Prompt: Work with the Water

A short story:

As the sea rises, waterways will connect in the lowlands of Virginia Beach. It is here that people will be able to travel through the city on water, either in small boats, canoes, kayaks, or paddleboards, while others enjoy walking or biking through the lush park system that runs along the banks of these blueways. Enthusiasts launch a kayak from the pocket beaches along the banks to journey out upon the waters until they reach one of the many shopping destinations along this route. Later they dock up the kayak and walk over to grab a juicy burger, or sit with a glass of wine at the local Italian restaurant to watch the sunset. Behind them, the kayak taps on the pilings, while the tides subside for the day.

Why Work with the Water?

People thrive when they are connected with each other and enjoy the outdoors. This is a large portion of what makes the quality of life in Virginia Beach so great. The streets, parks, and waterways in Virginia Beach can be designed to protect communities against sea level rise while increasing recreational opportunities and connection between communities. Water is a part of the fabric that makes up Virginia Beach, so let’s take advantage of it. 

We're going to have more than enough of it!

Virginia Water

Hampton Roads

Virginia will likely experience

21 inches of sea level rise

by the year 2050.

Virginia Vulnerable

"Home to 1.7 Million People, Hampton Roads is the second most vulnerable area in the country to rising seas behind New Orleans"

Understanding Virginia’s Vulnerability to Climate Change

1. New Orleans

2. Virginia Beach

3. Miami

4. Charleston

5. Tampa

So What Does This Mean for Hampton Roads?

“Global sea level rose about eight inches in the last century and is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet in this century. Large numbers of 

southeastern cities, roads, railways, ports, airports, oil and gas facilities, and water supplies are vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise. Major cities like New Orleans, with roughly half of its population below sea level, Miami, Tampa, Charleston, and Virginia Beach are among those most at risk.”

From the National Climate Assessment

We Need to Understand the

Hazards - Exposure - Vulnerabilities - Consequences

Presidential Disaster Declarations

Virginia Disaster

Since the 1970's, 12 storms have been declared as national disasters by the White House. 

The most significant of these storms, in terms of one time property damage were Nor'easters in 1998 and 2009.

Total cost to Hampton Roads = $113,750,000

Hampton Roads Storm Surge Zones

Hampton Roads Storm Surge

There have been a recorded 29 significant flood events in Virginia Beach alone.

Click Table 4.3 to see a full list of the the significant floods for Hampton Roads in the last 10 years.

"Flooding is the most frequent and costly of all natural hazards in the United States, and has caused more than 10,000 deaths since 1900. Approximately 90 percent of presidentially declared disasters result from flood-related natural hazard events. Taken as a whole, more frequent, localized flooding problems that do not meet federal disaster declaration thresholds ultimately cause the majority of damages across the United States."

2015 - Hazard Identification

Above: Kids in Virginia Beach take the opportunity to play in the rain

The Development of Virginia Beach




In 1908, this area became a town that mostly spanned a portion of the oceanfront, but in 1963 the Town of Virginia Beach merged with Princess Anne County to form the City of Virginia Beach. In the images below, we can see that a “green line” was established to preserve the farmland and open space in the lower portion of the city. As the black masses on the map show, the built environment in Virginia Beach is expanding to the degree that little land is left for future development. As the city continues to grow today, however, development is stretching more into the a transition zone (shown in pink) in this area and thus, moves the green line lower.

Most of the 452,745 residents of Virginia Beach live in single family homes. The large majority of the neighborhoods here are arranged around cul-de-sacs and disconnected street patterns. These streets can be pictured as branches on a tree that stem out from the trunk (in this case the “trunk” is I-264 and Virginia Beach Blvd). This street arrangement increases travel times and the amount of impervious pavement. Both of these factors lead to greater quantities of greenhouse gas being emitted into the air as well as increased flooding.

If Virginia Beach consists of a number of suburban neighborhoods, where residents are about 35 years old, then the average homeowner is about 30 years from retirement. This begs the question of whether these homeowners stay in the neighborhood, or sell their homes and look to retire elsewhere? 

Issues with Water

The Bathtub Model

The model below was generated from a topographic map with an elevated sea level with sea levels based on the graph below. This is what we generally think could happen with a basic understanding of innundation from changing climatic conditions. However, recent studies indicate that marshlands and other important coastal ecosystems change with rising seas and could protect our shorelines and communities. To read more on this, see the article in the Daily Press

SLR 2010

SLR 2050 + 15 in.

SLR 2100 + 31 in.

Data from Observed and Projected Relative Sea Level Change

at Sewells Point Tide Gauge, Norfolk, VA - (1930-2100)

By the year 2100, the sea levels in Virginia Beach are predicted to rise by 31 inches (based on the low projection shown by the red curve on the right). If this trend continues, Virginia Beach must look at the areas most frequently flooded and assess what measures can be taken to resolve current issues, and what areas people should begin moving away from.

Above Images Based Intermediate Line (Green) -  HRPDC

Hampton Roads Geoportal Flood Map for Virginia Beach

The magenta outlines show areas of repetitive losses from infrastructure damage due to flooding. There are 5 of these areas designated on the map, each of which should be analyzed for current and future ability to withstand storms. 

Above Image from the HRPDC Geoportal

CIP Strategies in the Flood Zones

At the moment, the capital improvements program is focusing efforts in many of these areas and is estimating that over 40 million dollars will be spent on flood mitigation improvements in the Windsor Woods and Princess Anne Plaza communities that lie on either side of S Rosemont Road.

The image below shows how this road runs in a vertical line off from I-264, and if you look at the FEMA flood map to the right, S Rosemont is at the highpoint of the watershed where the floodwaters on this map join during moderate storm events. For more information on this, please see Site Design

4 Steps to Resilience
Prevent - Adapt - Enjoy - Learn

Virginia Beach is enriched by the lively culture of beach, military and family life that thrive in this southern-most region of the state. The overall plan will align the city's Vision 2040 and the Sustainability Plan with research on the appropriate actions to take for a resilience strategy. To learn more about these plans in action, please click 'Continue' to visit the City Strategy page.