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Results BriefsDecember 19, 2023

Flood Risk Management in Argentina: An evolutionary road to an integrated approach

car in flooded street of Buenos Aires


Heavy rain in the City of Buenos Aires.

Banco Mundial

Over three decades, the World Bank has supported Argentina in implementing successful and effective flood risk management projects, improving infrastructure, reducing vulnerability, and balancing green (nature-based) and gray (traditional infrastructure) solutions. Today, people are learning to live with water instead of fighting against it. Since 1992, World Bank projects in Argentina have enhanced flood protection for over 6 million people.

Across multiple decades of work, the World Bank has collected the stories of people who benefited from multiple projects to address flooding in Argentina. These stories are featured in the video “Flooding in Argentina - 20 years of work.”

“Now we’re doing much better, it was horrible there, it was like living on the coast on our street, we didn’t have anything, and we were right on top of the drainage canal. It was dangerous, especially on rainy days when [it was all flooded] … now, we are doing much better because we can use more spaces, before we had to stay in our houses, here now [the children] have a soccer field and they have fun, they play…”

-Ramona Lopez, benefited from the Urban Flood and Drainage Project

“Now we have the chance to take courses on what to do during extreme events, we can improve our skills and so on. Now we see improvement, and the people [in the neighborhood] are getting more involved. I think it is important to be a neighborhood first responder so that we can evacuate during an emergency.”

-Yolanda Meza (Resident and first responder in Barrio Cildáñez, Buenos Aires, benefited from the Flood Risk Management Support Project for the City of Buenos Aires

6 million

World Bank projects in Argentina have enhanced flood protection for over 6 million people.


Flooding is Argentina’s most recurrent climate hazard, posing a significant development challenge with extensive environmental and socio-economic impacts. The floods of the 1991-92 El Niño Southern Oscilation event generated $905 million in economic losses across the country (especially in cities along the banks of the Paraná River, and in the northern provinces). This shock catalyzed the development of a long-term strategy to reduce risks and mitigate the effect of floods in Argentina through structural and non-structural measures.

Argentina predominantly relies on traditional gray infrastructure (such as lined drainage canals and concrete defenses) to reduce the probability of floods. Implementation efforts typically focus on the municipal level, neglecting upstream-downstream coordination for comprehensive flood risk mitigation. There is a lack of integrated basin management plans that consider aspects such as hydrological risk zones and water service expansion. Policies have focused mainly on reducing exposure to hazards and less on how thorough spatial planning can reduce risks and how to make communities less vulnerable.

Despite the progress achieved since the 1990s, to date about 28 percent of Argentines still live in flood-prone areas. Floods threaten to push many people affected by flood risks into poverty, as a significant portion of these people hailed from vulnerable social groups. The World Bank carried out a Water Security Diagnostic for the country, encompassing comprehensive data on flood risk, its impacts, mitigation, and adaptation opportunities. The World Bank uses the results to engage with clients, reinforcing the importance to reduce flood risks and advocating innovative approaches in project implementation.


The World Bank’s approach in supporting flood risk management in Argentina has shifted significantly since the 1980s. From a reactive strategy focusing mainly on rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure, the approach slowly moved toward prevention, developing gray infrastructure (particularly defenses), and relocating communities to protect vulnerable populations (prompted by major floods in the 1980s that devastated urban centers along the rivers of the Rio de La Plata Basin).

More recently, a more comprehensive approach has begun to place climate adaptation and resilience at the strategy’s core. This new approach is exploring opportunities to include green infrastructure and nature-based solutions (NBS), harnessing natural processes and ecosystem services to enhance water retention and reduce peak flows, through approaches such as making room for the river, wetlands, linear parks, rain gardens, and green roofs. Projects financed through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loans have supported the development of technical tools and analysis at the river basin level to enable holistic management across major basins in Argentina. These measures were set out to strengthen policy, institutional, and regulatory capacities to efficiently manage flood risks, and to reduce the vulnerability of communities through flood early warning systems and support programs targeting specific groups (including women, to reduce gender gaps).

By the early 2020s, World Bank projects in Argentina promoted further innovations in an integrated approach: combining gray and green infrastructure while building government capacities for effective flood risk management. This approach holds promise for reducing flood impacts, lowering investment costs, and offering multifaceted benefits, shifting the paradigm from viewing water as a risk and nuisance to living with water and recognizing its economic, social, and environmental value when properly managed.


