Adaptation of road drainage structures to climate change

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: Climate change is expected to lead to more frequent extreme precipitation events, floods and changes in frost/thawing cycles. The frequency of road closures and other incidents such as flooding, landslides and roads being washed away will probably increase. Stronger demands will be placed on the function of road drainage systems.The overall aim of this thesis was to produce scientifically well-founded suggestions on adaptation of road drainage systems to climate change involving more frequent floods. The work began by examining current practice for road drainage systems in Sweden and gathering experience from professionals working with various problems concerning surface and subsurface drainage systems. Various hydrological models were then used to calculate the runoff from a catchment adjacent to a road and estimate changes in peak discharge and total runoff resulting from simulated land use measures. According to these survey and hydrological modelling studies, adaptation of road drainage systems to climate change can be grouped into two categories: i) institutional adaptation; and ii) technical adaptation. The main approaches in institutional adaptation are to: i) raise the awareness of expected climate change and its impact on drainage systems in transport administration and relevant stakeholders; ii) include adaptation measures in the existing funding programme of the transport administration; and iii) develop an evaluation tool and action plans concerning existing road drainage systems. Technical adaptation will involve ensuring that road constructions are adapted to more frequent extreme precipitation events and responsive to changes in activities and land use in areas adjacent to roads.Changes in climate variables will have effects on watershed hydrological responses and consequently influence the amount of runoff reaching roads. There is a great need for tools such as hydrological models to assess impacts on discharge dynamics, including peak flows. Improved communication between road managers and local actors in the forestry and agriculture sectors can be a means to reduce the impacts of, e.g., clear-cutting or badly managed farmland ditches.

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