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Study Predicts Dangerous Water Issues

Dan Warner
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) - While Missouri’s current weather and the related disasters seem bad, things may only get worse from here.
A study released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says the St. Louis region is facing a rising tide of water-related problems in the coming years, and is not doing enough to prepare.
The “Thirsty for Answers” study suggests that St. Louis will experience increased annual precipitation and ever-worsening storms in the 21st century, which are likely to cause more flooding. The report focuses on 12 U.S. cities, and points to weather patterns over the last century, saying that those trends are likely to continue.
NRDC Attorney Michelle Mehta says the frequency of days with heavy precipitation is expected to increase by up to 50% in this century, which will contribute to flooding.
“The National Weather Service spokesman [for St. Louis] just recently said for the summer that the new normal for the Mississippi River right now is near flood stage,” Mehta says.
The report says storms are expected to increase both in frequency and intensity. The increase in precipitation could bring about a 51% increase in streamflow, which would greatly increase flood risks, according to the report.
The study says the St. Louis area has increased floodplain development by around $2.2 billion since the major floods of 1993, when the Mississippi River crested just two feet short of the city’s floodwall. The NRDC says this development runs contrary to the best strategies for protecting against flood losses, which include limits on floodplain infrastructure.
The study criticizes the city’s lack of planning to combat the effects of climate change, saying it lags behind many other major cities. It does, however, note that the city’s environmentally friendly building practices show “considerable progress.”
The NRDC’s Senior Attorney Steve Fleischli says adapting the city’s drainage system could provided some much-needed flood relief.
“Why do we let rainwater wash quickly off our streets when we could be capturing it and re-using it?” Fleischli says. “[Drainage changes allow] our urban landscape to mimic mother nature in terms of the ability to infiltrate and capture rainwater as opposed to having it quickly run off into our rivers and streams, where it can exacerbate flooding.”
The NRDC is a nonprofit organization. The full report can be found here.

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