Resilience of Infrastructure Systems to Sea-Level Rise in Coastal Areas: Impacts, Adaptation Measures, and Implementation Challenges
2. Materials and Methods
3. Sea Level Rise Impacts on Coastal Areas
- Coastal Flooding: The primary consequence of SLR is an increase in the exposure of coastal communities to flooding. Recreational beach areas will decrease as more and more dry beach is submerged during tidal cycles. Some areas that are only submerged at high tide could be submerged for the whole day. Structures that are built on the water, like docks and piers, will be closer to the water, or possibly become submerged. Low-lying coastal areas are particularly susceptible to storm surge and flooding from torrential precipitation, and the community effects can be catastrophic. In the coming years, these effects will be intensified by rising sea levels [3,4]. Intense precipitation events alone already cause substantial flooding. The amount of rain falling in on the wettest day are expected to increase 10%–20% by 2100  and sea level rise will lead to higher water tables and reduced soil storage capacity. As sea level rises and water tables approach the land surface, the frequency and severity of flooding induced by precipitation will increase. Hence, it no longer takes a strong storm to cause coastal flooding . Even a small rise in sea level, as modeled by any of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios, could have significant impacts on the coastal areas over the next 100 years. Coastal flooding that currently has an annual probability of occurrence of 1% will become more frequent. The change in the intensity of flooding may result in changes in exposures of flooded areas, the level of the base flood, and the amount of damage caused by flooding. Flooding occurs with high tides in many locations due to sea level rise, land subsidence, and the loss of natural barriers. For example, the City of Miami Beach in Florida and Charleston in South Carolina already experience periodic flooding during extreme high tides. Nuisance flooding occurs due to changes in tidal levels. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2012) , nuisance flooding has increased significantly in the U.S. coast since the 1960s. Nuisance flooding causes road closures and saltwater backup in storm drains and exposes infrastructure . A large number of communities are already exposed to coastal flooding. As noted by , there are 136 major port cities with more than one million inhabitants each, 13 of which are among the top 20 most populated cities in the world. Nicholls (2008)  suggests that exposure to coastal flooding is expected to increase with growing populations and the increased economic relevance of coastal cities, particularly in developing countries. Also, a study  showed that nine counties in California, near the Pacific Ocean, are threatened due to sea level rise and their vulnerability will increase in the following decades.
- Coastal Erosion: There has been a direct relationship between sea-level rise and the reduction of coastal shorelines. Past studies have proved that as sea level rises, it creates substantial erosion of coastal beaches, rocks, and low-lying areas . Rising sea level leads to the loss of land adjacent to the coast, reducing further up the shoreline. As coastal lines reduce due to the effects of sea level rise, many critical infrastructures, and buildings are left vulnerable. In particular, coastal erosion produces two major effects on coastal areas. First, infrastructure facilities and buildings are exposed to the displacement of foundation soils, and hence, structures are more prone to falling due to the inadequate support of the soil. Second, the exposure of underground utilities and assets may affect pipelines and equipment. In addition, coastal erosion changes the panoramic scene of beaches, and where coastal leisure has a significant impact on an area’s economy, eroded beaches affect tourism and business that depend on the beaches. According to , with a significant rise in sea level, there will be an acceleration of beach erosion in areas already eroding and possibly a start of erosion in areas not previously subject to erosion. The main reason for the increase in erosion is that when the water level is high it allows the waves and the erosion process to act farther up on the beach profile, causing a readjustment and resulting in a net erosion of the beach. When sea level rises, the waves can get closer to the coast before breaking and cause further erosion. Also, when water bodies are deeper, there is a reduction in the refraction of waves, and therefore there is an increase in transport capacity along the coast. With the rise in sea level, changes may occur in the supply of sediment, reducing the transport of water from the rivers to the sea as the mouth is flooded. Many of the world’s infrastructure facilities such as power generation facilities, refineries stations, water and wastewater treatment plants, and transportation networks are located along coastlines. As sea levels rise and coastlines erode, infrastructures are more exposed to the forces of nature and becoming structurally unstable. As the stability of adjacent coastal land diminishes due to eroding bases, infrastructure systems start displacing significantly to the point that they become hazards to users.
