Living With Water


Last week, the confluence of the twelfth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with the immediate devastation of Hurricane Harvey has created a swirl of emotions and reflection.

We are somber, remembering, and in some cases reliving, the events of Katrina.

We are grateful, knowing that no city did more for New Orleans than Houston, and so we are eager to repay their generosity of heart and home. Here at GNO, Inc., we are actively collaborating with our economic development colleagues in Texas, providing them with all of the key resources and lessons we have learned from our past decade of rebounding and rebuilding.

Most of all, we are contemplative, knowing that severe weather events can strike us almost anywhere, and that we must do a better job – as a country – anticipating and mitigating their impact. As GNO, Inc.’s Policy VP Caitlin Berni said:

We need to think of floods as the fires of 100 years ago. Fires nearly destroyed Chicago and San Francisco. But through advancements in technology, changes to zoning and building codes, and the development of fire departments, fires have become a much more manageable risk. As a country, we need to begin to advance a similar push for adoption of advanced water management policies and technologies.

To this end, we need a National Flood Insurance Program that encourages broad participation and smart building. Americans will continue to live near water, because that is where commerce happens and cities grow. For this reason, we need an NFIP program that encourages better mapping, effective mitigation and greater participation.

We also need broad adoption of 2013’s Urban Water Plan, which incorporates building elements that mimic rural hydrology, such as permeable pavement that lets the ground absorb rain. These techniques must be systemically incorporated into our construction practices, so that they move from being “demonstration projects,” to simply how we build.

More than anything, we have to realize that while the rain in Houston may be “unprecedented,” intense weather events are going to become more common across the entire Gulf Coast, and all of the United States. Those cities and regions that recognize this new reality, and invest in preparation, are going to survive and thrive. There will be a cost, but getting back to the fire analogy… no one today would question the additional expense of a sprinkler system in a hotel.

This is our chance in Greater New Orleans to be national leaders in living with water. We have a moral imperative and strategic opportunity to step into that role.

For ways to help Houston, click here.

For more information on the Urban Water Plan, click here.