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Nashville's Water Wars

The growing metro area is full of rivers and creeks that keep spilling over. In order to design a solution, officials will have to bridge the urban-rural divide.
Nashville's Cumberland River is prone to flooding.
Nashville's Cumberland River is prone to flooding.Weston Kenney/AP

When the remnants of Hurricane Harvey pushed north earlier this month, it rained nine inches in one day in Bordeaux-Whites Creek, a neighborhood in northern Nashville, Tennessee. The creek itself, which winds through a lower-income community, rose 13 feet, prompting officials to order residents to evacuate. Some left their homes, others stayed put. The dangerous event received little fanfare―in this area of the city, flooding is nothing new.

Exacerbated by the effects of climate change, flooding is becoming more intense and common even in inland states like Tennessee. Nashville has been working to mitigate that risk since an historic flood in 2010, when 13 inches fell during a 36-hour period and the Cumberland River crested at 51 feet in downtown. After Harvey blew through Nashville, the call for action is even stronger, leading the mayor to push for a flood wall system to protect the city’s downtown tourist hub.