- Exacerbated Land Subsidence: Land subsidence contributes to relative sea level rise and the resulting impacts on coastal areas. Coastal areas lay on unconsolidated or poorly consolidated sediments whose thickness varies from almost zero along the hillside to thousands of meters under the continental shelf. For example, along the U.S. Atlantic shore, severe head reduction in unconsolidated materials can lead to compaction of the aquifer materials. This problem exists in various coastal regions across the globe. This compaction is referred to as land subsidence. Land subsidence is captured through repetitive leveling, and in some cases, via analysis of tide-gauge recorded data with eliminating effects of sea level changes. The most part of compaction is because of the slow drainage of water from clay sediments into intercalated sands. Some studies (e.g., ) show a constant ratio of subsidence and head reduction in the U.S. East Coast and areas with greater montmorillonite clay mineral. Land subsidence can increase flooding, alter wetland and coastal ecosystems, and damage infrastructure. One important contributor to land subsidence is ground water extraction. In most coastal cities, millions of gallons of water are extracted from groundwater which is a relatively inexpensive water source for industry and municipal usage. Land subsidence increases the risk of flooding in low-lying areas further from the coast. In addition, land subsidence may alter the topographic gradient of coastal areas affecting the risk of flooding. Land subsidence can also cause damage to roads, underground utilities, and other infrastructure systems.
- Saltwater Intrusion: Saltwater intrusion can be described as a mass transport of saline water into aquifer zones that were previously occupied by freshwater. The rise of sea levels is likely to cause saltwater intrusion into coastal groundwater systems affecting not only the availability of drinking water supply, but also underground utilities that could be vulnerable to damage when in contact with the saltwater. The increase in salinity levels reduces water quality exceeding acceptable limits for potable uses. As the saltwater has a higher density, when the intrusion occurs there is a displacement of groundwater causing a rise in the water tables. This usually occurs in coastal and estuarine areas due to relative sea level rise or the reduced runoff and associated groundwater recharge. Reference  proposed a climate model that indicates that climate change during the next 50–100 years will decrease river discharges in some coastal waters and the salinity of coastal estuaries and wetlands is expected to increase causing a decrease in the amount of sediments and nutrients delivered to the coast. When stream flow decreases, salinity will tend to advance upstream, altering the zonation of animal and plant species and the availability of freshwater for human use.
4. Water and Wastewater Infrastructure
4.1. SLR Impacts on Water and Wastewater Infrastructure
- Damages due to land subsidence: Land subsidence is recognized as a chronic hazard affecting water and storm water systems. First, land subsidence changes the flow patterns and the runoff on the land surface, and thus affects urban stormwater collection systems. Therefore, in evaluation of storm water systems for future flood hazards, it is important to consider the temporal variations of the urban topography induced by land subsidence. Existing local topographic characteristics and subsequent relative land subsidence play an important role in either exacerbating or reducing water depth changes over time. In addition, areas with a significant difference in water depth tend to be associated with more intense rainfall . Land subsidence can lead to moderate impacts on the spatiotemporal distribution of floods in urban areas with high density. A response to land subsidence involves routing dynamic stormwater through a changing landscape. Second, when sea level rises and land subsides, groundwater levels rise towards the land surface and can cause damage to some structures such as pipes, bridges, and buildings and to infrastructures that are not designed for elevated groundwater levels. This phenomenon increases the rate of corrosion in underground pipelines. In addition, storm and wastewater sewers become vulnerable because land subsidence can change the topographic gradient driving sewer flow and cause sewer overflow during flooding events [20,21].
- Degradation of underground utilities: With sea levels rising, groundwater levels rise during extreme tides affecting the buried utilities and structures interacting with the land soil. In coastal regions, storm water systems are designed for draining surface runoff to the ocean. With rising groundwater levels, groundwater inundation prevents drainage and runoff infiltration. Since urban drainage systems have a certain design capacity, more frequent rainfalls and subsequent water run-off will threaten the ability of these systems to cope with the required discharge [22,23]. In addition, due to sea level rise and increasing aquifer salinity, subsurface structures, such as water and sewer pipes, will corrode at a faster rate . A corroded pipe can cause wastewater, sometimes untreated, to be diverted into nearby fields or bodies of water . In addition, groundwater inundation leads to groundwater elevation and exerts uplift forces on buried water infrastructure . Furthermore, land subsidence causes pressures on buried pipelines and utilities and also changes their gradient driving sewer flow. The change of topological gradient causes sewer overflow during flooding events. This phenomenon leads to increased flooding and more frequent sewage discharge from combined sewer overflows .
- Saltwater intrusion into groundwater and estuaries: With a constant discharge rate from groundwater wells and after a certain rise in sea levels, saltwater will start to flow into the wells from the shores. Saltwater intrusion affects the salinity of groundwater requiring the treatment plants to conduct desalination. Saltwater intrusion causes serious challenges since more than 80% of water supply in coastal areas is provided by groundwater . The intrusion of saltwater into groundwater systems changes the elevation of the freshwater–saltwater interface, and thus, affects coastal ecosystems such as marshes. Saltwater intrusion causes an increase in chloride concentration in the water and if ingested, could cause high blood pressure. Furthermore, the higher chloride concentration can cause corrosion of the pipes of the drinking water facility. In addition, according to , saltwater intrusion into water treatment plants could kill the bacteria used on the biological treatment of water.
