It's no secret that Austin's infrastructure struggles to keep up. Increasing growth, especially the exponentially bad traffic, has become a popular conversation starter, but there are plenty of examples of Austin's systems being impacted. For example, unusually long wet seasons, like the one we're in, are forecasted to become the norm, and Austin is unprepared.
A recent government study titled Atlas 14 shows that considerably more of central Texas is susceptible to flooding than previously thought. Suddenly, swaths of property will have to be insured for flooding and new safety precautions will have to be implemented.
Jan Buchholz of ATX Real Estate News outlines the difficulties Atlas 14 will bring to property owners as made evident by Ron Thrower, Thrower Design in a presentation to CTCAR (Central Texas Association of Realtors): "it might mean that properties are suddenly reclassified as being in the 100-year floodplain, increasing insurance costs, remodeling costs and perhaps hinder the future sale of a property." In addition to being retroactively classified as unsafe, previous precautions may now be insufficient, the article specifically cites "existing retention ponds in Austin — those sunken landscape features designed to collect and retain water during storms — would be out of compliance. Fixing the infrastructure would not be as simple as digging a deeper hole. More land may have to be dedicated to drainage features." Building owners are faced with the choice between unprecedented expense or leaving one's property vulnerable to possible flooding.
Developers are obviously not spared from complications. Creating buildings compliant to the new regulations will be costly and arduous, and right now it is unclear what steps should even be taken. The levels of predicted rainfall are unprecedented, and it is questionable whether any of our existing systems will be up to the test. The article predicts that "public and private storm drains, bridges, retention ponds and other drainage infrastructure will be have to be replaced or improved to handle the anticipated increases in flood waters”.
Austin has postponed major structural change time and time again, but maybe this looming development will inspire a crucial infrastructure upheaval.
Authored By: Colette Robertson