Adjustments in suburbs to changing water and flooding conditions

As some sprawling areas of the country deal with drought and limited water, others will be adjusting to changing rainfall and flooding patterns and considering a new Illinois State Water Plan.

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Cattoor said the plan will not impose regulations on local municipalities but will instead provide programs and data that communities could benefit from…

The recommendation for this issue is to provide localized information to the public on anticipated changes in storm intensity and frequency. According to the document, this is particularly important in communities with combined storm sewer drainage systems, which carry sewage and stormwater runoff in the same piping system.

In Des Plaines, planning is critical to mitigate and reduce floods from large rainstorms that result in the Des Plaines River overflowing its banks.

Floods in 2008 and 2013 caused widespread damage to the city’s Big Bend Drive neighborhood, prompting the demolition of nearly 90 structures to permanently remove them from the floodplain. Most recently, a heavy rainstorm in 2020 left many of the city’s streets underwater…

Duddles said the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District requires that municipalities use an Illinois State Water Survey document referred to as “Bulletin 75” as a source of precipitation frequency data for stormwater infrastructure projects such as detention ponds.

It sounds like this can be helpful for future planning. For those pursuing new development, updated guidance on water and flooding could help limit future issues.

At the same time, work will be needed to adjust existing infrastructure. This is a harder task. In the example cited above, floods led to removing homes. In many suburbs, old systems may not work well as conditions change. Or, new conditions mean that systems that were already taxed or not working well may need severe overhauls.

Where will the resources come from to undertake such projects? Significant pipe, sewer, and water projects are not cheap. Aging infrastructure is a problem in numerous suburbs where the spurt of rapid development decades before leads to routine and unexpected maintenance and replacement.

This all means it could be decades before significant changes occur in suburbs regarding water and flooding. Yet, starting now in communities is better than waiting to address issues.

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