- Sewage overflow: Sewage overflow happens when untreated sewage is released to the environment prior to reaching the treatment plant. While storm water drainage systems are designed for draining surface runoff, groundwater inundation caused by sea level rise reduces the drainage capacity of storm water systems, and thus, could affect drainage and runoff infiltration. For example, during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, sewage backup led to the overflow of 11 billion gallons of raw sewage into the streets, rivers, and coastal waters . Sewage overflow has severe health and environmental consequences. In addition, during flooding situations, wastewater facilities can get overwhelmed by excess water. This causes sewer pipes to be overloaded, and as a result, the sewage backs up into homes or low-lying areas. This back-up in the sewer lines may become a breeding ground for bacteria such as E. coli. Also, when a wastewater facility is inundated, facility operators are forced to skip the treatment process and release the untreated water into nearby rivers or streams, which may be used as a source of drinking water .
- Inundation of low-lying treatment facilities: Wastewater facilities in coastal areas are constructed in low-lying areas in order to reduce the need for energy to pump the effluent into the receiving water as it can be piped by gravity. Hence, wastewater treatment plants in low-lying areas are susceptible to flooding or extreme high tides caused by sea level rise. With a higher groundwater level, wastewater infrastructure may overwhelm, interfering with its function and preventing access to critical roads. Many treatment plants typically discharge their wastewater through underwater pipes, which can cause flood from the inside as waters rise, long before the surface water levels overrun the outside of the structures. Thereby, treatment plants located at low elevation may be jeopardized and instead of saving energy, more pumps will be needed to keep them in service. Flooded wastewater facilities will suffer from structural damages. In addition to structural damages, inundation of treatment plants could cause damage to the electrical systems and affect the operation of plants. Also, many plants discharge their treated wastewater through underwater pipes, which can cause plants to flood from the inside as sea level rises . Figure 8 shows the impacts on water, wastewater and stormwater systems.
4.2. Adaptation Measures for Water Infrastructure
- Protection: In the case of a flooding event, many components of water treatment facilities are at risk of failure due to inundation. Protection of water infrastructure facilities such as low-lying treatment facilities can be done using physical and green infrastructure. Physical infrastructure such as dikes and seawalls can be constructed or elevated to reduce the likelihood of flooding occurrence in treatment facilities. Similarly, green infrastructure such as beach dunes and coastal marshes are examples of ecological elements suitable for coastal protection . Another effective green infrastructure solution is mangroves that can reduce coastal erosion and protect coastal areas from flooding. Mangroves reduce the height and energy of wind and waves passing through them, and thus, decrease their ability to erode sediments and to cause damage to structures such as dikes and seawalls . In addition, mangroves reduce coastal erosion through binding soils together.
- Accommodation: To reduce the impacts of sea level rise on storm water drainage systems, pump stations can be used to more effectively collect storm water runoff and direct it to the receiving waters . Enhancing storm water pumping capacity reduces the likelihood of sewage backup due to sea level rise and flooding. In addition, use of green infrastructure such as bioswales and rain gardens can reduce the impacts of sea level rise on stormwater drainage systems. Bioswales are storm water runoff conveyance systems that can absorb storm water runoff due to heavy rain. Bioswales filter the stormwater and store the water, and hence, reduce the pressure on sewage systems during heavy rainfalls and flooding. Rain gardens can be used as effective landscape elements to reduce storm water runoff. When implemented as landscape components of different city facilities and buildings, rain gardens can effectively reduce stormwater runoff and reduce the pressure on drainage systems under sea level rise.
- Retreat: There are different adaptation measures to reduce the exposure of water infrastructure to sea level rise hazard impacts. In order to reduce the exposure of low-lying treatment plants to sea level rise impacts and flooding, the elevation of these facilities should be raised. To this end, the codes need to be modified to determine the new requirements for the elevation of water treatment facilities. Raising the elevation of facilities reduces the exposure of facilities and pump stations to flooding. For example, the Deer Island water treatment facility in Virginia was elevated about 1.9 feet to accommodate potential sea level change for at least the first 50 or 60 years of the facility’s service . In some facilities, raising the elevation would not be effective. For new treatment facilities, the siting and elevations should be determined based on future sea level rise scenarios.
5. Energy Infrastructure
5.1. SLR Impacts on Energy Infrastructure
- Coastal flooding: Sea level rise in coastal communities will cause flooding of low lying energy infrastructures along the coast. There are two main sources of coastal flooding identified in the literature: coastal storm surges and the rise of sea levels . Both coastal flooding impacts possess a high risk to energy infrastructure located in coastal areas. Coastal flooding affects three types of energy infrastructure assets: (1) power generation facilities; (2) electric transmission and controls; (3) electric substations. Power generation facilities are regularly located in coastal shores and near urban areas to have accessibility to cooling water for their generators and for the discharge of wastewater. For example,  identified that the coast of Florida is vulnerable to having the main sources of electric generation flooded by sea level rise. Also, along the U.S. Atlantic Coast,  identified 20 power plants located in New York City that posed potential treat, lying in a 10-ft elevation contour. In addition to the energy generation and distribution facilities,  identified that electric controller for water treatment plant and wastewater treatment plant in Miami-Dade County were also vulnerable to sea level rise and high storm surge events. Many interdependent infrastructure systems such as water, wastewater, and transportation systems depend on energy equipment and controller to sustain their services. If there is any power failure due to inundation of a substation, the substation ceases to work; subsequently, the linked sewage pumping stations are affected. This shutdown can cause floating of sewer pipes and damages to roads.
