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Physical Interventions

Current practice provides a number of examples of resilience strategies that use traditional policy, construction, and "grey" or engineered solutions. The Climate Resilience Tool prioritizes nature-based solutions to raise awareness and understanding of this less-known approach to building resilience. Nature-based solutions generally have lower whole-life costs, provide benefits to people, plants, and wildlife, and are adaptable over time when compared to conventional alternatives. 


Resilience Topics
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Santa Clara County Shoreline with birds in foreground, buildings in the back

Sea Level Rise

Warmer conditions that melt glaciers and ice sheets and expand sea water, are leading to sea level rise (SLR).

Worker drinking water under hot sun

Extreme Heat

Longer, more frequent, and more severe extreme heat events are expected to occur in Santa Clara County.

Wildfire image in woodland


The frequency of hot and dry conditions are projected to increase, making certain areas more prone to wildfire.

Flooding image with red car half way submerged

Riverine Flooding

Extreme precipitation patterns from climate change lead to riverine overflows and flooding in surrounding areas.

Physical Interventions Catalog

Explore by Strategy

Physical Interventions
Mudflats image with birds walking.

Mudflat Augmentation

Mudflat augmentation is the intentional placement of fine silts and clays to elevate mudflats relative to rising tides.

Aerial image of shoreline with housing development.

Ecotone Levee

Horizontal ecotone levees are sloped bankments of plants designed to slow wave velocity, reduce sea level rise impacts, and restore tidal marsh ecosystems.

Grassy slope with plants and flag in the background.


Bioswales are long, depressed areas filled with flood resistant, native plants, rocks and layers of soil that decrease stormwater velocity and allow for groundwater infiltration and filtration

Foreground has two trees with a grassy meadow in the background.

Retention/Detention Ponds

Retention or detention ponds are depressions at the end of a slope that retain and detain water depending on conditions, reducing flooding impacts.

Image of succulents with lighting structures and Levi's sign in back. Green Roof of Levi Stadium.

Green Roofs

Green roofs are added green spaces, including plants, grasses, gardens, and potentially small farms, to the top or sides of buildings to decrease flooding and urban heat.

Image of marshy area with building in the background.

Tidal Marsh Restoration

Tidal marsh restoration is the restoration of tidal marshes and tidal flats through added sediment and planted vegetation.

Tree lined pathway.

Urban Forest

Urban forests are planted tree communities of native or ecologically suited trees throughout cities that reduce urban heat and flooding risks, among other benefits.

Close up of red and brown paving stones with greenery in the background.

Pervious Pavement

Pervious pavement are porous pavement materaisl that are designed to allow for slow percolation of storm runoff into the groundwater system.

Close up of reeds, plantings in water with buildings in the background.

Constructed Inland Wetlands

Constructing or restoring wetlands aims to recreate natural wetlands in an urban environment, which provides flood mitigation and water purification.

Image of water and land with trees and clouds in the background.

Increasing River Floodplain

Increasing riverine floodplains refers to restructuring river banks to their more natural form in order to mitigate flooding.

Image of water and levees.

Polder Management

Polder management is the revitalization of polders (human-impacted baylands) by removing and adding levees, reintroducing sediment, and reducing human impacts.

Rain Garden

Rain gardens are shallow to deep depressions filled with flood resistant, native plants that detain, slow, and filter stormwater runoff.

Image of river water from ground-level perspective.

Creek Daylighting

Daylighting refers to removing obstructions from rivers, streams, and creeks to allow water to flow naturally, creating greater storage capacity during flooding events.

Image of tree wells along a side walk and road way. Trees are planted in each area.

Stormwater Tree Pits

A stormwater tree pit is dug into the sidewalk adjacent to a street and a tree is planted to absorb and filter storm runoff and flooding.

Case Studies

Explore in Real Life

Click on a case study below to link to external sites and more detailed project information. 

Case Studies - Physical
Image of the Calabazas Creek with water flowing.

