As climate change begins to affect the continental United States, building pros must consider increasing threats of severe weather and changes in stormwater patterns when constructing new homes and communities. They now have a new tool to help understand how these issues will affect them and the houses they build.

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan Virtual Climate Resilience Toolkit, the EPA has released a Climate Adjustment Tool for its Stormwater Management Model (SWMM), a widely used online simulation program. The new Climate Adjustment Tool allows engineers and planners to evaluate the performance of water infrastructure while considering future climate change projections, such as more frequent high-intensity storms and changes in evaporation rates of seasonal precipitation, to determine the benefits of resiliency decisions to reduce local economic burden and protect communities.

The new tool will enable users to add climate projections to existing simulations to determine the quality of water traveling through traditional infrastructure such as gutters, storm drains, pipes, channels, collection tanks, and storage devices. The tool also has the ability to model the performance of green infrastructure practices, including permeable pavement, rain gardens, and green roofs. Engineers and planners are able to accurately represent any combination of traditional and green infrastructure practices within an area to determine their effectiveness in managing stormwater and combined sewer overflows in their community.

Stormwater runoff is a major environmental problem resulting in flooding, erosion, and contaminated waters, according to the EPA.  The Climate Adjustment Tool can help users make planning, analysis, and design decisions that will guard against the impacts of climate change, says EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. 

“Climate change means increased risks to our health, our economy, and our environment,” she saysEPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “But with the president’s Climate Action Plan, the agency is taking action to advance science-based technology, such as the addition of the Climate Adjustment Tool, to help state and local planners combat the impacts of climate change, especially significant economic burden from severe weather, and protect communities through sustainability and resiliency measures.”

EPA's SWMM is used throughout the world for stormwater runoff reduction planning, analysis and design of combined and sanitary sewers, and other drainage systems. Originally released decades ago, SWMM is now used in thousands of communities throughout the world, including as the core modeling engine in cities such as Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Seattle.