- Saltwater intrusion in energy utility assets: As mentioned in the previous section, saltwater intrusion is the contamination of groundwater with saltwater at high water table areas. Rising sea levels will increase the degradation of energy infrastructure materials with corrosion by saltwater intrusion due to inundation and groundwater contamination. In many urban cities and communities, energy transmissions are buried underground . Zimmerman (2010)  pointed out that most of electric equipment in New York City located at ground level could get corroded easily given the fact that energy equipment is not designed to withstand saltwater exposure. In Florida, electric transmission lines are in direct contact with groundwater with the risk of being exposed to saltwater.
- Coastal erosion: Coastal erosion is a natural phenomenon that occurs when wave forces wear rocks, beaches and sands dunes. Many sea level rise scenarios do not take into account the effects that coastal erosion have on energy infrastructure systems. Coastal erosion can accelerate sea level rise effects significantly and it is extremely necessary to include coastal erosion in sea level rise scenario analysis to clearly identify the impacts of sea level rise and the adaptation measures that need to be taken. Sea-level rise and storm surges accelerate the coastal erosion and vice versa . Studies conducted by [38,45,46] determined that many energy infrastructures are located in the proximity of coastlines, making them vulnerable to coastal erosion.
- Increased energy demand: With the rise of sea levels, and subsequent floods, there is an increased demand for power used in storm water drainage pumps to prevent overflow roads and also for desalination of water supply. Also, energy is needed to treat drinking water. The increase in energy demand affects energy infrastructure systems mainly because of the interdependence between other infrastructure systems such as water networks and transportation networks. Water and wastewater pumping and treatment are major energy users. Transportation and communication networks are needed to maintain and operate the infrastructures . Increased variability in water quantity and timing due to the projected changes in intensity and frequency of precipitation will have impacts on hydropower. The likely increase in the need for energy for pumping water implies more peak load demands, stresses on the energy distribution systems and more frequent blackouts. These will have negative impacts on local health and local economies . According to , experiences with the recent extreme weather events have shown how the loss of energy supplies due to storms and floods can disrupt transportation and water treatment services, and also communication services which in turn complicates emergency responses related to health and safety. Figure 9 concerns the cascading impacts of sea level rise on different infrastructure systems. It shows that almost all impacts will ultimately increase energy demand in the future.
5.2. Adaptation Measures for Energy Infrastructure
- Protection: Protection of energy facilities is achieved by “hardening” the structures, either by building new enhanced infrastructures or upgrading the existing infrastructures. Hardening energy infrastructure across the supply chain is part of the energy industry’s responsibilities to ensure that the existing infrastructures will be able to deliver energy to its customers under extreme weather events. Some industries choose to make physical changes to its infrastructure to make it less likely to be damaged by extreme winds, flooding, or other weather events. According to Entergy Corporation representatives, they made a study that identified a number of potential hardening measures, such as replacing wooden transmission and distribution poles with steel or concrete and building levees around oil refineries. In response to more recent storms, such as Hurricane Isaac, Entergy representatives note that the implementation of these adaptive measures has paid off. They have experienced less infrastructure damage and have restored power to their customers more quickly than in previous storms .
- Accommodation: As stated in the previous section, energy needs will increase because of new pumping for drainage, desalination, and cooling water . The increase in electricity demand will require the construction of new power generation facilities not included in regional and cities’ energy planning. Many power companies consider as part of their planning how to produce enough energy to support 120% of the forecasted demand. However, with sea level rise and its impacts, other infrastructures (e.g., pump stations) will increase their demand due to system deficiencies and the peak energy demand would exceed the plan, so energy blackouts will be more likely to occur. On the other hand, increasing power generation and transmission beyond the current planning scope is very difficult. The interdependencies between different infrastructure systems make it difficult to assess the amount of energy required for each infrastructure to adapt to sea level rise. It is necessary to implement a systemic adaptation measure considering the needs across various infrastructure systems. As mentioned by , urban cities are highly populated and, thus, it becomes difficult to build new power plants because land space is scarce.
- Retreat: A good method to reduce the exposure of energy infrastructure to flood damage is elevating critical infrastructures or using submersible, saltwater-resistant equipment. The elevation solution includes raising energy infrastructure equipment and assets that are vulnerable to the inundation of sea level and erosion by saltwater intrusion above the expected rate of sea level rise. Elevating vulnerable systems is the most effective adaptation measure to reduce the risk of failure of the electric system . Although being the most effective method, elevation of energy equipment could not be the most cost-effective approach. Reference  showed that the expenses in elevating all the vulnerable assets in New York City would not be sustainable. The transmission lines and equipment serving the city are concentrated and provide relatively small flexibility for relocation. Another method to adapt energy infrastructure to sea level rise is to use renewable sources of energy. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the United States can meet 80% of its electricity needs in 2050 through renewable energy generation using current technology. In fact, renewable energy sources generally produce much lower emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHG), which is the primary anthropogenic driver of climate change and consequently, sea level rise. Using renewable sources of energy generation will help reduce the amount of GHG in the atmosphere and, consequently, the effects of sea level rise. So, using renewable energy can be considered as a resilient method to adapt to SLR. Also, it is a way to reduce the dependence on electrical energy and give alternative options to provide energy to different infrastructure systems in a case of high energy demand.
6. Transportation Infrastructure
6.1. SLR Impacts on Transportation Infrastructure
6.2. SLR Impacts on Roads
- Erosion and subsidence of road bases: One of the biggest problems that road networks are dealing with is the erosion of structural layers. Erosion is a natural phenomenon that threatens roads that are the proximity of seas. For example, on the West Coast of the United States, problems with flooding are not a major concern, while erosion is expected to cause significant damages. For example, about 120 miles of highways and 730 miles of roads along the coast of California are at risk of erosion. In addition to the aggravating effects of rising sea levels, human interventions amplify coastal erosion by avoiding the coastal displacement through breakwaters, blocking sand in upstream reservoirs and sand mining .
- Flooding of roads and low lying infrastructure: According to , more frequent extreme precipitation events may have significant consequences for transportation, resulting in more frequent flooding and pushing the capacity of existing drainage systems of roads. For example, according to , various road networks along the Pacific Coast in California are vulnerable to flooding events exacerbated by sea level rise. The vulnerability analysis of road networks in California showed that under the present condition almost 2000 miles of roads are at risk of flooding. This number will increase by 175% with an increase of 1.4 m of sea level rise. Most vulnerable roads are located in the San Francisco Bay region . In another example, the increased risk of severe flooding in Florida’s low-lying terrain can cause inundation of roads and structural damage due to increased water table levels .
- Traffic congestion: The effects of sea level rise may indirectly spread through the transportation system and subsequently affect the system performance. In addition, extreme rainfall events and more frequent flooding may disturb traffic management systems. These impacts can disrupt traffic flow and cause significant congestions. The flooding of a major road can cause changes in traffic flow, and subsequently cause congestion in other roadways that may not be able to support the traffic demand. This impact would lead to an operational failure of the system and also increase travel times and extend delays because of rerouting. In addition, the inundation of a critical access road could cause transportation connectivity problems by blocking access to some areas . According to Miami Herald newsletter, the city of Miami Beach has put into action an aggressive and expensive plan to combat the impacts of sea level rise. As some streets continue to flood because of the high tide events, a lot of important roads of the city become completely flooded during storm events causing damage to cars, homes, and business. With that, the traffic becomes chaotic causing delay in travel time and a lot of accidents. The city continues rolling out its plan and will spend more than $400 million over the next five years on adaptation methods to mitigate the impacts of SLR.
- Inundation of roads and rail lines: As said by , to consider the impacts of inundation, roads that pass through land areas with an existing elevation above sea level of less than or equal to 23 feet are considered to be vulnerable to storm surge inundation by 2100, and roads that are located in or pass through land areas with an existing elevation above sea level of less than or equal to 18 feet are considered to be vulnerable by 2050. In a report of Hampton Roads Planning District Commission,  highlights damages to road transportation in Atlantic coast, in a case study of Virginia State. The assessment which was analyzed by GIS software shows that around five hundred miles of roadways are at risk of permanent inundation due to increasing sea levels. A simulated storm surge model, developed by , for the central Gulf Coast, demonstrated that with storm surge at 23 feet, more than half of the area’s major highways (64% of interstates and 57% of arterials), almost half of the railroads, 29 airports, and practically all of the ports are prone to inundation. Besides that, according to , even temporary inundation from nuisance flooding and storm surges can disrupt the road networks. During the period of inundation, roads may not be passable, and would not serve as an emergency evacuation or recovery route.
