A safety factor approach to designing urban infrastructure for dynamic conditions

02/08/2021 ∙ by Sanjib Sharma, et al. ∙ 0

Current approaches to design flood-sensitive infrastructure typically assume a stationary rainfall distribution and neglect many uncertainties. These assumptions are inconsistent with observations that suggest intensifying extreme precipitation events and the uncertainties surrounding projections of the coupled natural-human systems. Here we show that assuming climate stationarity and neglecting deep uncertainties can drastically underestimate flood risks and lead to poor infrastructure design choices. We find that climate uncertainty dominates the socioeconomic and engineering uncertainties that impact the hydraulic reliability in stormwater drainage systems. We quantify the upfront costs needed to achieve higher hydraulic reliability and robustness against the deep uncertainties surrounding projections of rainfall, surface runoff characteristics, and infrastructure lifetime. Depending on the location, we find that adding safety factors of 1.4 to 1.7 to the standard stormwater pipe design guidance produces robust performance to the considered deep uncertainties.

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