World Water Day 2021
What is the value of water? That’s the question posed for the year’s #WorldWaterDay, and it is an incredibly challenging one to answer.
Here in Charleston, we live alongside beautiful beaches, rivers, and tidal creeks, and we are fortunate to have reliable access to quality drinking water and sanitary treatment facilities. But water also exposes some of our greatest vulnerabilities. Located in the South Carolina Lowcountry, we are at increased risks of flooding from heavy rainfall, increased sea levels, and tropical storm surges. Just last Thursday, we saw rainfall intensities briefly exceed 6 inches-per-hour, which overwhelmed our storm drainage systems and flooded areas throughout the City. There were a record-setting seven (7) ‘major coastal floods’ in Charleston Harbor in 2020, which resulted in significant tidal flooding of low-lying perimeter streets and properties. In 2016, 2017, and 2019 we experienced various levels of storm surge flooding from Hurricanes Matthew, Irma, and Dorian.
As we look to design solutions aimed to make us more resilient to these flooding challenges, we need to change the way we value water. We need to look to our past to inform our land-use and design decisions to appreciate the fluidity and embrace the uncertainty of water. By valuing the opportunities of water, we can design systems that can adapt to these challenges while enhancing our communities.