Rain Water: The First Assault on Coastal Suburbia by Sea Level Rise

Last year, western Palm Beach Florida had a 1000 year rain event with some places receiving 17 inches of rain in 24 hours.  In the suburban developments, the parking lots filled with water for at least 2 days before the storm water system of pipes and canals could empty the water.  Many cars were ruined as the water rose into the engines.  Some people had water come through the front door.

The combination of street curbs with roadways lower than the land and parking lots designed to send the water to the center would require unknown amount of dollars to keep the water on site, instead of into the pipes and canals for thousands and thousands of square miles.   In addition, 95% of buildings are have a concrete slab on grade resulting only 12 inch difference or less between parking lot and a kitchen floor.

As Sea Level Rise starts to effect the water level in the canals of SE Florida, the whole system of rain water piping will start to back up into the cars and homes.

Weiss Parking Lot, 2014

1000 Year Rain Event, Weiss Parking Lot, 2014

New Orleans developed some great documents in 2013.  Here are the reports.  “Spurred by the tragedies of 2005, planners, designers, and engineers working on the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan and related projects have started to shift the regional paradigm from fighting water with pipes and pumps to a more sustainable and resilient approach in which we reshape the urban environment to reduce flooding by safely storing stormwater in green spaces, balancing groundwater levels, and enhancing local ecosystems. ”


Canal Report


Roadways Report


Parking Lot Report

5 responses to “Rain Water: The First Assault on Coastal Suburbia by Sea Level Rise

  1. I’m especially impressed by the “Weiss Parking Lot,” Glenn. From the photo, it seems your transportation needs might be best met by a small boat. Are there efforts in south Florida to take an approach more like the New Orleans ones you mention?


  2. Only the beach towns are looking at the problem with solutions of pumps and sand dunes. The other problem is just too big to even start solving.


  3. Recently Delray Beach and the State DOT reduced the lanes on US1 with planting beds. All are surrounded by curbs. No way for the rain water from the street to use the land.

    BUT – TODAY any new development is required to store all rain water on the site including the parking lots and roads.


    • Keeping and storing rain water on site makes sense to me. Reminds me of time I spent in Alaska in the winter and learned that, at least where I was, everyone was required to keep whatever snow fell on their property until it melted.


  4. I wonder which states, counties or cities require retention of rain water on the site? I try to find out. When you look it up in Google, you get stories about how to do it to water plants. Not stormwater control.


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