A Free-Market Energy Blog

Adaptation: The Hidden Climate Strategy (apartment water detention facility in flood-prone Houston)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- May 3, 2021

” … with adaptation, total costs will be much smaller than the headline-grabbing numbers that climate economists and our government agencies choose to highlight, and with future growth our society will be far better equipped to handle them.” (- Oren Cass, June 2019)

While government mitigation policies flounder and add waste to waste, market adaptation quietly internalizes the alleged negative externality of the human influence on global climate. Part of this influence is increased precipitation and flooding from a warmer world where the air holds more moister from the evaporation below.

MasterResource has reported from time to time on the almost invisible, ongoing climate/weather adaptation process, the unhampered market in action (see Appendix).

Tabasco Plant (2019)

One example that caught my eye a few years back was the McIlhenny Company constructing a 20-foot levee around its Tabasco plant on Avery Island off the Louisiana coast to insure against flooding. As reported by Yale Climate Connections:

Avery Island is essentially a hill surrounded by grassy marsh. Its elevation makes it less likely to end up underwater than other areas nearby. But flooding is still a concern at the Tabasco plant.

Osborn: “When we had Hurricane Rita here in 2005, the water came right up to the edge of it, so that was too worrisome for us. So we built a levee that was 20 feet tall all the way around the facility.”

They’re also preserving the island’s natural buffer: the marsh.

Osborn: “When a hurricane comes in, it hits that marsh first and it breaks the storm up so that the effects on Avery Island are much, much less. So one of our major things that we do here is marsh and habitat restoration.”

Houston Apartment Project (2021)

The latest example that caught my eye was a Houston Chronicle story, “Apartment Developer Banks on Water to Collect Rents,” subtitled: “This may be the first such project modifying a rain detention pond in the Houston area.”

For flood prone Houston, Texas (Harvey was the poster child of climate alarmists years back), this is good news indeed. R. A. Schuetz tells the story:

A new apartment complex is going up near the Texas Medical Center. But to see its most unique feature, you have to go down, underground, where a gigantic concrete vault has been built so water has a place to go when it rains.

Two hundred and sixty-one feet long and 135 feet wide, it spans nearly the area of a football field and stretches 20 feet deep — large enough to hold 700,000 cubic feet of water, which could fill eight Olympic-sized swimming pools. That’s because the vault is not only offsetting the water that will run off of or be displaced by the apartments. It’s also detaining water for the surrounding 37 acres, which hold another apartment complex and an extended-stay hotel.

Instead of flooding:

Now, when rain washes off the apartments or the nearby properties, it will flow into parking lot drains or gutters and connect to a 6-foot-wide pipe, which whisks it to the vault. There, a 1½-foot pipe leaving the vault allows the water to enter the city’s stormwater drainage system at a manageable pace. As the owner of the building, Barvin Group will be responsible for the vault’s ongoing maintenance.

How did such a win-win occur?

Because of the additional engineering and construction costs of building a 20-foot vault before converting the property into apartments, Barvin Group was able to purchase the property more cheaply than it would have if the site had come without a detention pond.

Is there more to come?

And the Barvin Group has been confident enough in its ability to implement water management designs to take on another complicated site. That one’s in the 100-year floodplain.

Hail to the invisible hand of the market outdistancing the visible hand of government in climate policy.


Adaptation-related posts at MasterResource include:


  1. Wayne Lusvardi  

    This example is called internalizing the externality.


  2. Gregory Rehmke  

    A bigger storm water management in Kuala Lumpur. Houston traffic congestion would be reduced, and revenue generated, by an underground freeway. Heavy rains would shift the freeway from traffic directing stormwater.
    he Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART Tunnel)


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