This past week, northern California was struck by a series of storms. While this is positive news in the battle against the California drought, intense storms and the reality of lingering drought are evidence of weather extremes predicted by climate change scientists. Public and private infrastructure mitigation strategies are complex business.
In terms of alleviating drought, these storms are a drop in the bucket. As this Washington Post article explains, the west coast wet season is nearly over and is tragically devoid of the typical moisture for this time of year. While this recent rain has thoroughly drenched northern California, it did little to compensate for the poor rain season in which San Francisco saw its first rainless January since records began 165 years ago.
Elsewhere in California, rain in Glendora and Santa Clarita fell on hillsides denuded by firestorms, causing the poorly vegetated hillsides to give way to mudslides. If there is one lesson from the California weather this week: we must be diligent and work on long-term solutions to mounting environmental challenges.
Severe storms and damaging storm water runoff are not unique to the west. Excess water plagues municipalities on the east coast from Florida to Maine, even under normal rain conditions. But as Greensulate CEO Amy Norquist pointed out in an article for The Huffington Post, green roofs in California can temper the effects extreme storms have on aging infrastructure. Studies show that green roofs reduce storm water peak flow rates up to 96% by retaining water and delaying the flow into overloaded sewer systems.
Meanwhile, Green roofs act as biomimicry to simulate natural ecosystems, instigating the natural hydrological conditions necessary for rain events in drought areas.
As storms relieve a fraction of the drought this week in some areas, we’re reminded that innovation is the only practical solution to our urban-environmental problems. We must move beyond the wet/dry mindset and find new solutions to meet each unique climate challenge.
As several successful Greensulate projects in San Francisco show, green roofs can mitigate storm water runoff, while providing a host of other environmental benefits – from controlling urban heat islands, to sequestering Co2, to providing psychological relief to city inhabitants lacking green space. Energy savings, increased property value, and municipal tax abatements add further incentives for forward-thinking owners able to invest in long-term improvements. At Greensulate, every day brings opportunities to make a difference one roof at a time, as we find cutting-edge solutions to our climate challenges.