Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Rising groundwater may flood underground infrastructure of coastal cities

Lacey Johnson in Scientific American via ClimateWire: The pipes, sewers and basements that lie beneath the coastal city of New Haven, Conn., could be flooded by rising groundwater by the end of the century, according to a preliminary study from Yale University and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Much of the city's downtown is less than 30 feet above sea level, and advancing waters in the Atlantic could raise groundwater levels as much as 3 feet near the shoreline, the report said. This has the potential to "inundate underground infrastructure," flooding basements and submerging sewer pipes and utility lines that deliver water and electricity.

Groundwater damage will take a rising toll on property owners, and "utility bills will also rise to re-engineer utilities that were not designed to be installed completely aboveground," said Marcia McNutt, director of the Geological Survey.

If conditions are particularly wet in coming decades, as some regional climate models have predicted, New Haven's groundwater levels could rise even farther. A 12 percent increase in the rate of aquifer recharge from added precipitation, combined with a projected 3-foot rise in sea level by the end of the century, would raise groundwater levels in some parts of the city by an additional foot -- up to 4 feet higher than current levels....

Aerial view of New Haven, shot by Sage Ross, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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