Municipal-Level Climate Change Adaptation Framework for Stormwater

Finding a way to implement high-level climate change planning to everyday implementation at the municipal level is a multi-faceted and, at times, frustrating issue. Creating a framework to make these plans a reality has never been more important in light of the need for more resilient stormwater infrastructure.

Each time the United Nations (UN) conference of parties (COP) takes place, new plans for climate change, resilience and green house emission reductions strategies are developed and member countries make resolutions to offset or combat the effects of climate change. The agreed-upon policies become plans. For example, the policies could morph into stormwater master plans, resiliency plans and/or climate adaptation plans. Then, the appropriate municipal departments are tasked with implementation. The way in which these plans are implemented can vary significantly depending on the municipality and its departments.

This presentation will focus on a specific implementation framework case study: the guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to increase rainfall by 20% and the related design and modeling implications. First, a framework must be set up to address how future conveyance networks will be designed for the 10-year storm plus 20% while not creating downstream adverse impacts. For coastal communities, sea level rise must be factored in tailwater calculations. While it may be easy to outright declare that all conveyance networks and tailwater will comply with the recommendations provided at the national level, implementing, designing and modeling is far more complicated.

Secondly, the funding for such conveyance upgrades is one of the largest obstacles to timely and successful implementation. In many municipalities, existing systems that do not meet the future design standards require maintenance, while additional new conveyance and storage facilities are needed to combat the effects of more intense storms. Federal and state grants are a start but historically the funding provided has fallen short of expectations.

The framework needed to make progress on the implementation front must engage the managers at the municipal level so that actionable solutions can be developed. The feedback from municipal-level managers should impact high-level planners and vice versa. This framework has two-fold benefits: it makes implementation easier and has a higher probability of obtaining state and federal funding.