Minneapolis Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Strategies

Created as part of a capstone project in Sustainability Planning at the University of Minnesota, with support from the Minneapolis Sustainability Office, this report depicts climate change impacts and potential adaptation strategies for Minneapolis, Minnesota. Adaptation goals are presented with recommended strategies, best practices, and case studies of these strategies implemented in other localities.

The report groups climate change impacts on Minneapolis and their associated adaptation strategies into four main categories of Public Health, Natural Environment, Stormwater Management and Utilities. The primary climate impacts discussed for public health in Minneapolis include heat waves, and reduced air quality from the urban heat island effect, and extreme storm events causing potential injury, flooding, and reduced water quality and supply. Impacts on the natural environment are projected as to climate effects on vegetation, wildlife, and recreation. Changes in the timing, intensity, and frequency of precipitation may have significant consequences for the city’s stormwater management. Excess stormwater could generate combined sewer overflows, flooding, runoff, and water supply issues.  The report suggests that utilities plan for increased energy and water demands in the summer to compensate for warmer weather, and potential energy supply challenges from extreme weather events.

Based on interviews with stakeholders and a literature review of both academic research and climate change adaptation plans and policies in other cities, the report outlines a set of preliminary adaptation strategies for Minneapolis. A range of best practices have been identified, and are described under the following five general categories or goals for adaptation:

Goal 1: Manage Heat

  1. Improve methods of tracking heat-related illness and death to ensure ability to accommodate more patients and appropriately target extreme heat responses
  2. Expand access to pools, misting stations, and other cooling opportunities for those particularly at risk of suffering from heat-related illness
  3. Implement cool pavements to reduce urban heat island effect
  4. Increase green roofs to reduce urban heat island effect

Goal 2: Preserve the Natural Environment

  1. Adapt recreation opportunities to the changing climate
  2. Increase urban tree canopy
  3. Conduct vulnerability study of natural ecosystems
  4. Engage residents in environmental stewardship of their property
  5. Manage invasive and native species

Goal 3: Manage Stormwater

  1. Control runoff with rain gardens and bio-retention
  2. Harvest rainwater to control runoff and decrease water demand
  3. Expand surface detention capacity to reduce runoff volumes
  4. Reduce impervious surface coverage with permeable pavements
  5. Maintain and expand traditional infrastructure to control runoff from heaviest storms
  6. Incorporate “Better Site Design” principles to reduce impervious surface coverage and control runoff

Goal 4: Ensure a Reliable Water and Energy Supply - Take steps to both reduce demand for water and energy and improve the reliability of supply.

  1. Understand the energy use patterns and needs of homeowners in order to implement comprehensive smart gird technology on a local scale
  2. Incentivize microgrid projects
  3. Incentivize cool roofs on new and existing buildings
  4. Pursue an “urban cap-and-trade” policy to encourage energy conservation and energy efficiency retrofits in buildings
  5. Mandate 100% renewable energy use
  6. Encourage residential water conservation
  7. Diversify water supply and plan for potential supply disruptions

Goal 5: Plan for the Future - Maximize the efficacy of adaptation efforts by intentionally creating a citywide plan involving a range of stakeholders.

  1. Draw on perspectives from all city departments
  2. Continue to seek input from city staff and other stakeholders to determine adaptive capacity
  3. Work with local climate experts on creating downscaled climate models
  4. Promote awareness with public outreach and city “inreach” efforts
  5. Establish metrics to assist in adaptation planning and performance evaluation

Each strategy for reaching the goals includes a case study describing the best practice in action in communities outside of Minneapolis.  An evaluation of how the given practice and case study might apply to Minneapolis is offered also, based on ongoing efforts in the City and information gained from the stakeholder interviews.



Publication Date: May 2013

Related Organizations:

  • University of Minnesota


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Best practice
  • Case study

States Affected:


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