2019 Program Archive: When it rains, it pours: Organizational learning in the face of more extreme precipitation

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When it rains, it pours: Organizational learning in the face of more extreme precipitation

Lara Whitely Binder
King County
Time Slot: 
Concurrent Sessions 6
Session Type: 

Preparing for more heavy rain is difficult, even when rain is your claim to fame. As the largest regional government in western Washington, King County is responsible for a considerable amount of stormwater, wastewater, and flood infrastructure that protects human health and the environment. Understanding climate change impacts on that infrastructure and the differing agency missions driving infrastructure investment is essential to ensuring effective service delivery now and in the future.

In 2016, King County, Washington, partnered with the University of Washington to develop updated precipitation scenarios to guide long-term decisions related to stormwater management, wastewater conveyance, and flood risk reduction. The new scenarios, and the subsequent hydrologic and hydraulic analyses based on those scenarios, suggest that current infrastructure design standards may be significantly undersized relative to future conditions. This is an important consideration, as most infrastructure is typically intended to last several decades—if not “indefinitely” if well maintained. The work also pointed to important differences in rural versus urban approaches to managing changes in heavy precipitation.

This session provides a case study of how an organization moves from knowledge to action on climate preparedness, and how that journey can drive deeper organizational learning. The session will explore how King County has used its investments in research to deepen its understanding of climate impacts on stormwater, wastewater, and flood management. The session will also discuss adaptation approaches to addressing these impacts and how this work prompted the development of a new adaptive management framework for managing more intense precipitation.

Cross-Cutting Themes: 
It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, Let’s not start Overflowing
John Phillips, Parametrix