Demo: Evaluating Flood Risk in Champaign County, Illinois

Learn how Acres can help you conduct water diligence on a property.

What You'll Learn

In this article, we explore how Acres can help investigate flood risk on farmland. Using a farm in Champaign County, Illinois as an example, we examine potential impacts on crop production related to a neighboring waterway. Through the flood layer, elevation, and vegetation index layer, we identify high-risk areas, assess water movement and drainage, and evaluate historical impacts on crop health. We also discuss important questions to ask when considering a property purchase. Discover how Acres' tools enable informed decision-making about flood risks and opportunities on farmland.

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Hosted by Hank Still

Hank is the Sales Development Representative for Acres and has a strong background in farming, research, education, sales, and finance. Combining his expertise as a farmer and researcher, Hank has conducted extensive research projects and implemented innovative techniques to enhance productivity and sustainability in farming practices. His experience includes successfully running Stephen F. Austin State University Ag research, where he shared his knowledge with students and fellow professionals, promoting a culture of continuous learning and development. He also has extensive experience underwriting and buying farmland, enabling him to evaluate properties and make informed decisions.


0:00 - Here’s how Acres can help you investigate flood risk on a piece of farmland. 

0:04 - I'm currently researching this farm in Champaign County, Illinois, and I'm trying to understand potential impacts on crop production related to the waterway that borders the property to the north. 

0:15 - Starting with the flood layer, we can see there are some areas on the southwestern side as well as along the northern side of the parcel that are at higher risk of flooding. 

0:25 - Next, I can use the elevation layer to understand where and how water moves on the farm. We find there’s an elevation difference of about six feet across the property, sloping down from the southwest to the northeast. This is good because it suggests that excess water will gradually make its way toward this waterway and be drained off the property.

0:45 - For a better picture of how this farm sits within the larger landscape, I’m going to use the Add Shape tool to draw a bigger box around it. Try to keep custom acres under 5000 for the best experience. We can see that, in the event of floods or heavy rains, lots of water from the south is likely to be moving directly across the property to this waterway and out to the northwest. This could pose a potential problem, but it’s one that the right infrastructure, such as drainage tiling, could help mitigate.

1:24 - Now that I have an understanding of how water moves across the farm, I want to determine whether there has been a historical impact on crop health. I can investigate this using the NDVI layer, or Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. NDVI indicates plant health based on light wave reflections and provides insight into potential problem areas. The image from 2021 shows some darker red spots along the northern part of this property by the waterway, as well as in the center, the far western side, and the southern side.

1:54 - If we cross reference this with the flood layer, we see that all those problem areas are within the flood zone.

2:02 - From this research, I’ve determined a few questions I need to ask the tenant or landowner if I’m considering purchasing the property. First, I need to find out more specifics about how this farm operated in the year 2021, and I know I need to inquire about any extreme weather during the growing season. I also need to further investigate the potential for drainage infrastructure on the farm, including whether drainage work has been conducted in the past year.

2:28 - Next time you're researching property on Acres, try utilizing these tools to ask informed questions about a property's potential risks and opportunities.