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The urban answer to climate change: Rally a city to capture stormwater

Imagine New York Harbor, the Hudson River and the East River as open sewers.

It may well be in our future. A definitive government report on climate science makes clear that the frequency and intensity of precipitation in the northeast (already the highest in the nation, with a 17% increase in the last 25 years) will only grow dramatically in years to come.

In New York City, we should brace ourselves. Our aged sewer system is already overwhelmed by normal rains, flooding our neighborhoods and spewing 20 billion gallons of untreated sewage into our waterways every year. That’s more water than 30,000 Olympic swimming pools. And it’s not only sewage; it includes massive volumes of toxic chemicals.

Three quarters of our dense, built city is covered with asphalt and concrete. As rain pours off these impermeable surfaces, our old gray infrastructure — concrete pipes, wastewater treatment plants and massive holding tanks — tries to manage the stormwater.


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