Flooding Has Become All Too Common in Southeast Michigan, But Aging Infrastructure Remains the Same

WSU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Chair Dr. Bill Shuster says improving metro Detroit’s storm infrastructure will take investment and support from all levels of policymaking.

Across Southeast Michigan, communities are reeling from the destruction caused by severe storms over the weekend. Images of flooded basements and cars submerged in water under freeway underpasses served as a reminder of Detroit’s poorly adapted infrastructure to increased instances of environmental disasters. 

“The burden just keeps getting larger and larger each time. It’s really about social and political will to make sure resources are available.” –Dr. Bill Shuster, Wayne State University

As these floods become more common, Dr. Bill Shuster says the city, state and federal government need to invest more in adapting water systems for the effects of climate change. 

Listen: A stormwater management expert on how to improve Detroit’s infrastructure.


Bill Shuster is professor and chair of the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Wayne State University. He says the storms that devastated Southeast Michigan over the weekend become more of a threat each year, but the aging infrastructure remains the same. “The burden just keeps getting larger and larger each time. It’s really about social and political will to make sure resources are available.” Shuster says fixing the state’s water infrastructure is doable from an engineering standpoint, but dependent on the resources given to communities by the government. “For any type of engineering design, we need the appropriate data to do this. This is not impossible, it’s not rocket science.”

Shuster says improving infrastructure equitably in Southeast Michigan takes comprehension of its communities, and, “the way that we understand how water runs through American communities … so that we can then design the sustainability and resilience.” He says responding to climate change in infrastructure will take every aspect of environmental engineering, while arguably pulling in social work as well. “We’re training engineers for the future to take on these issues and we’re in the position of we need to pull together investment, infrastructure dollars that are guided by good data that’s translated by good contemporary engineering practice.”

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