The Intersection of Public Utilities and Private Ownership in Stormwater Management: A Case Study of Localized Flooding in Charlottesville, VA; Public Perception and Influence on Implementation of Climate Change Technologies

Long, Jane, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Goodall, Jonathan, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia
Seabrook, Bryn, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

The technical project investigates flood mitigation strategies for flood-prone urban areas. Flooding events are expected to increase due to climate change, forcing cities across the country to implement flood mitigation strategies in order to ensure the safety and health of their residents. While the utility services of Charlottesville are ready to provide resources and recommendations to private property owners, the costs and current incentives of fixing problem areas are not enticing enough. Problems generated downstream do not directly influence upstream owners; hence, there is little motivation for these owners to take any course of action. This scenario is illustrated at a site at St. Claire Avenue in Charlottesville. The technical project observes and analyzes different potential solutions to develop recommendations that will result in less flooding at this site. Using EPA’s SWMM model, three different best management practices (BMPs) are analyzed by their costs and effectiveness in reducing runoff to the downstream site. While diverting the runoff from the upstream property is important, other factors such as social and cost factors are considered in picking a final solution for alleviating flooding at the site.

The potential complications from climate change in the future necessitate consideration of new technologies and innovations. Recently, scientists have been developing geoengineering technologies which propose drastic measures to deliberately manipulate the climate in order to combat climate change. Because the technologies could affect not just one area but the entire globe, public perceptions of risks is a major obstacle of steps towards implementation. The STS paper focuses on the question of how public perception of risks of climate change influences the use of geoengineering as well as predict public reaction to any use of these technologies. By analyzing historical case studies and policy analysis through the lens of the risk society framework, the factors that influence public risk perceptions and relevant stakeholders can be identified. Right now, much of the public acknowledges increasing concerns and impacts of climate change, but do not perceive any immediate risk to themselves. Ultimately, risk perceptions and urgency are associated with public participation in solutions, so investigating the effects of risks between social groups can help determine drivers for engagement in geoengineering implementation. While the public may be initially hesitant over such large impact technologies, these perceptions may be the final factor in changing the current path of climate change.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Stormwater, Flooding, Geoengineering, Risk Society

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
Technical Advisor: Jonathan Goodall
STS Advisor: Bryn Seabrook
Technical Team Members: K. Connor Corcoran

Issued Date: