Real Estate Buyers Need to Be Aware of Sea Level Rise’s Impact on Infrastructure

Buyers of real estate in coastal areas don’t just need to know if the property of interest experiences sea level rise flooding. They also need to know how salty floodwaters are impacting critical infrastructure.

Case in point: Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For decades, officials there have raided the city’s sewer and water budget to fund other projects. Without critical maintenance, the system is collapsing. Last month alone, breaks in a pipe caused 126 million gallons of sewage to course down a neighborhood street and into a river.

In 2017, an engineering firm gave the city an 800 page report that said $1.4 billion worth of work that needed to be completed on the leaky wastewater treatment system to stop the sewage spills. Experts said part of the problem is that the system has aged beyond its useful life. Another problem is that sea level rise is immersing metal pipes in salty water which is causing them to corrode and fail.

Fort Lauderdale isn’t alone in confronting this costly challenge. Miami, too, has a failing wastewater treatment system that has led to spills and huge fines. Many other cities all along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coastlines are bound to get hit with similar problems as their infrastructure is invaded by rising seas.

One thing Fort Lauderdale and Miami have in common is the struggle to find money to make the needed repairs. The only options are higher taxes or bond issues. Either way, property owners are bound to get soaked.

The timing of these costs couldn’t be worse. In addition to the need to upgrade their wastewater treatment systems, both cities need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to raise roads and pipes and build barriers and pumps to hold back the ocean.

In the end, buyers need to take future tax hikes into account when they’re considering whether or not to purchase real estate in areas impacted by sea level rise flooding. This issue is discussed in detail in “7 sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions.”

Sea Level Rise Picks Up Pace in South Florida and the Keys

The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact is warning member governments from Palm Beach County to the Keys to start planning for 17 inches to 31 inches of sea level rise in the next four decades. The group released data at its annual meeting in Key West last month that increased sea level rise projections an additional 3 to 5 inches over previous forecasts.

Chronic sea level rise flooding already has Keys officials considering instituting a managed retreat, where the government buys out real estate and abandons roads. Many coastal governments are considering retreat as an option, especially in areas where maintaining infrastructure is considered too expensive for the number of residents served. The challenge if finding the money to purchase the distressed real estate and convincing owners who don’t want to sell. Read more in this Bloomberg Environment article.

%d bloggers like this: