The US Needs a New Approach to Invest in Resilient Infrastructure and Communities

By on January 3, 2019

From Brookings:  Another hurricane season might be over, but many communities still face a long path toward recovery. Beyond the enormous toll on individual households and businesses, overall costs have soared to billions of dollars during the immediate response. And that’s not even the scariest part: Disasters like Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael only represent a small taste of the expected rise in daily flooding and other chronic environmental threats we’re going to face in years to come.

Left unchecked, climate change promises to unleash higher costs for all of us. And the country is simply unprepared to plan and pay for the resilient infrastructure that can withstand and adapt to these growing climate pressures. Our stormwater infrastructure—the sewers, pipes, wetlands, and other natural systems that handle water runoff during storms—is especially vulnerable. The environmental toll of putting off needed repairs and upgrades to these systems is bad enough, but the economic costs are perhaps even more staggering, where we can no longer afford our current reactionary approach.

The U.S. needs a new approach to proactively invest in more resilient stormwater infrastructure, which must emphasize the environmental and economic returns of launching these investments.

In other words, as communities prepare for the next major storm, or even the next rainfall, they should prioritize stormwater upgrades that can better respond to flooding and other environmental shocks—including new green designs and technologies—and they should more intentionally connect these projects to the households and businesses served. Without greater visibility of the full costs of delayed investment and the full economic benefits from these projects, it will be difficult to gain community buy-in to improve our stormwater infrastructure in the long term. We need to rethink how and why we invest in stormwater projects, and that begins with a clearer accounting of both the physical assets and social assets as part of our future investments.

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About Dede Hance