Last Updated: January 9, 2023

Insured Flood Losses More Than Doubled in The Last 10 Years 

According to a new Swiss Re Institute report, insured flood losses doubled to $80 million between 2011 and 2020. Global flood losses reached $20 billion in 2021 alone.  

As per the Swiss Re Institute, the primary driver of rising flood losses has been economic growth, larger populations, and urbanization for many years. At the same time, rainfall and climate change have emerged as key drivers in the last decade.  

According to the report, total flood losses between 2011 and 2021 were $99 billion. However, only 18% of global economic losses from flood events were insured. Previously, floods were challenging to insure. But better-quality data, sophisticated risk mapping, and more advanced modeling have enabled more accurate pricing for flood risk. Thus, opening up opportunities for the private sector in flood insurance.  

The report also found that climate change is causing more frequent and extreme weather events. The Swiss Re Institute states that nearly 40% of the US population lives in coastal counties, and 10% lives in flood plains. The states of Arizona and North Dakota have the most significant populations living in the combined flood plain. While flooding is more likely in areas with soil sealing due to intense urbanization and rising temperatures, only 4% of households have flood insurance.  

The National Flood Insurance Program provides most residential flood loss coverage in the United States. The requirement that flood insurance needs purchasing via federally backed mortgages for households in flood plains is a significant driver of take-up rates.  

Private insurers’ appetite for flood risk has grown due to advances in modeling and flood-mitigation structures, with an annual 20.5% growth rate in direct flood premiums written since 2016, compared to a 1.8% growth rate in federal flood premiums, according to the report.  

According to the report, the private market is still smaller and more commercially focused than the NFIP, with premiums of around $2 billion last year compared to $4.7 billion for the federal program. However, the Swiss Re Institute stated that the private market has “huge potential,” with an estimated value of $37 billion to $47 billion as the industry invests more in modeling and data quality. 

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