“Out of sight, out of mind,” Mr. Olson said. “People have not had to think about this for generations.”
Still, Mr. Olson added, the history of America’s water infrastructure offers reason for optimism. In the 1800s, motivated by the desire to control outbreaks of diseases like cholera and typhoid, cities and their residents were willing to pay for extensive new sewer and drinking-water systems.
The lesson, he said, is that the American public may eventually be willing to fund the sort of infrastructure upgrades that would enable cities to cope with the effects of climate change. But first, things probably will get worse.
“When people see it as a necessity,” Mr. Olson said, “they will be willing to pay for it.”
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