The Jersey Downpours

The news site has an article about how “Climate change could put NJ's wastewater infrastructure in the toilet, new report says.”  According to the article:

New Jersey is still grappling with an $11 billion problem as it looks to bring its water infrastructure into compliance with the Clean Water Act, including addressing the issue of combined sewer systems, which commingle storm runoff with wastewater, sending raw or partially treated sewage into urban waterways during storms.

'The heavy downpours are really increasing dramatically, and these combined sewer systems were designed and built based on historical rainfall patterns,' Polefka [a policy analyst for the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank] said.

Whether or not New Jersey has a so-called infrastructure deficit is likely the subject of debate.  In some regions, population growth has taken place far faster than the corresponding supporting infrastructure growth – leading to a real infrastructure deficit.

But all too often we see climate change as the justification – or at least a significant part of it – for remedying a purported infrastructure deficit.  Then when we look at the climate data itself, problems in the narrative arise.

Put simply, it doesn't appear that heavy downpours in the most populated regions of New Jersey are increasing dramatically.

In the Newark region, which is where the bulk of the population resides, there have (according to the National Weather Service) been no significant trends in the numbers of days each year with 1, 1.5, or 2 inches or more of precipitation since records began in 1932.  No significant trends since 1970, either.  Over the past three decades, the trends are actually headed toward fewer of these events, not more.  The same applies for the annual maximum daily precipitation: no significant trend since 1970.

There may or may not be a real water infrastructure deficit in New Jersey's largest municipalities, but it doesn't look like the climate data justifies the policy position being put forward by some groups.