Climate Crisis Could Crush US Town

Heavy rains have partially ruined a small dam in Manawa, Wisconsin. The danger is high enough that local authorities have evacuated part of the town. However, heavy rains have not stopped, as part of the dam has broken. According to the AP, “Due to the amount of water, the dam isn’t safe,” the Manawa Police Department said on its Facebook page.

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This will not be an isolated incident. The ASCE Infrastructure Report Card released in 2021 showed, “In 2019, about 17% of US dams, or 15,629, were classified as high-hazard potential, meaning that a dam failure could likely result in loss of life. This number has increased in recent years due to new development downstream from dams, which can increase the potential consequences of a failure.” Although the cost to replace them is not in the report, it would be in the tens of billions of dollars.

Cost Of Dam Repair

The threat to life is much more important than the dollar amount. Not all dam dangers will be in the future. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials recently said that from January 2005 through June 2013, state dam safety programs reported 173 dam failures and 587 “incidents”—episodes that, without intervention, would likely have resulted in dam failure.

Climate change has significantly exacerbated the dam problem. Enormous and rapidly moving rainstorms can quickly overwhelm old or poorly built infrastructure. The Manawa problem will be repeated, and probably soon.

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