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Future area flooding prompts changes to building plans

Monday - 5/21/2012, 2:08pm  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The Washington region could be facing more flooding of the Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay, even the National Mall in a few years. Residents could also expect longer periods of drought and more severe storms.

It's not catastrophic, but it is enough for some planners to urge precautions to deal with global warming.

Antonio Busalacchi from the University of Maryland Earth Systems Science Interdisciplinary Center says those precaution should include how land is used and developed and roads are constructed.

"The decisions we make now, will impact us for decades to come," Busalacchi says.

Stuart Freudberg, director of Environmental Programs at the Washington area Council of Governments says some of the fixes that may be needed are not that complex or expensive.

"Your walls a little higher, your storm water pipe is a little bigger" Freudberg says in advising governments in how to respond to rising water levels.

Freudberg says improvements have to last 50 to a 100 years so you have to look at the effect of climate change.

The group which gathered Monday at COG headquarters in D.C. says the local impact of climate change is already evident in more flooding, more severe storms, and in recent years more drought.

"We just look at the weather that we've seen in recent years and recent decades, I think a lot of people understand that there's something different going on" says Busalacci.

Even the soon-to-be started renovations on the National Mall will need to take water levels into account. There are also some mitigating solutions.

Dan Boesch, from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, says while government decisions on things like car emissions will have a major impact, individual decisions also matter.

"Energy efficiency is one example where we can very quickly save money and do the right thing by the environment," Boesch says.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)