Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been developing new ways to approach water infrastructure design in light of climate change uncertainty.
To explain their concept, they use the city of Mombasa, Kenya, as an example. Mombasa is contemplating erecting a new dam to increase water supply capacity for its projected population growth.
The city has two options: build an expensive large dam that will accommodate the driest of the predicted climate models, or build a smaller dam that meets current needs.
MIT have suggested that there could be a third option: build a dam that’s size can be increased if the need arises – invest in flexible infrastructure.
The idea with flexible infrastructure is that planners would evaluate the cost-risk equation. If it looks like the need for an expensive fixed piece of infrastructure is needed, then they can make that call and install it, but if there is a huge variable, then flexible infrastructure could be installed and potentially save millions if it never ends up needing to be expanded.
MIT News weighs in:
“By pinpointing opportunities to reliably apply flexible rather than static approaches to water infrastructure design, the new planning framework could free up billions of dollars in savings in climate adaptation investments — savings that could be passed on to provide water infrastructure solutions to many more resource-limited communities that face substantial climate risk.”
Flexible water infrastructure may be a valuable consideration for many municipalities worldwide as they deal with the uncertainty factors in their long term infrastructure management planning.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mombasa Terminus by Macabe5387 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80138970