Environment Systems and Decisions

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 214–229 | Cite as

Simulated climate adaptation in stormwater systems: evaluating the efficiency of adaptation strategies

  • Adam D. McCurdy
  • William R. Travis


Adaptations in infrastructure may be necessitated by changes in temperature and precipitation patterns to avoid losses and maintain expected levels of service. A roster of adaptation strategies has emerged in the climate change literature, especially with regard to timing: anticipatory, concurrent, or reactive. Significant progress has been made in studying climate change adaptation decision making that incorporates uncertainty, but less work has examined how strategies interact with existing infrastructure characteristics to influence adaptability. We use a virtual testbed of highway drainage crossings configured with a selection of actual culvert emplacements in Colorado, USA, to examine the effect of adaptation strategy and culvert characteristics on cost efficiency and service level under varying rates of climate change. A meta-model approach with multinomial regression is used to compare the value of better climate change predictions with better knowledge of existing crossing characteristics. We find that, for a distributed system of infrastructural units like culverts, knowing more about existing characteristics can improve the efficacy of adaptation strategies more than better projections of climate change. Transportation departments choosing climate adaptation strategies often lack detailed data on culverts, and gathering that data could improve the efficiency of adaptation despite climate uncertainty.


Infrastructure adaptation Stormwater management Climate change Scenario simulation 



Research for this paper was supported by the Western Water Assessment, a Project of the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences, funded by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under Climate Program Office Grant #NA10OAR4310214.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no financial/personal interest or belief that could affect their objectivity in this research. The funding agency did not participate in the design or carrying out of the work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Western Water AssessmentUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA

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