Talk by Suzanne Shields, Director Emerita, Pima County Flood Control District: History of flood control in Pima County

Topic: Hydrology-Flood Prediction

Suzanne Shields


noon to 1 p.m., Sept. 27, 2023
Seminar Format

Available in-person and via Zoom webinar. Contact the department to subscribe to the email list (zoom link provided in announcement).


In 1978, Arizona established county flood control districts after three state-wide flood disasters occurred. The National Flood Insurance Program had been created in 1968, and FEMA was starting to develop floodplain management strategies and flood risk mapping. Then, in 1983, Pima County experienced devastating flooding from Hurricane Octavia. As Pima County experienced floods and fires, the Flood Control District has developed new policies and technical tools for flood warning, flood risk mapping and floodplain management. Flood control strategies are not limited to structural improvements, but now include stormwater harvesting, erosion control and riparian habitat protection. My presentation looks at how Pima County Flood Control District has evolved and adapted and what may be future challenges.


Suzanne Shields is the director emerita of Pima County Regional Flood Control District. She is also HAS Advisory Board member since 2020. Suzanne Shields earned both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Hydrology from the University of Arizona. She is a registered professional civil engineer in Arizona. After the State of Arizona established county flood control districts in 1978, Pima County hired Suzanne as their first hydrologist to assist in developing the Pima County Flood Control District. As a result of the 1983 flood, Suzanne saw this as an opportunity to rebuild the flood-ravaged community by implementing bank protections to reduce the effects of lateral erosion and expanding the study of sediment transport as an essential design component.

Suzanne’s professional career includes over 40 years of floodplain management, holistic watershed management planning, flood control infrastructure design, and riparian habitat protection and restoration. Suzanne’s efforts have enhanced property values, have improved groundwater recharge rates, and provided the foundation for tremendous public amenities such as the Kino Environmental Restoration Project and The Chuck Huckelberry Loop. Through Suzanne’s passion and leadership, Pima County Flood Control District is now one of the premiere flood control agencies in the nation.

Suzanne Shields, HAS Advisory Board Member: [Pima County Regional Flood Control District]


Martha Whitaker, Host