- Infrastructure damage due to increased storm intensity: During flood events, one of the major impacts on transportation infrastructure is the damage to storm water pipes. According to , storm water pipes are designed to balance the hydraulic forces that act inside as well as the earth forces on the top of it. The pipes are installed at a critical depth under the ground which should be stable and inexpensive. When a flood occurs, this balance is disturbed because of the additional weight of water. Due to this differential forces acting on the pipes, they start to float to the surface causing damage to the roads. This phenomenon may also cause damage to the roads that are unaffected by floodwater. In some cases, it might be possible to pump the water out of the flooded areas before damage happens. In addition, prolonged flooding can damage pavement substructures. Most base courses are installed above the water table . The roadway surface will remain stable if the base stays dry, but as soon as the base is saturated, the roadway can quickly deteriorate. In addition, due to the reduction of soil storage capacity, roadways that are frequently flooded are more likely to experience pavement damage.
6.3. Adaptation Measures for Transportation Infrastructure
- Protection: To select an appropriate protection measure, it is important to consider the geological characteristics of an area. For example, using dikes along the North Sea is recognized as an appropriate method in protecting low lying roads. However, in Florida, dikes are not suitable due to its porous ground condition . Topological features of each region also provide an opportunity to better protect vulnerable regions against sea level rise impacts. In some cases, second dike lines or road dams can be used to protect lands from flood when the first dike line is damaged . In case of undeveloped low lying areas, roads can play the protective role of dikes against the sea. So, it is reasonable to use roads that are parallel to the coast to make a real dike system. In addition, transportation agencies sometimes build culvert bridges along the dikes to let water pass through the road . Another protection measure is the construction of seawalls to protect road infrastructure adjacent to the coast. Seawalls have been proved to be effective in reducing the effect of erosion. They have been built for many years in coastal urban cities. Although this protection measure has been effective, sometimes it is not sufficient to withstand the impacts of sea level rise. Seawalls have the same vulnerability as other hard infrastructures when it comes to structural stability. In previous studies, findings identified that around 92% of communities that have engaged in the construction of seawalls felt that this protection measure was not sufficient to deal with sea level rise impacts . Another important way to protect vulnerable areas is the nourishment of coastal shores through beach replenishment. This method consists of replacing sand from beaches and coastlines that have been eroded by the effects of sea level rise and waves with new sand in order to improve the stability of infrastructure and buildings. If this action is taken, the sandy areas will naturally adapt to the changing condition of sea level and it would be a flexible choice with a low cost and a good adaptation for the future of seaside cities. Beach nourishment has been utilized as an effective measure in different coastal regions as a relatively inexpensive measure compared to other adaptation measures like dikes. However, beach nourishment does not solve all sea level rise problems in the long term. Many coastal urban areas that have implemented beach nourishment had to constantly monitor shorelines and continuously keep refilling beaches and coastlines.
- Accommodation: Elevating roads and existing structures is an example of accommodation of infrastructure to reduce the impacts of sea level rise. Elevating the existing roads has certain advantages and disadvantages. When a road is raised, the vulnerability for flooding remains unchanged, however, it is probable that the impacts of flooding will cause less damage if this method is implemented. It will be more economical to prevent the damage than to repair it . Another accommodation measure is to use pervious materials for paving roads in low traffic residential streets. Nevertheless, for high-speed and high traffic volume roads, the drainage capacity of the roads should be enhanced from the roadbed. On the other hand, this method will probably cause some difficulties for surrounding areas. The water stands in the properties along the roads and could be a good place for mosquitoes to live, so it will be against sanitation and urbanization policies. Also, it is a town’s responsibility to inform inhabitants about the future need for elevating their houses [55,58]. Another accommodation measure is to use pumps to drain storm water away from streets. Due to sea level rise, the frequency of floods and storm surges increases, and thus the existing systems will not be enough to drain storm water . The elevation of streets and nearby properties are important factors affecting the direction of drainage flow. In a case study in Bangladesh,  presented the benefits of using drainage systems to pump the storm water away from the streets. In another example, in Ocean City of Maryland, there is an urban design role in order to drain the water on streets that are most prone to flooding during storm events. In the United States, thousands of dollars are spent on street drainage check valves to avoid backing up into streets and this method is considered as reasonable and affordable, because if the checking does not occur periodically, the impacts will force owners to elevate their land because of sea level rise and this will be much costlier .
- Retreat: An example of retreat measure is to take anticipatory action to limit the development of vulnerable areas exposed to sea level rise risks. If new roads are constructed beyond the restricted stripes, the probability of threat to properties and people will increase. Reference  stated that, in addition to the hard and soft adaptation measures against sea level rise for transportation infrastructure in coastal cities, there is another kind of practical adaptation measure for the northeastern part of the US and it is land-use policies. With zoning actions, it would be possible to restrict areas that are at risk with different strategies, such as setback line construction, removal of dangerous buildings, and purchase or request of unoccupied areas near the sea to allow wetlands and beaches to be extended. Providing the legal foundation for governments to buy-out vulnerable districts after the rise of sea levels is a great solution to reducing the threat to these areas. This method has been used since 1986 in France, to manage the expansion of urban zones and mitigate future risks . It should also be mentioned that any attempt to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) will lead to a decrease in the rate of sea level rising, increased temperatures and precipitation, thus allowing for 30% less impact on infrastructure systems .
