Support for InfrastructureUSA.org
has been provided by these organizations and individuals:

John Hennessy III,
P.E.

Reducing Climate Risks with Natural Infrastructure

Posted by Content Coordinator on Monday, April 21st, 2014

THE NATURE CONSERVANCY

Reducing Climate Risks with Natural InfrastructureOver the past two centuries, efforts to control flooding have transformed California’s natural landscape. Rivers have been dammed and constrained by levees, wetlands have been drained and shorelines have been fortified against erosion. These projects opened land to urban and agricultural development but at a huge and ongoing cost to fish, migratory birds and other wildlife throughout the state. Roughly 10 percent of California’s historic wetlands remain, nearly all major streams have been altered dramatically and more than 100 miles of the state’s coastline have been armored with rock and concrete.

Despite these measures—implemented at great expense—significant risks to people and property remain. Coastal erosion threatens homes from San Clemente to Santa Barbara to Pacifica. Along the shores of San Francisco Bay, at least $29 billion in property, including major business centers, is currently at risk from a 100-year flood.

Climate change is expected to drive a combination of extreme weather and sea level rise that will increase the risk of flooding in California. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading international body for the assessment of climate change, anticipates a significant increase in heavy precipitation events, translating to increased flood risk in many watersheds. The state Ocean Protection Council projects that sea level will rise five to 25 inches by 2050, and 17 to 66 inches by 2100.

Already, the state’s communities are considering how to respond to the growing risks. Much is at stake, as substantial resources likely will be devoted to protecting communities. For example, Louisiana recently adopted a $50 billion plan to prepare for rising sea levels and future storms.

As California considers how to adapt to a changing  climate, planners often focus on defensive infrastructure  with a negative habitat impact: bigger  levees, rock walls to protect coastlines or even giant  sea gates.

But California can follow a different path. With  natural or “green” infrastructure that leverages  natural processes to reduce risk to human lives, property and businesses, the state can build resilience  to the coming changes while restoring natural  habitats instead of degrading them.

“Green” or “natural” infrastructure can include a range of strategies. Some projects focus on preserving existing natural systems, while others are highly engineered, combining green techniques with more traditional “gray” approaches.

This report evaluates nine green infrastructure case studies in California. Each improves flood or coastal protection, provides habitat and preserves  or restores the natural dynamics between water and land. We review the available data on the costs and benefits of each case and, where possible, compare this information with the costs and benefits of a gray alternative at the same site.

Natural Infrastructure: Nine Cases, Multiple Approaches 

Download full version (PDF): Reducing Climate Risks with Natural Infrastructure

About the Nature Conservancy
www.nature.org
The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.

Tags: , ,

Comment

*

Receive Infra Update, our email newsletter.

Follow InfraUSA on Twitter Facebook YouTube Flickr
Show us your infra! Show us your infra!

Video, stills and tales. Share images of the Infra in your community that demands attention. Post your ideas about national Infra issues. Go ahead. Show Us Your Infra!  Upload and instantly share your message.

Polls Polls

Is the administration moving fast enough on Infra issues? Are Americans prepared to pay more taxes for repairs? Should job creation be the guiding determination? Vote now!

Views

What do the experts think? This is where the nation's public policy organizations, trade associations and think tanks weigh in with analysis on Infra issues. Tell them what you think.  Ask questions.  Share a different view.

Blog

The Infra Blog offers cutting edge perspective on a broad spectrum of Infra topics. Frequent updates and provocative posts highlight hot button topics -- essential ingredients of a national Infra dialogue.