Great Lakes
Milwaukie flooding, 2010, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel archives

GL - New York, Minnesota rank best in Great Lakes for flooding preparation

Climate change is bringing heavier rainfall to the Great Lakes region, increasing the likelihood of flooding. But when it comes to implementing flood policies, a new study shows that some states in the region are doing it better than others.

The study published recently in the journal Climate Policy shows the eight Great Lakes states – Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania – vary greatly in the flood policies and programs they have in place. New York and Minnesota had the most advanced policies in place, followed by Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio. Illinois and Indiana ranked last compared to other states in the region.

The researchers scored each state on whether it had standard policies or more advanced ones that considered climate change as well as justice and equity. The latter issue takes into account socioeconomic factors such as health, poverty and housing, because flooding can send a family on the margins into a tailspin if it is exposed to untreated storm water and sewage, or stuck at home, unable to get food and medication.

Building in measures that emphasize justice and equity is an important role states can play that will either even the playing field or reinforce inequities, said Sara Hughes, a political scientist at the University of Michigan and author of the study.

The study cannot only help local governments prepare for climate change, but it can serve as a resource for the states that may need more advanced policies in place, she said.

Here’s how the Great Lakes states stack up against each other, how Wisconsin compares to the other states and what’s being done in Milwaukee.

Heavier rain events hitting the Great Lakes region

As the climate continues to warm, the atmosphere can hold onto more water, leading to heavier rain events and flooding.

Between 1900 and 2015, rainfall in the Great Lakes region rose 10%, according to a report by 18 climate scientists around the Great Lakes. The report, published in 2019 by the Environmental Law and Policy Center, found that this was much higher than the nationwide average, which rose by 4%.

Read more.