Skip to main content

Fail-safe and safe-to-fail adaptation: decision-making for urban flooding under climate change

Abstract

As climate change affects precipitation patterns, urban infrastructure may become more vulnerable to flooding. Flooding mitigation strategies must be developed such that the failure of infrastructure does not compromise people, activities, or other infrastructure. “Safe-to-fail” is an emerging paradigm that broadly describes adaptation scenarios that allow infrastructure to fail but control or minimize the consequences of the failure. Traditionally, infrastructure is designed as “fail-safe” where they provide robust protection when the risks are accurately predicted within a designed safety factor. However, the risks and uncertainties faced by urban infrastructure are becoming so great due to climate change that the “fail-safe” paradigm should be questioned. We propose a framework to assess potential flooding solutions based on multiple infrastructure resilience characteristics using a multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) analytic hierarchy process algorithm to prioritize “safe-to-fail” and “fail-safe” strategies depending on stakeholder preferences. Using urban flooding in Phoenix, Arizona, as a case study, we first estimate flooding intensity and evaluate roadway vulnerability using the Storm Water Management Model for a series of downpours that occurred on September 8, 2014. Results show the roadway types and locations that are vulnerable. Next, we identify a suite of adaptation strategies and characteristics of these strategies and attempt to more explicitly categorize flooding solutions as “safe-to-fail” and “fail-safe” with these characteristics. Lastly, we use MCDA to show how adaptation strategy rankings change when stakeholders have different preferences for particular adaptation characteristics.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  1. Ahern J (2011) From fail-safe to safe-to-fail: sustainability and resilience in the new urban world. Landsc Urban Plan 100:341–343. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2011.02.021

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Ahern J, Cilliers S, Niemelä J (2014) The concept of ecosystem services in adaptive urban planning and design: a framework for supporting innovation. Landsc Urban Plan 125:254–259. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.01.020

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Arnbjerg-Nielsen K, Fleischer HS (2009) Feasible adaptation strategies for increased risk of flooding in cities due to climate change. Water Sci Technol 60:273–281. https://doi.org/10.2166/wst.2009.298

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Ashley RM, Balmforth DJ, Saul AJ, Blanskby JD (2005) Flooding in the future—predicting climate change, risks and responses in urban areas. Water Sci Technol 52:265–273

    Google Scholar 

  5. Blockley D, Agarwal J, Godfrey P (2012) Infrastructure resilience for high-impact low-chance risks. Proc Inst Civ Eng - Civ Eng 165:13–19. https://doi.org/10.1680/cien.11.00046

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Brown DG, Polsky C, Bolstad P et al (2014) Ch. 13: land use and land cover change. Climate change impacts in the United States: the third national climate assessment

  7. Chang H, Lafrenz M, Jung I, Figliozzi M (2011) Future flooding impacts on transportation infrastructure and traffic patterns resulting from climate change. Portland, Oregon

  8. Chang SE (2016) Socioeconomic impacts of infrastructure disruptions. Oxford University Press

  9. Christensen JH, Hewitson B, Busuioc A et al (2007) Regional climate projections. In: Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kindom and New York, NY, USA

  10. CIRIA (2014) Managing urban flooding from heavy rainfall—encouraging the uptake of designing for exceedance. Literature review

  11. Dominguez F, Rivera E, Lettenmaier DP, Castro CL (2012) Changes in winter precipitation extremes for the western United States under a warmer climate as simulated by regional climate models. Geophys Res Lett 39:1–7. https://doi.org/10.1029/2011GL050762

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Eisenberg DA, Linkov I, Park J et al (2014) Resilience metrics: lessons from military doctrines. Solutions 5:76–87

    Google Scholar 

  13. FCDMC (2014) Flood control district of maricopy county. Storm report: Sep 8, 2014

  14. Fratini CF, Geldof GD, Kluck J, Mikkelsen PS (2012) Three points approach (3PA) for urban flood risk management: a tool to support climate change adaptation through transdisciplinarity and multifunctionality. Urban Water J 9:317–331. https://doi.org/10.1080/1573062X.2012.668913

