HIGH WATER MARK DC is a public art project designed by Hackreative and funded by the DC Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which identifies the extent of historic and possible future flood events within DC's floodplain.
Markings on color-coded buoys indicate the actual height of previous flooding events, or the height of possible future flooding events.
Red buoys showcase historic floods, with markers indicating the top five record flood levels from the past 100 years (1920-2020).
The yellow buoy has a line indicating the projected 100-Year Floodplain—the level of flooding that has a 1% chance of occuring in any given year, based on calculations made in 2020.
The green buoy shows the height of the projected 500-Year Floodplain—the level of flooding that has a 0.2% chance of occuring in any given year, based on calculations made in 2020.
These events may seem improbable, but a flood in one year does not reduce the chances of another flood in the next year. A 100-Year Flood may occur more frequently than every 100 years.
In addition, due to climate change, the frequency and intensity of 100-year and 500-year storm events is likely to increase even further. The data used for the floodplains in this installation was based on data and climate change models (as of 2020) that incorporated estimates of future sea level rise, increased rainfall, and land subsidence, but each year that passes adds new data to the models.
Through its construction and operations, The Wharf has implemented multiple flood resilience strategies, including elevating the newly constructed areas above the floodplain, installing cisterns to capture and reuse rainwater, and maintaining green infrastructure to capture runoff. Learn more about The Wharf's resilient design features here.
The High Water Mark sculpture at The Wharf is one of three such markers in Washington, DC intended to help the residents across the District of Columbia understand the risk of flooding and to encourage them to become more resilient to future flooding.
Find your home's location on the DC map below; do you live within the flood plain?
What steps are you taking to minimize the impact of potential flooding?
Curry Hackett & Patrick McDonough are DC-based artists, designers, and educators. Together, they collaborate with municipal agencies and neighborhood stakeholders to create site-responsive and community-minded public art initiatives along the East Coast. This artwork was produced in partnership with the The Wharf DC and Department of Energy and Environment, supported in part by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Wharf began planning for resilience early in the master planning stage. That framework influenced important decisions throughout development, design, construction, and even now, continues to guide our operations.Learn More
At The Wharf, “community” has always had a larger meaning. The Wharf is built on the vision of creating a place that brings people together; a place that benefits its residents, neighbors, and visitors; a place that honors its past and welcomes its future—a place where DC meets to enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences at the waterfront.Learn More