Carnegie Mellon University

photo of storm drain overflowing

Preparing for Local Adaptation: Understanding Flood Risk Perceptions in Pittsburgh

In this project, the team is partnered with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) to understand information and attitude gaps around issues of flooding, stormwater management and possible adaptation techniques. The team surveyed 1,385 Pittsburgh renters and homeowners to identify Pittsburgh residents’ knowledge level, risk perception and attitudes toward flooding and stormwater management, and to pre-test communications meant to inform and empower Pittsburghers about flood risks and adaptation strategies.

STATUS: The team conducted a survey in 2015 where they surveyed 1,385 citizens in the Pittsburgh metro area. They found people largely understand the risks, but don’t feel that the risks are that high or that current infrastructure is lacking. Despite this they found support for creating a dedicated source of funding to manage stormwater, especially among those who see that current infrastructure is adequately handling the risk of runoff events and with elevated risk perceptions. Furthermore, people tend to favor green infrastructure over gray. In summary, municipalities may have less to worry about than previously feared. However, they may be able to garner more support with outreach efforts that focus on explaining the need for infrastructure and its benefits.


City of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority


Kelly Klima (PI)
Research Scientist, Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University

Gabrielle Wong-Parodi
Assistant Research Professor, Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University

Nichole Argo
Research Scientist, Engineering and Public Policy, Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University