The Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan
The Greater New Orleans Water Plan (the Plan) directly addresses groundwater and storm water as critical factors in shaping a safer, more livable, and economically vibrant Southeast Louisiana. The Plan seeks to work in tandem and create multiple lines of defense with the existing levee system and Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan. Administered by GNO, Inc., the $2.5 million plan was funded by the Louisiana Office of Community Development-Disaster Recovery Unit. New Orleans firm, Waggonner & Ball Architects, led a team of local and international water management experts to develop the Plan, which will be released in September 2013. A regional advisory council made up of industry, government, economic development and nonprofit leaders guided the two-year process.
Flooding is caused by frequent storms common to this region, when the catch basins, pipes, and pumps of our current drainage systems are overwhelmed. Flooding causes not only property and economic damage but is potentially harmful to residents.
Subsidence, the sinking of the ground, damages buildings, streets and other infrastructure, and makes the challenge of pumping storm water out more difficult. Subsidence is a result of dry soils, largely caused by current drainage practices that pump out every drop that falls as quickly as possible.
The Plan sets forth strategies to address flooding caused by excess runoff and subsidence caused by the pumping of storm water in St. Bernard Parish and the east banks of Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. Examples of water management strategies detailed in the Plan include:
- Delaying stormwater by using bio-retention and infiltration strategies like rain gardens and bio-swales
- Storing stormwater in the landscape longer by retrofitting canals and finding space for new canals and ponds
- Using stormwater to enhance and connect neighborhoods, and draining it only when necessary
Implementation of these water management strategies will not only lead to increased economic value (stabilized property values, new and retained businesses and investment, new industry and jobs, reduced cost of damages due to flooding and subsidence, improved insurability, and improved national brand) but also to enhanced quality of life (decreased flooding, improved streets and canal networks, increased green and recreational spaces).