Suburbs are often derided for their sprawling development that chew up acres of land and significantly alters more rural settings. Within that sprawl, one problem that consistently shows up but receives less attention than it should is flooding. For example, the significant rain received in parts of the Chicago region this past Wednesday (July 12) has impacted a number of suburbs:
While some suburban communities Saturday saw water levels begin to recede in the wake of Wednesday’s downpour, others still are bracing for the worst of the fallout from flood-ravaged rivers experts expect will crest later today into next week.
In Algonquin, the Fox River reached 11.79 feet by noon Saturday, with the National Weather Service predicting it will crest nearly a foot higher, at 12.9 feet, sometime Tuesday.
As of noon Saturday, The National Weather Service reported the Des Plaines River near Gurnee had reached a record-setting 11.96 feet and was expected to crest at about 12 feet sometime in the next 24 hours. In Lincolnshire, the level had dropped to 15.5 feet, but official predictions indicate the river may rise again to crest at 16.3 feet sometime Sunday.
While Wednesday’s rain was unusual (and we could argue about how frequently such big storms do and should occur), the results highlight a common issue across suburban landscapes: what happens to all that water? Suburbs don’t just change rural or farm land into developments; they change how water flows and is absorbed into the soil.
A variety of techniques are available to deal with the water. Common in this area are retention ponds, sunken areas within developments that are often dry but serve as places where water can pool when excessive rainfall occurs. In the Chicago area, the need to deal with flooding led to one of the largest civil engineering projects in the world: Deep Tunnel. Floodplains are fairly visible during heavy rains as homes and other structures near large bodies of water, particularly rivers, are affected. Less easy to see are formerly swampy or marshy land which have been filled in, the channeling of creeks and rivers (or even covering them up completely), and covering the ground with less permeable surfaces such as roads and driveways (this can be combated by using different kinds of surfaces).
Instead of viewing flooding within major metropolitan regions as the unfortunate result of large storms, we should see it as a regular issue within suburban settings. And if we do so, that might prompt better plans to avoid the flooding that comes when so much land is altered.
8 thoughts on “Flooding as a major suburban problem”
Pingback: Forests, McMansions, and using land | Legally Sociable
Pingback: “People care about flooding…they don’t care about stormwater management” | Legally Sociable
Pingback: Replace Houston McMansions and sprawl with what? | Legally Sociable
Pingback: Could you build a hurricane, tornado, flooding, blizzard resistant McMansion? | Legally Sociable
Pingback: Almost all suburban residents’ concerns about redevelopment expressed in one meeting | Legally Sociable
Pingback: Why Americans love suburbs #7: closer to nature | Legally Sociable
Pingback: Extreme cold leaves parting gift: potholes | Legally Sociable
Pingback: McMansions lead to water runoff damage in Kirkwood, Missouri | Legally Sociable