7. Implementation and Decision-Making Challenges
- Capital Investments: First, implementation of adaptation measures requires significant capital investments on top of expenditures needed for maintenance and rehabilitation of infrastructure. While the current infrastructure funding sources are not sufficient for addressing the normal condition investment needs, additional expenditures for adaptation will be significantly challenging. In addition, although investments in adaptation measures will include long-term economic payoffs, the uncertain and long-term nature of benefits makes economic evaluations of adaptation investments difficult. However, adapting infrastructure to sea level rise impacts presents significant opportunities as long as actions are taken early. In addition, adaptation actions should be selected based on the evaluation of various criteria and consideration of future uncertainty. Each adaptation measure has its own merits and costs. City planners and decision-makers need to choose appropriate methods based on the evaluation of different factors such as population, city size, and other considerations such as heritage sites or political issues [4,53,61].
- Information Gathering: Prior to the development and implementation of sea level rise adaptation measures, it is necessary to gather all the required information related to possible sea level rise scenarios and projections, various impacts, and feasible adaptation measures. This process includes risk and vulnerability assessment of infrastructure systems. The information obtained from risk and vulnerability analysis enables decision-makers to identify exposed infrastructure, the extent of vulnerability, and subsequent risk consequences in order to efficiently allocate their limited resources. Mapping exposure of infrastructure can lead to the identification of facilities that are vulnerable to sea level rise under different projections of sea level rise. This information provides a baseline for prioritization of infrastructure facilities based on their vulnerability. For instance,  assessed the damages of basic infrastructures such as public buildings, streets, railroads, metro systems, public safety institutions (fire stations, police stations, hospitals), educational institutions and governmental institutions, in Washington, D.C., under different sea level rise scenarios using GIS software. This sort of analysis provided a practical assessment of important infrastructures vulnerable to flooding. A robust assessment of sea level rise impacts and infrastructure vulnerability would require: (i) reliable projections of future sea level rise; (ii) improved flood and storm surge scenarios based on future climate change patterns; (iii) consideration of future population and land use changes; and (iv) quantified assessment of uncertainty.
- Public Education and Community Engagement: Public education and community engagement are essential to help communities to understand: (i) how they can be directly affected by sea level rise now and in the future; and (ii) what adaptation actions should be taken by local community decision-makers. The inclusion of community values at the early stage of adaptation is essential. Identifying community values and priorities provides a strategic direction for decision-makers to choose adaptation methods that are compatible with specific needs of individual communities. This citizen engagement approach offers an opportunity not only to improve public understanding but also to gain public support. In addition, public education and community engagement should take place throughout the adaptation process to ensure transparency in the decision-making process by making information available from a wide variety of sources and holding public information seminars, workshops and conferences . Public education and community engagement are required by law in some regions as part of local planning processes . Sea level rise has started gaining public attention. However, the impacts and the need for adaptation actions are still not completely understood by the public.
- Uncertainty in Sea Level Rise Projections: According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s  assessment report, the average rate of global sea level rise was 0.17 cm/year during the 20th century, 0.18 cm/year from 1961 to 1993, and 0.31 cm/year from 1993 to 2003. Global climate models suggest that global average sea level might rise 18–59 cm by 2100, if ice sheets continue to melt at the rate observed from 1993 to 2003. If the rate increases at the same trend as global temperatures warm, total sea level rise by 2100 might be 10–20 cm greater than the average projections. The upper bound for sea level rise projection is difficult to estimate  because of the uncertainty related to the rates at which the ice sheets will melt . Hence, the implementation of adaptation measures should consider uncertainty. Uncertainty related to future rates of sea level rise and its impacts on water, energy, and transportation infrastructures involves two important considerations: the timing and the magnitude of sea level rise. Sea level rise timing determines if current decisions on capital investments need to incorporate the sea level rise impacts at the end of the useful life of infrastructure systems. If a slower sea level rise is projected and impacts are expected after the end of the life cycle of infrastructure, the systems will not require any adaptation measure. On the contrary, if changes in sea level are projected to occur rapidly, planning decisions need to account for implementing adaptation measures earlier than the end of life of infrastructure facilities . The magnitude of sea level rise impacts determines to what degree an adaptive action is warranted. Underestimation of sea level rise impacts can lead to ineffective adaptation capital investments. Both types of uncertainty related to timing and magnitude of impacts make investment decisions complicated . Hence, robust adaptation requires sophisticated decision-making processes, given how little we know about future sea level rise effects at the regional level. Starting this process is important, specifically at the early planning stages . Decision-makers can mitigate impacts and make adaptation easier by proactively planning for different scenarios of sea level rise impacts.
