Excess Precipitation

Projected increase in days per decade with 2″ or more rainfall events by mid-century

With a change in climate as projected by the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts, our state is experiencing changing precipitation patterns. A greater frequency of heavy precipitation events is predicted during the spring, winter, and fall. Flooding and erosion often result from heavy rains. These conditions can have cascading impacts throughout the community and landscape. While communities cannot prevent these events from occurring, taking steps to prepare for them can lessen impacts to people, animals, land, and property while reducing the length of recovery time and costs.

Who and What Will be Affected

To enhance community resilience, a systemic approach needs to be pursued; therefore, it is important to consider all aspects of how and where heavy precipitation is likely to affect a community. Often, lower-income and marginalized people are affected the most by extreme precipitation events due to their community’s location, lack of options to avoid flood impacts or recover from them. Marginalized people often live or have businesses in areas prone to flooding and may have lesser means to obtain shelter in safe areas and respond to flood damage. Paying close attention to how these community members are affected will benefit the entire community.

Wisconsin’s climate projection indicates an increased frequency of intense rainfall events. Short and long-term impacts can result from heavy rain. As water rises and landscapes erode, maintaining safety for everyone within the flooded area, before and after the event, is of utmost importance. Flooding and erosion can damage roads, bridges, structures, and other properties. A community’s ability to maintain real-time communication about road closures, emergency evacuations, and temporary shelters is essential.

Floodwater can contain chemical and microbial contaminants, posing health concerns for those in direct contact with the water. The floodwater can also result in increased algal blooms in ponds, lakes, and rivers. Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) can be toxic, affecting animal and human health and sometimes death. Drinking water can also be contaminated when the floodwaters surpass the top of an improperly sealed drinking water well.

Flooding and Stormwater Management

Within the built environment and throughout the landscape, buildings, homes, and other structures are subject to impacts from flooding. Roads may flood or be damaged if the stormwater management systems are not capable of handling additional rain or snowmelt occurring over a short period of time. Managing stormwater at many locations throughout the watershed reduces the amount of water needing costly-engineered management. Evaluating how water is managed on the land through natural infiltration, storage in wetlands, and ponding in low-lying areas should be conducted in addition to equipping storm systems to withstand heavier precipitation events.

Wetlands offer a number of ecosystem services including floodwater storage, water filtration, habitat, and carbon sequestration. Protecting and re-establishing wetlands increases the resiliency of Wisconsin communities while locking up carbon that contributes to climate change.

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Equity & Environmental Justice

Equity & Environmental Justice – Equity and justice should be included with each part of the menu. As you explore each menu, consider the most vulnerable populations within your community. Be sure to include and prioritize these groups as you develop and plan your efforts.

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  • Include people from homeless, lower-income, and other marginalized populations in resilience discussions and planning. Consider where these populations are living and include and prioritize these areas in planning efforts:
  • A diverse group of collaborators representing tribal, academic, intertribal and government entities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, developed a framework to integrate indigenous and traditional knowledge, culture, language and history into the climate adaptation planning process.

Education & Information

Education & Information – provides education and information ideas and resources. These are intended to be some of the first steps a community can take to address certain subsections.

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Low-Cost Strategies

Low-Cost Strategies – are focused on strategies and accompanying resources that usually will not require intensive staff capacity, fiscal resources, and maybe done through staff decisions.

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Significant Resource Deployment

Significant Resource Deployment – are strategies that may require more staff capacity, increased fiscal resources, and larger, possibly cohesive decisions.

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Celebrating Successes

Celebrating Successes – are actions and strategies for communities to celebrate and keep the momentum going. They will help address positive outcomes of previous strategies taken and inspire further action.

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  • Conduct demonstrations, tours, and presentations showcasing some of the successful projects that highlight climate mitigation and adaptation practices, such as green infrastructure.
  • Highlight and celebrate the accomplishments of businesses and other organizations that have implemented conservation practices and climate resiliency measures successfully, such as rain gardens.

Grants & Funding

Grants & Funding – help communities support actions through financial means such as grants and other resources.

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