September 30 2013

New Orleans, Louisiana: 9 Years Later, Storm Water Infrastructure Lacks

Nine years ago, New Orleans’ history changed physically, socially, and economically due to the massive flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. The city has made efforts to rebuild, reunite, and make changes for the better. However, Nola still lacks the proper infrastructure to deal with daily and yearly issues of storm water.

flooding from average rainstorm, new orleans, louisiana

As the 3rd rainiest city in the US, New Orleans gets about 64 inches of rain a year and lacks proper infrastructure to deal with these issues. If New Orleans were to renovate underground pipes to meet the demands of a 10-year flood, 8” of rain in 24 hours, it would cost nearly $4 billion between the city and Sewage and Water Board. The city not only lacks funding, but 200 miles of piping is not the answer to a solution nearly meeting the gold standard.

Luckily, there are functional and beautiful ways to solve problems of drainage, erosion, water pollution, and flooding. Nola’s changes are being made regarding neutral grounds, re-grading streets, and setting standards for public and commercial developments.

Because the majority of the city’s catch basins are located in neutral grounds, renovating neutral grounds are one of the most effective methods for catching water. By transforming the neutral ground into a concave piece of land, rather than the traditional convex design, water drains into neutral grounds opposed to the street. To make this idea even more attractive, sunken gardens could be planted to filter and detain water, draining slower and cleaner.

Vegetated yet elevated neutral ground, new orleans, louisiana

If Landscape Architects redesigned Nola’s streets lined with bio swales and vegetation, a common solution in most cities, water would be immediately absorbed and the city would be made more beautiful. Most importantly, it is necessary for the city to enforce these new requirements on renovations as well as new developments.

The average New Orleanian knows how to deal with the daily sludge’s of a sinking city. However, water is a dynamic natural phenomenon, difficult to maintain. If Nola doesn’t find a way to manage water sustainably, it will soon be managing Nola.

Many other cities deal with water on grand scales. What sustainable water solutions do these cities use that Nola could learn from?

Credits: Images by Allyson McAbee. Data linked to sources.

Allyson McAbee

Allyson McAbee is a graduate of Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge with a degree in Landscape Architecture. Currently living in New Orleans, Louisiana she works at a residential design, build firm while volunteering at gardens and farms around the city. Traveling to various countries initially sparked her interests in Landscape Architecture. While traveling, her desire to understand relationships between various cultures and their environments became apparent. Immediately after graduating Allyson continued her passion for traveling before making a home in New Orleans. In the Big Easy her love for culture, people, food, dancing, music, visual and performance art are available by walking down the street. Allyson plans to pursue a Masters in Urban Studies with a focus on anthropology. Finding fulfillment in community social planning, she would like to not only design with the environment in mind, but for the people who live in it. Her writing will be reflective of her interests in cultural relationships to land.

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This entry was posted on Monday, September 30th, 2013 at 9:50 am and is filed under Environment, Infrastructure, Land Use, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “New Orleans, Louisiana: 9 Years Later, Storm Water Infrastructure Lacks”

  1. Richard Alexandar Says:

    $4billion might build a new, smart city further from the possibility of flood damage. Return the present site to nature, and use the remains as a museum to illustrate how nature will always win….and should, is entitled.

    Use the resulting increase in wetlands not only to generate divers species, but as an adventure holiday venue.

    Win, win, win.

  2. Allyson McAbee Says:

    Thanks for the input!
    Although this is a grand idea and would be so nice for everyone, as you said win win win, it just won’t happen I’m afraid. An interesting question though, why do people live in such a dangerous city as New Orleans. Should New Orleans be rebuilt, was a very scary question for many just after Hurricane Katrina.
    There are places all over the globe where people live alongside all sorts of natural distastes.
    The earth is a living thing, always evolving. We too are a part of that living creature. I feel it is in our best interest as humans to try to work with nature rather than against it by moving entire cities every time disaster strikes. What sort of environmental damages would that cause in other parts of Louisiana?

    Frankly though, New Orleans is a culture that simply will not leave. There are extremely strong ties to family, culture, neighbors, history, etc. You ask anyone if they would move and most likely they would ask, “why would I ever leave”. The city will exist until it’s under water. So maybe there’s a sustainable way to prolong the city’s extinction, without ruining more wetlands?

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