Coastal Cities and a Rising Tide: How Armies of Pumps Are Keeping Flooding at Bay

Coastal Cities and a Rising Tide How Armies of Pumps Are Keeping Flooding at Bay

Hundreds of municipal pumps, costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it’s possible that sea levels will rise by more than three feet by the end of this century. The United States Army Corps of Engineers has projected that levels may rise by as much as five feet. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, believes it could be 6.5 feet.

Which of these measurements will it be? Many of our largest cities are situated along a coast and few of them will escape a threat of flooding by rising seas. Can this be prevented? It can certainly be delayed. And that’s being done right now with armies of municipal pumps.

A significant percentage of the population

It’s not just costal cities that are endangered by the rising sea level. Entire countries such as the Marshall Islands and the Maldives already are in peril. The current estimate is that over 100 million people live within three feet of mean high tide. Another 100 million people live within six feet of it. And hundreds of millions more live in areas that feel the impact of destructive costal storms and hurricanes.

These combined statistics place from 100 million to many hundreds of millions of individuals in cities that could experience flooding within a generation, though this timeframe is an educated guess.

As temperatures continue to climb, they’ll accelerate the rise of sea levels. That’s because water expands, as it gets warmer. This is a process known as thermal expansion. The phenomenon is easy to explain using the laws of physical science, but it’s not easy to predict how the planet’s remaining ice sheets will interact with the process. This is one of the reasons why sea level increase predictions have such a wide range.

Coastal cities push back

Some areas next to the rising seas aren’t waiting for a more accurate prediction. They’re taking preemptive action right now. If you live in Florida any place south of Orlando, your protection from higher tides is the South Florida Water Management District.

This state agency claims that it operates what may be the planet’s largest water control system. It includes:

  • 2,300 miles of canals
  • Over 60 pump stations
  • More than 2,000 water control structures

Underground pumps in Miami Beach suck water off the streets and funnel it into Biscayne Bay. Less than 10 of the 60 pumps are in operation and the cost will run hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s a slow and expensive process, but it’s working.

Why do people live along the coast?

Temperatures are influenced by coastal winds, creating a moderate climate. Summers remain cooler, and the winters are warmer. Most costal areas are flat. These coastal plains allow for easy land development, and populations along the coast will continue to grow. But no coastal area on the planet is immune to a rising sea level. It will be up to us to find ways to push the waters away from our cities.

We’ll look to coastal city pioneers like Miami and New Orleans for guidance. After Hurricane Katrina, 40 of MWI’s Hydraflo pumps were brought in to protect against future storms and rising seas. The Hydraflo is a propeller pump driven with hydraulic fluid. The simplicity of the pump allows for cost-effective installation. These units are driven with diesel engines that are located over 200 feet away from the pumps. No gears or belts and pulleys are required.

These types of pumps are best for use in critical applications where failure is not an option. Hydraflos are simple, robust, and dependable, and they are among the army of pumps used to prepare for the rising seas.

At MWI, we stand ready to assist municipalities and businesses in keeping our coastal cities dry. We have pumps installed and hard at work in over 50 countries, put to daily use in multiple applications. Find out more about us here.

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