Southeast Florida Compact Analyzes Sea Level Rise Risk

Southeast Florida Compact Analyzes Sea Level Rise Risk

Equity & Justice

Displacement caused by sea-level rise in coastal communities has disparate impacts among demographic groups. Due to historical exclusionary zoning and housing policies, many people of color and low-income people were forced to live in low-lying, flood-prone areas. Today, these disparities are exacerbated as flooding worsens. 

A study in the EPA’s Science Inventory found that 20 percent of those communities affected by sea-level rise are among the most socially vulnerable. It also finds that areas with socially vulnerable populations are much more likely to be “abandoned” than protected in response to sea-level rise in the Gulf region of the United States. Additionally, the 2014 National Climate Assessment found that up to 50 percent of areas with high social vulnerability will face the possibility of forced displacement given their inability to afford housing protection measures and a lack social and political support for their communities. 

Project Summary

Southeast Florida, with a large population located at low elevation, is among the most vulnerable regions of the country to climate change. The region is comprised of four counties -- Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach -- that share similar geographic traits and coastal vulnerabilities to sea level rise. Rather than separately attempting to identify climate projections and vulnerabilities, leaders of these counties recognized an opportunity to collaborate and identify climate impacts and vulnerabilities across the region.

A first step was to standardize projections and map sea level inundation. This single region-wide effort brought core stakeholders from counties, regional water management organizations, local universities and federal agencies together to create a regional vulnerability assessment of inundation and flooding. The resulting regional map identified vulnerable infrastructure, including drinking water and wastewater utilities from across the region, and was instrumental in informing development of the South Florida Regional Climate Action Plan.

The Regional Action Plan "A Region Responds to a Changing Climate" provides a comprehensive set of recommendations for local governments, focusing on sectors such as transportation, natural resource management, emergency management and the water sector among others. The Regional Action Plan recommendations on water supply, management and infrastructure protection efforts has since been supplemented by the implementation guidance on Integrating Climate Change & Water Supply Planning In Southeast Florida. The Compact counties, municipalities, and other organization continue to collaborate on updates to climate projections, including a recent 2015 Sea Level Rise Update and other common adaptation resources.

How did they do it?
Action Applicable Resources

Collaborated with neighboring jurisdictions to develop a vulnerability assessment

  • Four neighboring counties collaborated to identify the best available geographic data and climate change information to assess vulnerability, rather than working independently.
  • Analyzed and published the anticipated regional impact of sea level rise on water and wastewater utilities. Note: Prior to publishing the data publicly, some information on specific facilities were excluded due to security concerns.

Encouraged and informed regional action

  • Developed regional recommendations (South Florida Regional Climate Action Plan) and implementation guidance on how to integrate climate change impacts (e.g., sea-level rise inundation, flooding or saltwater intrusion) within utility water supply planning.
  • Provided implementation guidance on such topics as infrastructure siting and design, quantifying reduction in drainage capacity and natural resource degradation in order to help reduce climate vulnerabilities to the water supply, water management services and drinking water, wastewater and stormwater management.
  • Municipal and local jurisdictions utilized this data to inform and support their adaptation actions, one such example is Miami Beach's adaptation plans to protect utility infrastructure from flooding.

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