Recurrent flooding problems caused by rising sea levels at high tide are becoming an increasingly significant problem for coastal cities because they can disrupt critical infrastructure systems many times a year.
Currently proposed engineering solutions for addressing recurrent flooding due to sea level rise are prohibitively expensive. The City of Norfolk, for example, estimates that the new flood gates, higher roads and an improved storm water system needed to protect the city from one foot of sea level rise would cost more than $1 billion to build, the size of the city’s annual budget. The objective of this ERI supported research project is to advance the use of smart and adaptive infrastructure to monitor and address the impact of recurrent flooding caused by sea level rise in coastal cities. Smart infrastructure uses rainfall, tidal level and other sensor values fed into computational models to inform stakeholders on transportation infrastructure outages due to flooding, and to optimize storm water infrastructure using real-time control to more effectively reduce flooding. The project team worked in partnership with the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia to develop a custom smart sensor network to model multiple traffic disruptions at different locations in the city each year. Computer models are being used to evaluate economic costs associated with transportation disruptions due to flood events. Smart cities can and should be a major component of adapting to higher sea levels in addition to other mitigation approaches.