Cost of Climate Change: Nuisance Flooding Adds Up for Annapolis’ Historic City Dock
Sea level rise is eating into the revenue of this quaint coastal business district. An innovative new study estimates the economic costs.
The City Dock neighborhood of Annapolis, Maryland, is a quaint cluster of colonial brick buildings nestled around a small inlet of the Severn River. Just uphill is Maryland’s historic State House, where George Washington resigned his post as general of the Continental Army after defeating the British. Much of the architecture remains untouched since then, but the waters of the inlet have risen well over a foot, and today the waterfront floods frequently.
Flooding in the Annapolis area is so common, in fact—63 times in 2017 by one measure—that it’s beginning to have a noticeable impact on local businesses by driving away customers.
“They can’t drive near it, they can’t park near it, they can’t walk to it,” said Nancy McPherson, who manages a City Dock gallery where the sidewalk outside floods regularly, preventing customers from reaching the front door. “Unless they’re local and they know they can get in from behind us, they just see it’s flooded and they go away.”
In a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances, a group of researchers from Stanford University put numbers to the economic impact, estimating that flooding robbed the area’s businesses of nearly 3,000 customers in 2017, a nearly 2 percent hit. In terms of direct costs, the flooding already costs the businesses roughly 1 percent of annual revenue, the study says.
While that may seem small, the problem will grow precipitously worse unless something’s done to protect the area. Just 3 more inches of water rise would double the number of customers lost, the researchers estimated, while 1 foot of sea level rise—expected in a matter of decades as the planet continues to warm—would mean a loss of about a quarter of the businesses’ annual customers.
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