $123 in avoided damages to urban property.