Heat Series: How to Stop the Increased Flooding in Coastal Cities
Approximately ten percent of the world’s population lives within 32 feet of sea level, and while a large percentage lives at higher elevations, most still live close to coastlines. As temperatures rise, scientists have noted an increase in coastal flooding, which presents a safety hazard to the population of coastal cities, businesses, and profit.
Studies have revealed that the rate of sea-level rise has increased substantially in the last 2,800 years. In fact, sea levels have risen almost 3 inches in the last twenty years.
Looking forward, scientists note that an increase in temperature coordinates with a rise in sea level. The projection is that by 2050, the global sea level will have risen between 1.7 and 3.2 feet. The rising seas will mean storm surges as well as risking real estate, roads, farmland, reservoirs, mass transit systems, and so much more. Cities will have to adapt or disappear.
While some cities are able to just change building plans to respond to rising sea levels, island cities face certain annihilation if sea-level projections are true. Island nations, including the Maldives, the Marshall Islands, and more, need to figure out a plan to protect their people. And in some cases, they’re looking beyond their own borders to neighboring countries. If the island nations can’t figure out a way to elevate or reclaim their land, their islands will become like Atlantis — sunken and below sea level.
With the sea level rise, sunny day flooding is more prominent than ever. The seawater clogs stormwater systems and spills into the streets. Being tracked as “high-tide flood days” in coastal cities, researchers and scientists are trying to determine the trends to help strategize for the future.
Since all cities are affected differently, urban planners and local officials have a unique problem to solve for coastal communities. Cities can respond to high-tide flooding by upgrading storm drains, building floodwalls, raising roads, adapting sewers, designing valves for ocean water control, and installing pumps for low-lying areas. Preventative measures may cost more on the onset but will save money during high-tide flooding.
Property Value Affected by Sea Level Rise
s the sea level rises, coastal properties are being sunk. Communities affected by high tide flooding are losing value because people are unwilling to pay top dollar for homes with gorgeous views but with the risk of flooding. With the need for preventative high-tide flooding measures, the property tax base used to care for communities is being prioritized to repairing and planning better infrastructure for the high-tide flooding.
A study released by First Street Foundation estimated that property value loss due to coastal flooding was nearly $16 billion between the years of 2005 and 2017 for 17 states. States such as Florida, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina saw more than $1 billion in losses.
To prepare for high-tide flooding, cities and governmental agencies need to take certain steps to manage risk and prepare for the future.
4 Steps to Stop Increased Flooding in Coastal Cities
Cities at the forefront of fighting coastal flooding do so out of necessity. Most of them have a history of flooding, property loss, and damage. They have no choice but to step up and discover solutions. To do so, they’ve discovered four different areas with which to rise to the challenge of adapting to flooding, including engineering projects, environmental approaches, urban design, and awareness education.
1. Engineering Projects
Cities and governments are learning from each other to create a number of engineering systems for protecting the city structures, communities, and people from the sea level rise. For example, newly threatened cities are turning to countries like the Netherlands that have fought off the ocean for years.
Rotterdam, specifically, has perfected the art of living under the sea level while being coastal. As early as the 13th century, this city erected a 400-meter dam to keep waters at bay while also directing drainage. Throughout the following years, new canals and barriers have been built and replaced. For Rotterdam, climate change presents a challenge for resilience, adaptation, and innovation.
2. Environmental Approaches
Another way that cities and governments are looking to promote improvements to handle climate change is through environmental approaches and solutions. This can look like restoring mangroves and wetlands or finding ways to incorporate more plant life into urban settings.
For China, that has meant creating a sponge city initiative, which basically means that city authorities are looking for ways to collect stormwater to then use during planting season. Different cities have different requirements, and some cities look to be able to absorb 70-80% of stormwater. This unique environmental approach could make a huge difference for growing cities.
3. Urban Design
Another way that cities can adapt and prepare for climate change is to prioritize sustainability, energy efficiency, and more in urban design of cities. This means building resilience right into city structures and planning. This type of focus is so important for setting a foundation for the future.
New Orleans has taken great strides in establishing its Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System. Its series of dam barriers, floodwalls, and reinforced levees stretch about 450 miles around the city. And beyond that, New Orleans designed and developed a living water system of parks and wetlands that reduce the city’s reliance on pumping and canals. As one of the largest public works projects in the United States, it’s set the precedent for other cities.
4. Education and Awareness
This ongoing problem of climate change and sea level rise requires not only that the government agencies take action on behalf of the populace, but that communities be made aware of this problem as well. Awareness will encourage everyday people to raise the alarm and start the conversation for solutions.
Some of the best ways for communities to be made aware of the effects of global warming is publicizing research and study data. This can be done through different avenues, whether social media, online sources, or news reports. People need to know.
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