Across the country, millions of dollars are spent every year repairing the damage caused by urban flooding – and it’s likely to keep getting worse. Heavy rain events are increasing, absorbent surfaces are lost to concrete and asphalt, and resource-strapped cities have fewer and fewer funds available for large stormwater infrastructure projects. Our latest report, A RainReady Nation, offers a suite of cost-effective solutions to keep homes and businesses dry.
The Center for Neighborhood Technology’s RainReady℠ initiative was born out of years of working with homeowners and communities to better understand urban flooding. Along with opening our eyes to the scope of urban flooding’s devastation, this work illuminated the incredible difficultly affected property owners face when trying to get help.
Of course, fighting forces of nature takes creative thinking and a multifaceted approach. In true CNT fashion, we’ve taken our solid technical expertise and extensive community engagement experience to build a first-of-it-kind program that provides resources and solutions to help individuals, neighborhoods, and municipalities take action against urban flooding. Drawing on lessons learned from analogous models in the energy and transportation sectors, RainReady solutions are designed to:
- Offer flood prevention and mitigation services to communities and individuals most in need
- Link actions at the property scale with broader community and municipal-level strategies
- Coordinate information, technology, finance, and private-sector contracting
- Stimulate consumer demand for improved, flood-resistant buildings
- Create useful, productive jobs for the low- and semi-skilled
- Enhance resiliency
Launched in the summer of 2014, the RainReady program seeks to assure homeowners that their investment in rain readiness will pay off. At the same time, it will bring financial returns to companies and industries – including insurance, real estate, and information services – interested in protecting current assets and developing markets for new goods and services.
RainReady uses innovative, relatively inexpensive flood prevention methods with the aim of upgrading homes, businesses, streets, and neighborhoods with landscaping, building, plumbing, interior design and technological improvements. There are three core components, highlighted in A RainReady Nation, being tested and designed as part of the program:
RainReady Home is a home upgrade, complete with a property assessment, construction oversight and upfront financing. Improvements can include downspout disconnection, re-grading, foundation crack sealing, porous paving, rain gardens, and backwater valves.
RainReady Communities: An extension of RainReady Home involves a community plan to assess the opportunities for property upgrades along with flood prevention measures that extend to streets, parkways, forest lands, and public spaces.
RainReady Alert: A real-time flood warning system for homeowners and communities built around a network of strategically placed micro-sensors in basements and other locations.
Innovations like these empower individuals and communities to take flood prevention into their own hands. Access to low-cost anti-flooding measures is especially critical for lower-income communities, which our research shows are often the hardest hit and can face significant financial barriers to investing in large-scale stormwater infrastructure.
CNT is testing and refining these RainReady programs in two Chicago-area communities, and throughout 2015 we will be expanding outreach to other cities across the country.