Snow Melt Offers an Opportunity to Improve Flood Management Systems

February 13, 2023
By Bill Alms, Project Manager, WSB

Since 2020 Minnesota has experienced drought conditions, with less than average rainfall. The five years before that, Minnesota faced several extremely wet years, and communities were more prone to flooding with average rainfall as much as a foot above average.

This winter, Minnesota has already received well above average snowfall, similar to the winter of 2019-2020. If snow melt trends stay similar this spring to the spring of 2020, it may offer communities a unique opportunity to measure flood storage capacity, identify underperforming outlets, and update flood resiliency plans based on real time data. 

Why This Spring May Provide the Perfect Test Case

Coming off of a wet summer and a snowy winter in the spring of 2020, many communities saw flood storage capacity at its limit. Numerous reservoirs and ponds were high or overflowing, and communities struggled with underperforming drainage outlets. 

Now, this year many of those basins and ponds are low due to ongoing drought and extremely dry conditions – the opposite of 2020. However, with similar snow melts expected in the spring of 2020 and our upcoming spring, this could be an opportunity to reexamine those stormwater basins and assumptions around storm events. 

In short, this may be a rare opportunity to compare real world outcomes with projected models in flood resiliency plans. 

Updating Flood Management Systems 

If outlets flood again this spring with similar snow melts, coming off drought conditions, it is an indication that flood capacity needs to be expanded or elevation increased. It may also indicate where underperforming outlets need to be redesigned or rethought to better reduce flood risk and protect infrastructure. 

Smart technology tools can help determine where to add more storage and how communities can do next step planning on flood mitigation. Communities can install pumps within storm basins, for example, in areas that need more flood storage.

Other Tools to Address Flood Risk During Spring Snow Melts

In addition to updating flood management systems this spring, communities should also ensure they are acting on current flood management plans and tools to prevent flooding and protect infrastructure. This includes zoning areas that need the most attention, educating residents on the importance of removing ice and snow at low points and ensuring storm drains are clear, sandbagging structures if necessary, pumping areas with poor drainage patterns, and more. 

How WSB Can Help

Not sure how to best update flood mitigation plans or where to allocate resources? WSB’s team has the technology, tools, and expertise to address stormwater systems, improve flood resiliency, and implement personalized flood plans that best meet the needs of your community. 

Bill is a project manager in WSB’s Water Resources Group serving clients with their water resources engineering needs. His experience includes planning, design, and construction management, research and inspection of municipal storm water systems, hydrologic, hydraulic, and water quality modeling, watershed permitting submittals, and development plan reviews. He is a technical resource in watershed policy, planning, and capital improvement budgeting.

[email protected] | 952.388.4188

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