Calabazas Creek Flood Protection

Project to provide flood protection to 2,483 parcels in the Calabazas Creek watershed. A long detention basin next to the creek was built to capture high storm flows, preventing the creek from overtopping its banks in a 1% flood.

Valley Water repaired 14 severely eroding banks, using as little “hardscape” as possible. The project incorporated environmental stewardship principles to reduce erosion, with vegetation to enhance habitat for wildlife. Valley Water reduced the cost of the project by collaborating with the City of San José, which rebuilt a bicycle motocross (BMX) park at Calabazas Park.

Image of the river adjacent to Downtown Napa and the grey infrastructure retaining wall.

Napa River Flood Protection

The Napa River had a history of catastrophic flooding events, impacting downtown Napa, tourism, and agricultural assets. After a long history of utilizing engineered solutions, a multi-faceted collaboration with stakeholders, the Army Corps of Engineers, businesses, and others worked together to develop an approach to let the river run free - a "Living River" concept that was then and is still groundbreaking. The Napa Flood Protection project is an early and lasting example of using natural systems to manage flooding while protecting important assets in an affordable, durable, and effective way.

Image of small creek area with heavy plantings on either side and a woman looking over the bank.

Smith River Plain Stream Restoration Plan

Restoration project that aims to improve and protect natural channel structure and function, water quality, floodplain connectivity, and biological resources along streams and waterways located in the Smith River Plain.

Cover of the Moffett Park Specific Plan Urban Ecology Report

Moffett Park Specific Plan Urban Ecology

The Moffett Park Technical Plan lays out a city wide redevelopment of green infrastructure and Nature-Based Strategies that create habitats and natural corridors in order to reduce climate impacts and positively impact the community.

Rendering of potential project with pathways, urban environment and water way flowing down the middle.

Port Lands Flood Protection Project

Toronto’s Port Lands district is an ambitious flood protection project that has evolved into a large urban redevelopment program. The project is about 2 miles outside of Toronto's financial district and has been a industrial no-man zone near Lake Ontario. The project encompasses 600 acres with 64 acres of park , 75 acres of habitat, riverfront pathway and plans for 20,000 residential housing units.

Aerial view of the salt ponds.

South Bay Salt Pond Restoration

This restoration project is the largest tidal restoration project on the west coast. The project is in the midst of restoring over 15,000 acres of industrial salt ponds to natural tidal marshes.

Aerial image of Tanner Park with step down to green space and housing in background.

Tanner Springs Park

In the heart of Portland, a park has been renovated to include a detention pond that offers habitat to traveling birds, a community gathering place, and an effective mitigation effort against excessive rain and stormwater.

Aerial image of a pathway with green infrastructure on both sides and housing surrounding it.

Street Edge Alternatives (SEA) Street Pilot

Seattle Public Utilities reconstructed an entire city street to include green infrastructure throughout. The infrastructure included bioswales, tree canopies, pervious pavement and more.

Image of Coyote Valley Creek and surrounding greenery.

Coyote Valley Preservation

In November 2019, 937 acres in Coyote Valley were permanently protected through an innovative public and private partnership among Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (OSA) and the City of San José. The $93.46 million acquisition deal was funded in part by Measure T, a $650 million infrastructure bond approved by San José voters in November 2018

Aerial image of the roof of the California Academy of Sciences with plantings.

California Academy of Sciences Living Roof

The Living Roof in San Francisco offers incredible insulation for the Academy of Sciences while simultaneously offering essential habitat for birds and insects and creating educational spaces.

Image of the daylighted creek adjacent to urban area.

Daylighting the Saw Mill River

Yonkers process of daylighting Saw Mill Creek has seen massively positive impacts on the physical landscape and the urban ecology.

Image of wetland area looking out towards water.

Bel Marin Key Wetlands Restoration

The Bel Marin Key Restoration Project is designed to enhance and create seasonal wetlands, reestablish healthy ecosystems while protecting endangered species, and mitigate effects from the changing climate.

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