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Wsc Category 1 Water Sustainability In Coastal Environments: Exploratory Research For An Integrated Study Of The Effect Of Anticipated Sea Level Rise On Contaminated Site Risk

Investigators
Duke, Joshua
Institutions
University of Delaware
Start date
2012
End date
2013
Abstract

This research seeks to understand the chemistry and hydrology of contaminant transport within the context of anticipated sea level rise, the engineering solutions available, and the way humans process the risks. The projected interaction of sea level rise and contaminated sites is a poorly understood problem, but a significant one, positioned at the interface of natural science and social science. The scientific problem is complex, given factors such as the chemical effects of salinity, pH, redox, the physical effects of changes in hydraulic gradients, rising water tables, marsh drowning, new areas inundated by storm surges, and the risk that currently-immobilized constituents may be released. Economic choice experiments and laboratory experiments provide a way to incorporate this complexity and to understand how humans may respond. An exploratory team at the University of Delaware is investigating how water sustainability needs are impacted by the joint impacts of contaminated sites and anticipated sea level rise. Concerns about climate change and sea level rise extend beyond traditional issues of human adaptation, such as reinforcing buildings and roads, building water barriers, health impacts of climate change, changing agricultural land use, and insurance issues. Alterations in hydrology and chemistry of contaminated soils in urban areas, industrial sites, and waste disposal sites, as the result of sea level rise, could enhance release and mobility of contaminants, threatening drinking water supplies, and food sources. The project analyzes how the joint risk of sea level rise and contamination may affect the economic opportunities, ecosystems, water quality and quality of life in the coming decades for coastal zone populations. The research ultimately seeks to compare the benefits and costs of different remediation alternatives, resulting in direct policy advice. The policy implications of this research may include a different prioritization of technological solutions for remediation, including options for abandonment, containment, and human adaptation. This advice depends on the human processing of perceived risks, and the distributional patterns of received benefits and costs across different populations. Understanding how the public responds to risk, including research on responses when the risk is communicated in different ways, will provide insights toward improving risk management.

Funding Source
United States Nat'l. Science Fndn.
Project source
View this project
Project number
1204672
Categories
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Prevention and Control
Policy and Planning