Evaluating Urban Stormwater Drainage to Create Flood-Resilient Neighborhoods

Hartford, Connecticut

Featured image for the project, Evaluating Urban Stormwater Drainage to Create Flood-Resilient Neighborhoods

Photo: billandkent Flickr account


The neighborhoods on the north side of Hartford, Connecticut sit just to the west of Interstate 91 and the Connecticut River. Neighborhoods in this area include Clay-Arsenal, Upper Albany, and the North End. Following World War II, these neighborhoods experienced a series of disruptions that led to their downturn. Between the construction of I-84 through the neighborhoods and the loss of manufacturing, much of the area was transformed to accommodate low-income housing. During the riots that followed Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination on April 4, 1968, a fire broke out that leveled the entire commercial strip on the north side of Hartford. Since the late 1960s, North Hartford has faced economic distress, crime, and blighted properties. Social and environmental injustices are rampant throughout these communities, deeply affecting its predominately African American and Latino residents.

Residents in North Hartford neighborhoods are continually facing flooding and sewer back up in their basements. During heavy rains, water floods roads, driveways, lawns and at times can reach a depth of 4 feet in some people’s basements. With the flood waters come a variety of health concerns related to mold outbreaks, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and pathogens. Many people experience asthma as a result of the chronic flood conditions. Check valve/overflow valves have been installed on some homes throughout North Hartford, but residents complain that support from the metropolitan water district has dried up, leaving them without this protection. Majority of residents do not have flood insurance. Additionally, residents are concerned about what impacts a major hurricane could have on their neighborhoods if storm surge were to make its way up the Connecticut River.

The Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice (CCEJ) serves to educate, inform, and empower all citizens of Connecticut affected by environmental injustices. CCEJ would like to better understand the causes of flooding in North Hartford neighborhoods. The organization would like to work with a dedicated hydrologist to investigate the urban flooding, synthesize any available reports and develop next steps or proposed solutions. CCEJ will use their enhanced understanding to have productive interactions with community members and decision-makers both locally and state-wide.

The goal of this Thriving Earth Exchange project is to bring scientific evidence and understanding to the questions and priorities of local residents, so that residents can use that science to make decisions and take actions.

This project has been conceived and designed in partnership with community leaders at Texas Organizing Project and with our national partner, Flood Forum USA.

Project Team

Community Lead

Sharon Lewis is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice. In addition to working in Hartford on environmental justice issues, Sharon also engages with communities in Bridgeport and New Haven as well as the national group, Climate Justice Alliance. Sharon commits to engaging with the scientific partner by providing local knowledge and strategic direction over the duration of the project.

Science Liaisons

Dr. Soni M. Pradhanang is an assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island, Department of Geosciences. She has Ph.D. in  Watershed Hydrology and Water Quality Modeling from State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY and Masters of Environmental Sciences from Yale University, School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, New Haven, CT. She is also a coordinates URI’s Minor Program in Global Water Resources. Her research focuses on developing hydrologic and water quality models to evaluate effectiveness of management practices through the combination of monitoring and modeling.  She conducts research on the development of decision support systems for management of water resources from the field to the watershed and regional scale

Dr. Pradhanang’s lab group is also involved in developing hydrodynamic models to evaluate reliability, predictability and vulnerabilities of the water infrastructure including reservoirs, dams and spillways in maintaining safe and clean water to the communities.  She currently serves as a member of the New York City Watershed Program Review Committee led by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.


Dr. Shimon Anisfeld is Senior Lecturer and Research Scientist at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.  He has two primary areas of interest:  coastal ecosystems and water management.  The former is reflected in his field research, which focuses on the impact of sea-level rise and other stressors on salt marshes; he is particularly interested in how sea-level rise and coastal storms drive the migration of marshes into adjoining uplands, such as woodlands or lawns, and how managers can facilitate and plan for future marsh migration.  Anisfeld’s interest in water management is expressed in his teaching and writing, including his book Water Resources (Island Press, 2010), which he is currently revising for a planned second edition.  Besides his water management courses, Anisfeld also teaches courses in coastal ecology and environmental chemistry, as well as an introductory course in physical sciences for environmental managers.  Anisfeld received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from MIT in 1993.


Collaborating Organization(s)

This project is part of one of Thriving Earth Exchange’s cohorts. Thriving Earth Exchange has partnered with Flood Forum USA which supports grassroots flood groups across the country by helping them develop strategies for a sustainable future. Thriving Earth is working with twenty of their grassroots groups to connect them with scientists who can help them better characterize neighborhood-level flood risks and work effectively with local decision makers to mitigate those risks.