Simulated climate adaptation in storm-water systems: Evaluating the efficiency of within-system flexibility
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Simulated climate adaptation in storm-water systems: Evaluating the efficiency of within-system flexibility

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    Climate Risk Management 19 (23-34), 2018
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    Changes in regional temperature and precipitation patterns resulting from global climate change may adversely affect the performance of long-lived infrastructure. Adaptation may be necessary to ensure that infrastructure offers consistent service and remains cost effective. But long service times and deep uncertainty associated with future climate projections make adaptation decisions especially challenging for managers. Incorporating flexibility into systems can increase their effectiveness across different climate futures but can also add significant costs. In this paper we review existing work on flexibility in climate change adaptation of infrastructure, such as robust decision-making and dynamic adaptive pathways, apply a basic typology of flexibility, and test alternative strategies for flexibility in distributed infrastructure systems comprised of multiple emplacements of a common, long-lived element: roadway culverts. Rather than treating a system of dispersed infrastructure elements as monolithic, we simulate “options flexibility” in which inherent differences in individual elements is incorporated into adaptation decisions. We use a virtual testbed of highway drainage crossing structures to examine the performance under different climate scenarios of policies that allow for multiple adaptation strategies with varying timing based on individual emplacement characteristics. Results indicate that a strategy with options flexibility informed by crossing characteristics offers a more efficient method of adaptation than do monolithic policies. In some cases this results in more cost-effective adaptation for agencies building long-lived, climate-sensitive infrastructure, even where detailed system data and analytical capacity is limited.
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