Protect Critical Infrastructure from Flood Waters

architecture-2608323_960_720Monday – rain, Tuesday – rain, Wednesday – more rain, Thursday, nearby rivers have started to flood the lowland areas and still no end to the rain in sight. By Friday, the National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for the area and still the rain continues to fall.

You feel OK. Your home/business has never flooded. You’re not in a low land area. By Saturday, over 10″ of rain has fallen across much of the region. Yes, the flood waters have reached near historic levels, but your property doesn’t have water coming in the doors. Again, you think that it still may be OK.

Suddenly, the lights go out. Within an hour, water starts backing up through the floor drains and the toilets. A fowl odor engulfs the building; this isn’t clean water, it’s sewage. You scramble to grab your cell phone, a few personal belongings and an extra change of clothes. Time to leave.

Even if a home or business isn’t located in an area where overland flood waters crest higher than the first floor elevation, there is no assurance that the property will not experience devastating flood damage.

Flooding of critical infrastructure (i.e. electrical transformer stations, waste water treatment facilities, sanitary lift stations) causes major damage to tens of thousands of homes and businesses each year. Whether it’s a sanitary sewer lift station that loses power or is inundated by flood waters, a catastrophic failure of the area’s WWTP or an electrical substation that goes offline because water has reached the transformers, the problems experienced are the same; loss of service, resulting in backflow of raw sewage into properties that would normally have avoided damage. That’s unacceptable. More can be done to protect critical infrastructure from flood waters.

One answer is to fix what has been damaged, ignore the problem and hope that it won’t happen again. Although this seems foolish on paper, it is exactly what many of our communities, businesses and utility providers have been doing for years.

Another is to rebuild these facilities at higher elevations. While this seems to be a common sense approach, the cost ($100,000 to >$10,000,000/each), locational necessity and environmental regulations restrict communities and utility providers from implementing.

The final option is the implementation of a flood protection system. These temporary and/or permanent systems offer all of the protection at only a fraction of the cost of facility relocation, modification or reconstruction. The time necessary to implement and avoiding many of the environmental, land acquisition and planning headaches that relocation and/or rebuild to a higher elevation at the same location are distinct benefits. Dealing with flooding issues in a timely, cost effective method makes sense on so many levels. The option of flood protection has been overlooked for far too long; to the detriment of both American taxpayers and those who suffer repercussions of having critical infrastructure go offline.

How individuals, business groups, municipalities and utility owners choose to deal with these significant challenges is important. It may not have affected you yet, but it could in the not so distant future. Be wise, prepare and protect critical infrastructure from flood waters.

For more information on how to protect your facility from flooding, feel free to contact Jeff at Jeff Thieding is the Managing Partner of T3 Investments and the Inventor of the Rapid Guard Flood Barrier System.