Climate Change: How Will You Manage Water Resources

Communities worldwide are brainstorming strategies for dealing with increased water levels to preserve the integrity of infrastructure and public systems


What Happened?

Impacts of climate change include an anticipated rise in sea levels as well as prolonged drought conditions. Communities worldwide are brainstorming strategies for dealing with increased water levels to preserve the integrity of infrastructure and public systems.

Boston

The Boston Living with Water initiative is calling for design solutions to make the city more resilient and sustainable when changing climate conditions increase sea levels. The Boston Harbor Association, city of Boston, Boston Redevelopment Authority and Boston Society of Architects are bringing urban planners, designers and innovators from all over the world to develop and test new concepts for managing and leveraging an evolved coastal environment. Winners of the design competition have a chance to put their ideas into action along the Boston coast line.

The design competition aims to meet three goals with the innovative ideas:

  • Design for resilience: Solutions must be flexible for changes to the physical environment
  • Create double-duty solutions: Solutions must protect the community from the physical environment while simultaneously providing economic, ecological and cultural benefits
  • Strengthen community resilience: Solutions must play a role in maintaining the community’s cultural identity

The Boston Living with Water project is challenging developers to come up with solutions to handle the impacts of climate change at three specifics sites based on their location and vulnerability. Each site has its own unique challenges and potential goals that should be addressed with the redevelopment concepts.

Living with Water

The Boston Living with Water competition is based on the Living with Water strategies first piloted in Europe. The design project awarded 750 million euros to 1,400 projects in 25 European countries focused on preserving water supplies for industrial, residential and environmental purposes. The projects ranged from upgrading the leather industry to smart drain technology to wastewater management innovation.

Salt Lake City

In Salt Lake City, Utah, local officials are developing new ways to deliver water to residents in light of prolonged drought conditions. Salt Lake City relies on the snowpack left in the surrounding mountains at the end of winter for local water supplies, and the local water infrastructure has been built around the snowpack, Think Progress reported.

The National Resources Conservation Center reported Salt Lake City’s snowpack is 69 percent of the 30-year average thanks in part to an average 5 degree increase in temperature in northern Utah in the second half of 2014. The region has experienced more rainfall instead of snowfall, which directly impacts water supply levels. With Utah being the second most arid state in the country, water sources are limited, Think Progress reported.

To address the water supply issue, Salt Lake City has launched several conservation strategies such as structuring water bills so high usage costs customers more. Officials also launched an online tool to help guide homeowners toward more sustainable landscaping practices that require less water to maintain, Think Progress reported.

The water shortage in Salt Lake City is one of several instances nationwide. The Government Accountability Office reported 40 states expect to experience water shortages in the next 10 years. Other states including California have already indicated significant declines in snowpack levels as well.

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