In a recently issued report, Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action, the EPA finds that a global effort to tackle climate change would prevent billions of dollars in damages to U.S. infrastructure, including water infrastructure. The report looks at the effects of climate change on several types of infrastructure, including urban drainage systems. It cites the compelling evidence accumulated over the last decade of infrastructure’s extreme vulnerability to climate change effects, including sea level rise, storm surge, and extreme weather events, and concludes that an international push to limit warming to 2 degrees above industrial levels would avoid billions in costs related to urban drainage in 50 U.S. cities.
The report explains that urban drainage systems, which capture and treat stormwater runoff and prevent urban flooding, are highly susceptible to damage from climate change-related storm events. Changes in storm intensity associated with climate change have the potential to overburden drainage systems, leading to flood damage, disruptions to local transportation systems, discharges of untreated sewage to waterways, and increased human health risks. Climate change, the report states, is projected to result in huge “adaptation” costs for urban drainage systems in cities across the U.S., particularly in the Great Plains region. Without global intervention, the EPA predicts that those costs will range from $1.1 billion to $12 billion by 2100. Even with global action recommended by the EPA, these costs are expected to be tremendous.
This report makes it clear that climate change will put enormous added stress on our nation’s already aging and crippled water infrastructure. Sea level rise and storm surge are already overburdening our cities’ old pipes and water mains, and as the EPA report points out, floods along our nation’s rivers, inside cities, and on lakes following heavy downpours are doing the same. The threat of climate change is therefore one more compelling reason why the need for federal funding dedicated to strengthening our water infrastructure has never been greater, and the price of ignoring that need has never been higher.
Click here to see the full EPA report.