Press Releases

Muthukumar Narayanaswamy, Ph.D., joins The Water Institute as Director of Coastal and Compound Flood Risk

Sep 18, 2023

BATON ROUGE, La. (Sept. 18, 2023) – The Water Institute welcomes Muthukumar “Muthu” Narayanaswamy, Ph.D., as the new Director of Coastal and Compound Flood Risk.

Narayanaswamy brings years of experience to The Water Institute with focuses on quantification of flood risk including compounding impacts of coastal surge, rain and sea level rise and coastal resilience and mitigation alternatives to support coastal and inland communities.

“It’s important primarily because trying to address impacts of flooding is the single biggest challenge we’ll be facing globally, at least in my lifetime,” he said. “To this day, hazards including flooding, have been looked at individually, however there is recognition that when you have, say a hurricane that brings in heavy rainfall, you need to consider not only storm surge, but how the rivers flowing into that coastal areas will back up and compound the flooding impacts.”

Narayanaswamy’s background is in ocean and coastal engineering with expertise in complex projects related to coastal flood risk due to extreme weather events, port development megaprojects, modeling and analysis, structural analysis of offshore structures and wave impacts on infrastructure.

“We could not be more excited to have Muthu on board,” said Alyssa Dausman, senior vice president and chief scientist at The Water Institute. “For coastal communities to safely live with water, addressing flood risks with the best available science and data is why we started the Coastal and Compound Flood Risk Department. Dr. Muthu Narayanaswamy is an amazing scientist and leader in this space, he’s a fantastic addition to the Institute and the perfect person to lead the department.”

Prior to joining The Water Institute, Narayanaswamy was the Director of Modeling and Data Solutions at Michael Baker International where he worked on numerous flood risk and mitigation design projects for federal and state clients including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Naval Facilities Engineering System Command and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

It was while working on developing resilient design criteria for coastal bridges that Narayanaswamy started getting interested in the impacts compound flooding could have on infrastructure and communities. These design efforts typically use riverine models without structured consideration of high tides or storm surge. This interest in compounding impacts also led him to work on the Louisiana Watershed Initiative, which is considering impacts of compound flooding on a regional basis.

“All of this science is driven by societal need. With the increase in the frequency of flooding disasters, there is a real interest and need for advancement in understanding and quantifying compounding effects,” Narayanaswamy said.

Narayanaswamy serves on the National Institute of Building Sciences’ Scientific Resolution Panel, an independent group of experts called upon to review challenges to the accuracy of FEMA's flood analysis and mapping. He is also serving on the ASCE Coastal Engineering Sciences Committee.

He received his bachelor’s degree in ocean engineering and naval architecture from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur and his master’s and Ph.D. in civil (coastal) engineering from John Hopkins University. He lives in Virginia with his wife Deepa and their twin 7-year-old sons.