Building resilience against the effects of climate change

Northeastern Illinois already feels the effects of climate change through more intense storms, heat waves, and variability in weather. Over the last 30 years, extreme precipitation increased by 40 percent, which has had a profound impact on the region’s people, property, and infrastructure.

For those living in areas at high risk of flooding, this is a problem that can’t be ignored. Urban flooding issues like basement backups, impassible roads, and other localized flood events are very common, and while these types of floods usually don’t get the headlines or attention that large riverine floods receive, they are devastating. In addition to the obvious property damage, flooding lowers property values, impact public health, and can create a sense of insecurity for people in their own home. These impacts are disproportionately felt by communities that are historically disinvested, marginalized, and underserved.

These hazards are significant because extreme weather events are becoming more common and more severe. We must take action to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also preparing for the extreme weather of today and the future.

We support resilience by assessing vulnerability, creating and analyzing data related to climate hazards, prioritizing investments, and developing guidance to advance equitable outcomes.

Transportation Resilience Improvement Plan

CMAP is developing the Transportation Resilience Improvement Plan to improve the resilience of northeastern Illinois’ transportation network to extreme weather and climate change. Through this plan, CMAP will identify and prioritize major vulnerable transportation assets and the investments needed to build resilience equitably. The Transportation Resilience Improvement Plan is intended to inform transportation planning and decision making, and build our region’s resilience to flooding, extreme heat, and severe storms.


Flooding impacts nearly every community in northeastern Illinois and climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme storms in the future.

Reducing flooding in northeastern Illinois

Playground with permeable ground cover. Gardens with trees and other plants.

Equitable flood resilience investment

As governments in northeastern Illinois invest in flood resilience, prioritizing communities that face disproportionate flood impacts will be crucial to ensure that all residents have access to the resources they need to thrive. Drafted by CMAP in collaboration with community-based organizations, Integrating Equity into Flood Resilience Investments shows engineers, planners, and decision makers why investments must be made equitably, outlines key considerations for integrating equity (from planning and design to maintenance and funding), and highlights successful examples.

Flood susceptibility indexes

CMAP developed the riverine and urban flood susceptibility indexes to identify priorities across the region for mitigation activities. Streets and buildings highlighted in the indexes could be more susceptible to overbank flooding, surface ponding, overland flow, water seepage, and basement backups.

Stormwater management

Urban flooding is a common concern among the region’s municipalities, but many lack the resources to identify ways to address flooding issues. For example, a village may know than area floods regularly, but they may not why or how to fix it. CMAP’s Guide to Flood Susceptibility and Stormwater Planning details how communities can identify problem areas and causes and identify opportunities for improvements that can reduce flooding.

Creating a stormwater utility

Setting up a stormwater utility provides a dedicated revenue stream for stormwater programs as well as an incentive for property owners to reduce the amount of runoff they generate. CMAP’s Value of Stormwater Utilities for Local Governments in the Chicago Region outlines the legal authority and key components of a stormwater utility. It showcases existing stormwater utilities in Illinois and lays out an implementation process for establishing a utili


Northeastern Illinois is no stranger to heat waves and their negative effects on human health and the environment. Heat waves raise temperature and humidity, which can lead to heat stress. Extended periods of heat stress can cause heat-related illnesses and deaths.

Buildings and infrastructure also play a role in worsening heat waves by trapping heat during the day and releasing it at night — a process known as the heat island effect.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends strategies to mitigate and adapt to excessive heat. They include planting vegetation, installing green roofs, and using reflective materials on hard surfaces to reduce heat absorption. Steps to improve infrastructure resilience include upgrading transportation infrastructure with heat-resistant materials and conserving energy during heat waves.

Planning for resilience

Local planning processes offer an excellent platform for integrating climate science and data into public decision-making. While climate change presents considerable uncertainty at the local scale, the current state of climate science and planning practice offers sufficient data and knowledge that community plans can be made stronger and more proactive by applying available tools. By including up-to-date climate science alongside a plan’s analysis of demographics and the natural and built environments, planners can provide a foundation for informed decisions about investments in resilience and adaptation.

Climate Adaptation Guidebook

The Climate Adaptation Guidebook for Municipalities in the Chicago Region is a resource for communities interested in adapting their planning and investment decisions to a changing climate. Essentially, this means improving resilience to future weather impacts. The central reason for considering climate change is that, in many instances, it will be cheaper and less disruptive to plan for anticipated conditions than to retrofit or rebuild later. Since it is meant for municipalities, this guidebook concentrates on sectors and services that are typically under their jurisdiction.

Using climate information in local planning

The American Planning Association (APA) published a guidebook for planners based on this partnership. Drawing on lessons learned from CMAP’s technical assistance as well as researchers with practitioners and experts in planning, disaster preparedness, and climate change, APA’s guidebook will help communities in the Great Lakes region incorporate available climate data into comprehensive and capital improvement plans.

Sustainability planning

The Sustainability Planning White Paper provides a step-by-step overview of the planning process, highlighting the aspects that make sustainability planning unique from comprehensive planning. The accompanying Sustainability Indicators Guide provides a blueprint for selecting sustainability indicators and measuring progress on sustainability goals over time.

CMAP does a lot of land use planning at the regional and local scale through the technical assistance program. All these efforts seek to improve resilience by preserving floodplains, expanding tree canopy coverage, providing more transportation options, and more.