- Costs of Adaptation: The need for water, energy and transportation infrastructure investment over the coming decades is already significant. Rising sea levels may also affect where infrastructure is built and how it is operated. There will also be a need for investment in additional infrastructure, dedicated specifically to protection against rising sea levels, such as flood protection, drainage, construction of seawalls, and other adaptation methods stated at the previous sections, as well as retrofitting to improve the resilience of the existing infrastructure. Infrastructure adaptation usually exceeds the cost estimates making the decision-making processes more complex. The cost of protecting coastal assets and infrastructure can be significant. For example, shoreline retreat in the United States is projected to cost between $270 billion to $475 billion for each meter of sea level rise .
- Maladaptation: To mitigate the potential impacts of rising sea levels on infrastructure systems, it is necessary to plan and to implement cost-effective adaptation strategies. To avoid maladaptation, it is extremely important to evaluate the effectiveness of the adaptation methods used. Maladaptation is considered as the poor selection of adaptation measures such that the changes in the infrastructure systems become less effective as time goes by until the infrastructure systems become dysfunctional. It is a significant challenge to anticipate the impacts of sea level rise and to take timely action. Maladaptation may occur if decision-makers fail to implement appropriate adaptation measures at the right time. The key element to overcoming this challenge is to analyze the performance of physical networks and the long-term impacts under various sea-level rise scenarios. However, this analysis can be affected by the condition of physical networks, the vulnerability of network links to sea level rise impacts, and the decision-making behaviors of the institutional agencies managing physical networks .
8. Concluding Remarks
Conflicts of Interest
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|Dams, Dikes and Seawalls||Dunes, Coastal Marshes and Mangroves||Increasing Pumping Capacity||Bioswales and Rain Gardens||Artificial Aquifer Recharge||Raising Elevation of Facilities||Controlled Groundwater Extraction||Storm Water Re-Use|
|Damages due to land subsidence||X||X|
|Degradation of underground utilities||X||X|
|Saltwater intrusion into groundwater and estuaries||X||X||X|
|Inundation of low-lying treatment facilities||X||X||X||X|
|Sea Level Rise Impact||Power Infrastructure||References|
|Coastal flooding||Damage to power plants Indirect: increased demand for power used in storm water drainage pumps||[34,38,44]|
|Saltwater intrusion in energy utility assets||Indirect stress: increased demand for power for desalination of water supply; Erosion into underground utilities lines and cables|||
|Coastal erosion||Plant, grid, and substation damages. Exposure of energy assets to the environment|||
|Increased energy demand||Increase in water pumps, desalination technology and energy intensive assets produce off-peak energy consumption to the electric grid||[44,46]|
|Sea Walls||Coastal Forest Rehabilitation and Beach Dune Restoration||Increase Power Generation and Transmission||Elevation of Energy Equipment||Use of Renewable Energy Sources|
|Saltwater intrusion on energy utility assets||X||X|
|Increased energy demand||X||X|
|Location||SLR||Potential Damages to Transportation Infrastructures||Source|
|Coastline along MexicanGulf||1.2 m||27% of major roads|||
|9% of rail line|
|72% of the ports|
|Washington DC US||0.59 m||15 km roads, 3 km railroads|||
|0.1 m||10.5 km streets|||
|Egypt||0.5 m||11.73% whole network or 23 km roads|||
|California US||1.4 m||1600 mile roads, 180 mile Highway|||
|Dikes, Road Dams and Seawalls||Beach Nourishment||Elevation of Roads and Existing Structures||Use of Pervious Materials on Roads||Improving Drainage Capacity||Limit the Development of Vulnerable Areas||Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emission|
|Erosion and subsidence of road bases||X||X||X||X||X|
|Flooding of roads and low lying infrastructures||X||X||X||X||X|
|Inundation of roads and rail lines||X||X||X|
|Infrastructure damage due to increased storm intensity||X||X|
© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Azevedo de Almeida, B.; Mostafavi, A. Resilience of Infrastructure Systems to Sea-Level Rise in Coastal Areas: Impacts, Adaptation Measures, and Implementation Challenges. Sustainability 2016, 8, 1115. https://doi.org/10.3390/su8111115
Azevedo de Almeida B, Mostafavi A. Resilience of Infrastructure Systems to Sea-Level Rise in Coastal Areas: Impacts, Adaptation Measures, and Implementation Challenges. Sustainability. 2016; 8(11):1115. https://doi.org/10.3390/su8111115Chicago/Turabian Style
Azevedo de Almeida, Beatriz, and Ali Mostafavi. 2016. "Resilience of Infrastructure Systems to Sea-Level Rise in Coastal Areas: Impacts, Adaptation Measures, and Implementation Challenges" Sustainability 8, no. 11: 1115. https://doi.org/10.3390/su8111115