Looking down the stairs, I can still picture the glistening, glass-like surface of our 1950’s parquet basement floor. Only a slight ripple revealed the thin layer of water lapping on the baseboards. It was an evening of heavy pounding rain from Hurricane Agnes. I was 10 or 11 years old and the first in my family to discover our flooded basement. Armed with towels, buckets, and shop vacs, we fought the rising water. But water has a way of consuming everything in its path. For us, the flood claimed our rugs, furniture, clothes, furnace, and water heater. Many of us have faced similar flooding first-hand, or seen dramatic TV images of flooding, such as cars washed away by rushing water, boats floating down roadways, or rescue teams racing to save citizens from rising waters.
After years of similar floods, our family finally had enough and adopted the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We landscaped the grounds to channel the water away from the house. We installed two sump pumps in the basement to remove the rising water before it reached our basement floor. And it worked. These mitigation steps protected our household, restored our confidence, and became our insurance policy against reoccurring flood damage. Why did we wait so long?
During floods, even when the electricity is out, you can turn on the faucet and flush the toilet. Thankfully water and wastewater utilities are very reliable during disasters, but they are often located near rivers and in low-lying areas that are prone to floods. In the last 5 years, more frequent and larger rainstorms and extreme flooding has severely affected water and wastewater utilities in New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Iowa, Minnesota, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, and Connecticut to name a few. Like us, utilities know they are vulnerable, but it is not easy to take those first ounces of prevention.
EPA’s newly released tool, Flood Resilience: A Basic Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities helps utilities understand their flooding threat and identify practical and cost effective ways to protect themselves by, for example, elevating instrumentation, installing submersible pumps, and installing backup power. With easy to use worksheets, instructional videos, and flood maps, the Guide helps give utilities as well as us, their customers, confidence that we are flood resilient.
See the Guide at water.epa.gov/infrastructure/watersecurity/emerplan/. See a video on flood resilience at http://youtu.be/r25J-DJH2NQ.