Experts warn that the sanitation system improvements planned by some cities are “already outdated”, writes Diana Kruzman for Grist. “The designs are based on decades-old precipitation estimates that do not reflect current – let alone future – climate risks.”
“As of 2004, more than 700 communities across the United States had combined sewer systems, where sewage and stormwater flow through the same pipes.” But plans drawn up by cities to upgrade systems will not withstand future heavy rains. “In the decades since the city plans were approved, storms in the Midwest have become more frequent and intense. Total annual precipitation in the Great Lakes region has increased by 14%, according to research by scientists from the University of Michigan and the amount of precipitation from the most severe storms increased by 35%.
The article details the City of Cleveland’s Clean Lake Project, an initiative to overhaul the city’s water system that began in 1994 and continues to build on data from the 1990s. “Despite these changes , [program manager for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Doug] Lopata said the sewer district does not plan to change the structure or design of the Clean Lake project, which aims to capture 98% of the water that would otherwise result in sewage overflows.”
“Without significant federal assistance, the costs of sewage-related flood management are passed on to ratepayers, many of whom cannot afford to pay higher water bills in the first place. The Price of Water in cities like Cleveland and Chicago has more than doubled over the past decade, according to an APM Reports survey.” Meanwhile, low-income communities are most at risk from outdated and unsafe infrastructure.