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Garfin G, Jardine A, Merideth R et al (2013) Assessment of climate change in the southwest United States: a report prepared for the national climate assessment. Washington, DC

  16. Hawkins GA, Vivoni ER, Robles-Morua A et al (2015) A climate change projection for summer hydrologic conditions in a semiarid watershed of central Arizona. J Arid Environ 118:9–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2015.02.022

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Hunt A, Watkiss P (2011) Climate change impacts and adaptation in cities: a review of the literature. Clim Chang 104:13–49. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-010-9975-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. IPCC (2014) Summary for policymakers. In: Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part A: global and sectoral aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA

  19. Kaplan S, Garrick BJ (1981) On the quantitative definition of risk. Risk Anal 1:11–27. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.1981.tb01350.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Keath NA, Brown RR (2009) Extreme events: being prepared for the pitfalls with progressing sustainable urban water management. Water Sci Technol 59:1271. https://doi.org/10.2166/wst.2009.136

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Kiker GA, Bridges TS, Varghese A et al (2005) Application of multicriteria decision analysis in environmental decision making. Integr Environ Assess Manag 1:95–108. https://doi.org/10.1897/IEAM_2004a-015.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Kirshen P, Ruth M, Anderson W (2008) Interdependencies of urban climate change impacts and adaptation strategies: a case study of metropolitan Boston USA. Clim Chang 86:105–122. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-007-9252-5

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Liao K-H (2012) A theory on urban resilience to floods—a basis for alternative planning practices. Ecol Soc 17:15. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-05231-170448

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Linkov I, Bridges T, Creutzig F et al (2014) Changing the resilience paradigm. Nat Clim Chang 4:407–409. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2227

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Liu W, Chen W, Peng C (2014) Assessing the effectiveness of green infrastructures on urban flooding reduction: a community scale study. Ecol Model 291:6–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2014.07.012

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Meerow S, Newell JP, Stults M (2016) Defining urban resilience: a review. Landsc Urban Plan 147:38–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.11.011

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Meyer MD, Brinckerhoff P, Rowan E et al (2013) Impacts of extreme weather on transportation: national symposium summary

  28. Milly PCD, Betancourt J, Falkenmark M et al (2008) Stationarity is dead: whither water management? Science 319:573–574. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1151915

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Möller N, Hansson SO (2008) Principles of engineering safety: risk and uncertainty reduction. Reliab Eng Syst Saf 93:798–805. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ress.2007.03.031

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. National Research Council (U.S.) Committee on Climate Change and U.S. Transportation (2008) Potential impacts of climate change on U.S. transportation. Wachington, D.C

  31. National Weather Service Forecast Office (2014) NOAA online weather data. http://w2.weather.gov/climate/xmacis.php?wfo=psr. Accessed 1 Jul 2016

  32. Park J, Seager TP, Rao PSC et al (2013) Integrating risk and resilience approaches to catastrophe management in engineering systems. Risk Anal 33:356–367. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01885.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Park J, Seager TP, Rao PSC (2011) Lessons in risk- versus resilience-based design and management. Integr Environ Assess Manag 7:396–399. https://doi.org/10.1002/ieam.228

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Piras M, Mascaro G, Deidda R, Vivoni ER (2016) Impacts of climate change on precipitation and discharge extremes through the use of statistical downscaling approaches in a Mediterranean basin. Sci Total Environ 543:952–964. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.06.088

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Revi A, Satterthwaite DE, Aragón-Durand F et al (2014) Urban areas. In: Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part A: global and sectoral aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA

  36. Rossman LA (2015) Storm water management model user’s manual. 1–353

  37. Salinas Rodriguez CNA, Ashley R, Gersonius B et al (2014) Incorporation and application of resilience in the context of water-sensitive urban design: linking European and Australian perspectives. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Water 1:173–186. https://doi.org/10.1002/wat2.1017

