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Global Change Impacts & Adaptation

The Value of Smart Growth in Adapting to Climate Change

Report Information

This page describes a current EPA ORD project. No project report or other download is available at this time. Please see the section Next Steps below for a timeline of anticipated products of this work.

There is a growing concern about the effects of climate change on people and the ecosystems on which they depend. Communities across the nation have adopted smart growth strategies to develop in ways that preserve natural lands, protect water and air quality, reuse already-developed land, and improve quality of life for their residents. As climate changes, these same smart growth strategies could also help reduce the risk of future environmental impacts resulting from changing weather patterns. Little is known, however, about the potential value of smart growth for adapting to climate change. EPA ORD is currently assessing the potential benefits of smart growth for managing stormwater under future warmer and wetter weather conditions.

The INDEX PlanBuilder software package and its Smart Growth (SG) WATER model was used to compare the quantity of stormwater runoff and associated nitrogen, phosphorus, and total suspended solids (TSS) generated by two development scenarios, a conventional neighborhood design and a smart growth neighborhood design, under current and projected future climatic conditions. Development scenarios were each based on the redevelopment of South Weymouth Naval Air Station (SWNAS), a 1400-acre former military base south of Boston, Massachusetts. The analysis assumes that in the future more rainfall will occur in heavy rainfall events (the future rainfall scenario assumes the proportion of rainfall occurring in the largest five percent of events will increase about five percent per decade for 90 years into the future, a rate consistent with 20th century trends). Potential future changes in air temperature were not considered. Modeling results suggest significant stormwater benefits associated with the smart growth design. Stormwater runoff and non-point source pollution (suspended solids, nitrogen, and phosphorus) from the smart growth site were less, even under warmer/wetter weather conditions, than was generated by the conventional site under current weather conditions.
  • Contract for modeling support awarded, January, 2005
  • Journal paper submitted for publication (anticipated) March, 2010
Next Steps:

Thomas Johnson
  • by phone at:   703-347-8618
  • by fax at:   703-347-8694
  • by email at:  johnson.thomas@epa.gov

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