In the last four decades, Argentina has made substantial progress in addressing post-flood challenges. Around 3.2 million people benefited from works carried out under the Flood Rehabilitation, Flood Protection and El Niño Emergency Flood Projects (between 1992 – 2006). Those projects focused on reconstructing and rehabilitating key infrastructure, relocating the lowest-income population to areas with reduced flood risks, and strengthening flood defenses to protect the economically significant northwestern and littoral provinces of the Paraná basin.

Flood mitigation efforts have supported the construction of reinforced flood defense systems, and enhanced drainage networks. Notable examples include the construction of drainage systems in the metropolitan areas of Resistencia and Gobernador Virasoro through the Urban Flood Prevention and Drainage Project, which included works to increase drainage capacity in the Cildáñez, Maldonado, and Vega basins, and benefited around 3 million people, and urban drainage interventions to protect 40,000 beneficiaries in the municipality of Yerba Buena by 2014.

Argentina has also enhanced flood preparedness, emphasizing management and non-structural measures. The World Bank has assisted Argentina to develop and update existing flood risk management strategies and drainage master plans across the country, through the Early Warning System under the Flood Risk Management Support Project for the city of Buenos Aires. This project focused especially on developing a new water strategy for the city, with just over 3 million direct beneficiaries, and reduced by June 2023, flood risks for close to 47,000 people in vulnerable communities. This strategy included several communication and education activities, such as the training of public primary and secondary school teachers and development of educational materials on related topics, the installation of the Experiential Center, a space for communication, education, and citizen engagement, and collecting gender-disaggregated data on flood impacts and roles.

Argentina has also integrated flood risk prevention into management plans and land use planning for Santa Fe, Chaco, Corrientes, and Entre Rios Provinces (under the Urban Flood Prevention and Drainage Project), directly benefiting an estimated 3.5 million people through decreased exposure to flood risk, and benefiting about 6 million people indirectly through decreased economic disruptions, among others.

Bank Group Contribution

Since 1992, the World Bank has provided over $2 billion in IBRD financing across nine projects to address flooding in Argentina.


Flood-related interventions have mostly been implemented by national and local authorities, including the Ministry of Public Works at national level, as well as the provinces of Buenos Aires, Chaco, Corrientes, and Santa Fe, and the city of Buenos Aires.

The city government of Buenos Aires has partnered with the city government of Copenhagen to enhance urban water management. The C40 Cities program provided additional support to improve urban resilience. Complementary actions for capacity building and innovative interventions (such as NBS) are supported by the World Bank-based Global Water and Sanitation Partnership and Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, and the government of Japan. Officials from Argentina undertook study tours to Tokyo and the Netherlands, financed by the respective governments.

Looking Ahead

As of 2023, the City of Buenos Aires is embracing a progressive water management strategy, adapting to climate change by optimizing the water’s value added in the city's economic, social, and environmental development. This approach is being gradually implemented through the introduction of green infrastructure to the city, integrating water into the city’s vision of integrated urban development. The Flood Risk Management Support Project for the City of Buenos Aires has aided this transformation by supporting the implementation of NBS, like the construction of a temporary retention area (reservoir) in the Indo-American Park, an urban wetland that helps regulate water levels in the Arroyo Cildañez during high intensity rainfall events. This intervention includes a 1.5-kilometer educational trail to help raise awareness of the importance of preserving green spaces within urban areas. Urban furniture has increased value added for leisure, and the area has become a hotspot for bird watching activities.

These innovative approaches are being scaled-up up across the country: under the framework of the Climate Resilient Infrastructure for Urban Flood Risk Management, the World Bank aims to promote the incorporation of green solutions to complement gray infrastructure for flood risk mitigation in urban areas. Interventions under this project include the creation of a linear park, upgrades of drainage canals, rain gardens and green corridors to increase water retention and manage peak flow reduction in different cities in the north of Argentina. The learning agenda of the Multi-phased Programmatic Approach (MPA) allows for the preparation of innovative projects and implementation of best practices during the subsequent phases in other regions of the country. Moreover, these intended innovative approaches supporting green and inclusive growth are linked to the World Bank strategy on climate: building a “Livable Planet” by promoting sustainable development, protecting vulnerable populations, and mitigating the impact of climate change in the region.