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Sayers PB, Galloway GE, Hall JW (2012) Robust decision-making under uncertainty—towards adaptive and resilient flood risk management infrastructure. In: Flood risk. ICE Publishing, pp 281–302

  39. Schmitt TG, Thomas M, Ettrich N (2004) Analysis and modeling of flooding in urban drainage systems. J Hydrol 299:300–311. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2004.08.012

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Seager R, Ting M, Held I et al (2007) Model projections of an imminent transition to a more arid climate in southwestern North America. Science 316:1181–1184. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1139601

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Seager TP (2008) The sustainability spectrum and the sciences of sustainability. Bus Strateg Environ 17:444–453. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.632

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Semadeni-Davies A, Hernebring C, Svensson G, Gustafsson L-G (2008) The impacts of climate change and urbanisation on drainage in Helsingborg, Sweden: combined sewer system. J Hydrol 350:100–113. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2007.05.028

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Shortridge J, Guikema S, Zaitchik B (2017) Robust decision making in data scarce contexts: addressing data and model limitations for infrastructure planning under transient climate change. Clim Chang 140:323–337. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-016-1845-4

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Skamarock WC, Klemp JB, Duda MG et al (2012) A multiscale nonhydrostatic atmospheric model using centroidal Voronoi tesselations and C-grid staggering. Mon Weather Rev 140:3090–3105. https://doi.org/10.1175/MWR-D-11-00215.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Solecki W, Rosenzweig C (2014) Climate change, extreme events, and Hurricane Sandy: from non-stationary climate to non-stationary policy. J Extrem Events 1:1450008. https://doi.org/10.1142/S2345737614500080

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Suarez P, Anderson W, Mahal V, Lakshmanan TR (2005) Impacts of flooding and climate change on urban transportation: a systemwide performance assessment of the Boston Metro Area. Transp Res Part D Transp Environ 10:231–244. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trd.2005.04.007

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Transportation Research Board (2011) Adapting transportation to the impacts of climate change

  48. Tye MR, Holland GJ, Done JM (2015) Rethinking failure: time for closer engineer–scientist collaborations on design. Proc Inst Civ Eng - Forensic Eng 168:49–57. https://doi.org/10.1680/feng.14.00004

    Google Scholar 

  49. Wilbanks TJ, Fernandez SJ (2014) Climate change and infrastructure, urban systems, and vulnerabilities. Island Press/Center for Resource Economics, Washington

    Book  Google Scholar 

  50. Wilby RL, Dawson CW (2013) The statistical downscaling model: insights from one decade of application. Int J Climatol 33:1707–1719. https://doi.org/10.1002/joc.3544

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Wilby RL, Dessai S (2010) Robust adaptation to climate change. Weather 65:180–185. https://doi.org/10.1002/wea.543

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Wilby RL, Keenan R (2012) Adapting to flood risk under climate change. Prog Phys Geogr 36:348–378. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309133312438908

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Willems P, Arnbjerg-Nielsen K, Olsson J, Nguyen VTV (2012) Climate change impact assessment on urban rainfall extremes and urban drainage: methods and shortcomings. Atmos Res 103:106–118. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosres.2011.04.003

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Woods DD, Leveson N, Hollnagel E (2012) Resilience engineering: concepts and precepts. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd

  55. Zevenbergen C, van Tuijn J, Rijke J et al (2013) Rijkswaterstaat room for the river. Tailor made collaboration: a clever combination of process and content

Download references

Acknowledgements

This research is supported by several National Science Foundation awards from the IMEE (Nos. 1335556, 1335640, and 1635490), SRN (No. 1444755), TUES (No. 1245205), WSC (No. 1360509), and RIPS (No. 1441352) programs and by the CHI University Grant Program (software package PCSWMM).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yeowon Kim.

Electronic supplementary material

ESM 1

(DOCX 2173 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kim, Y., Eisenberg, D.A., Bondank, E.N. et al. Fail-safe and safe-to-fail adaptation: decision-making for urban flooding under climate change. Climatic Change 145, 397–412 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-2090-1

Download citation