“A Water Sandwich”

Jan. 30, 2019

A group of students in New England is tackling a problem more and more of us will be dealing with—water from too many directions. Graduate students at the Conway School in Northampton, MA, are studying solutions for the coastal town of Mystic, CT, which is experiencing both higher-than-usual rainfall and a rate of sea level rise that’s greater than the national average. The students have described the town’s predicament as a water sandwich.”

Many things can affect the rate of sea level rise in a particular location, including ocean currents and regional weather patterns. Sometimes it’s not just that the sea is rising but also that the land is sinking; subsidence can be caused by excessive pumping of groundwater, settling of dredged material used as land fill, or other geological phenomena. Saltwater intrusion into groundwater supplies is an associated problem.

In Mystic, a recent study showed, about $610 million in property values are at risk over the next few decades if something isn’t done to reduce flooding. The students are studying maps of the area to learn where the worst of the flooding is occurring. They are also holding community meetings to determine residents’ concerns.

The students are looking at two different types of solutions—shoreline protection measures near the ocean, and green infrastructure installations like bioswales and permeable pavements in the inland areas to give the water someplace to go.

The work is being sponsored by a Nature Conservancy grant. You can see more on the project here

About the Author

Janice Kaspersen

Janice Kaspersen is the former editor of Erosion Control and Stormwater magazines.