Most people have not heard of low impact development, but it is becoming more and more important as time goes on. Large-scale flooding has the potential to be one of the most devastating disaster scenarios imaginable. I have some experience in this area and believe me, trying to execute an outage restoration when the service territory is underwater is extremely difficult. Obviously, this problem is most prominent in coastal areas, but even inland areas near large bodies of water are at risk. This is why I was intrigued when I stumbled onto an article discussing “low impact development” (LID), which essentially refers to the process of tweaking buildings and landscapes in ways designed to make municipalities as a whole more resistant to catastrophic flood damage.
What is Low Impact Development?
The crux of LID is to cover or replace impervious surfaces like pavement with surfaces that allow more water to be absorbed into the ground. It includes about 10 alternate design features, mainly involving plants set in well-drained soil or gravel or sand filtering detention structures that act as natural filters for water. Experts believe these tactics can dramatically reduce storm water runoff and flooding, and as such, it is reasonable to expect that some communities will ultimately revise codes to require LID elements in future development projects.
From an emergency preparedness perspective, this is fantastic news. I do believe that low impact development will be required, to some extent, in the future, but even in the absence of any mandates, this is still a good thing because it demonstrates that decision-makers are starting to get serious about figuring out creative ways to reduce the impact of disasters. During service outages, flood reduction strategies should help restoration crews mobilize, which will in theory speed up the process in many cases. The advent of low impact development is truly a win-win for utilities, municipalities and customers.