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.
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.
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.