Work intended to improve stormwater and climate resilience planning for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County is being undertaken by researchers from the RAND Corporation, supported by a one-time grant from the MacArthur Foundation intended to aid adaptation efforts in three cities.

RAND researchers say the Pittsburgh region faces major challenges to stormwater management. These challenges could grow with climate change, complicating the investment decisions that need to be made for new or replacement infrastructure whose service life could extend into the next century. The pilot study aims to take a first step toward supporting improved stormwater and climate resilience planning at the county and city levels.

In addition to providing the region with a framework and innovative decision-support tools that may be widely adapted by other regions, RAND researchers will analyze a range of potential solutions. Those may include a fiscally sustainable approach and building in-house expertise within regional organizations at the county and city levels.

“Cities are at the forefront of national and international efforts to develop ways to increase resiliency and the capability to adapt to natural disasters, the uncertain effects of climate change and a range of other environmental stresses,” said Debra Knopman, a co-leader of the project and a senior researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Our project will develop tools to help cities and other local governments perform better in these areas.”

RAND will collaborate with leaders from the county, cities and other key institutions in the region to design and adopt an interactive planning process that fits the region’s needs. Support from the MacArthur grant, which was made in 2014, will cover the cost of RAND’s staff providing analysis to regional organizations.

“Allegheny County, with 130 distinct municipalities, is well positioned to demonstrate how to create robust regional plans that integrate across municipal boundaries and local planning goals,” said Jordan Fischbach, a RAND policy researcher who will head the project in Alleghany County and Pittsburgh.

The project will run through 2016 and will include public meetings to widely disseminate the results. Other pilot cities will be selected later in 2015.

The RAND Justice, Infrastructure and Environment division aims to improve the development, operation, use and protection of society's essential physical assets and natural resources and to enhance the related social assets of safety and security of individuals in transit and in their workplaces and communities.