Understanding the Effects of Climate Change on Urban Storm water Infrastructures in the Las Vegas Valley

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The intensification of the hydrological cycle due to climate change entails more frequent and intense rainfall. As a result, urban water systems will be disproportionately affected by the climate change, especially in such urban areas as Las Vegas, which concentrates its population, infrastructure, and economic activity. Proper design and management of storm water facilities are needed to attenuate the severe effects of extreme rainfall events. The North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program is developing multiple high-resolution projected-climate data from different combinations of regional climate models and global climate models. The objective of this study was to evaluate existing storm water facilities of a watershed within the Las Vegas Valley in southern Nevada by using a robust design method for the projected climate. The projected climate change was incorporated into the model at the 100 year return period with 6 h duration depths, using a statistical regionalization analysis method. Projection from different sets of climate model combinations varied substantially. Gridded reanalysis data were used to assess the performance of the climate models. An existing Hydrologic Engineering Center’s Hydrological Modeling System (HEC-HMS) model was implemented using the projected change in standard design storm. Hydrological simulation using HEC-HMS showed exceedances of existing storm water facilities that were designed under the assumption of stationarity design depth. Recognizing climate change and taking an immediate approach in assessing the city’s vulnerability by using proper strategic planning would benefit the urban sector and improve the quality of life.

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