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Urban Flooding: A Big, Expensive Problem in Illinois

PHOTO: A report on urban flooding from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources finds many storm drain systems were simply not designed to accomodate the downpours the state has experienced in recent years. Photo credit: Photojock/Morguefile.
PHOTO: A report on urban flooding from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources finds many storm drain systems were simply not designed to accomodate the downpours the state has experienced in recent years. Photo credit: Photojock/Morguefile.
July 9, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Urban flooding is prevalent throughout Illinois, and a new report demonstrates how state agencies are examining ways to address the problem.

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, flooding in urban areas caused more than $2 billion in damages between 2007 and 2014.

Loren Wobig, manager of the Division of Resource Management, says climate trends have increased rainfall – and older sewer systems simply weren't designed for the amount of runoff they now have to accommodate.

"Maybe for a 10-year event, they were looking at a four-inch rainfall or a three-inch rainfall," says Wobig. "Now, we're finding those communities are experiencing those kinds of rainfalls on a much more frequent basis, or perhaps the intensity of that rainfall is greater than what they were designing for."

To reduce urban flooding and its impacts, the report offers a number of recommendations, including developing a model stormwater ordinance for communities, improved data collection and analysis, and updating aging, undersized storm sewer systems.

Wobig says another key is ensuring residents are well-informed about their insurance options.

"The report recommends creating some flyers, perhaps that would be distributed during closings or that could be provided to renters, to make them aware that there are insurance products out there available to them that cover that risk," he says.

He adds there is no easy solution to urban flooding, and it will take a combination of strategies to reduce the risks, including collaboration by neighborhoods, cities and state agencies.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL