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November 15, 2023

Urban Water @ 10 Initiative Celebrates the 10-year Anniversary of the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan and Looks to the Future

The Greater New Orleans Foundation, Greater New Orleans, Inc., and the Tulane ByWater Institute organized Urban Water @ 10 to activate regional stakeholders, celebrate a decade of progress, and co-develop priority actions that advance the next decade of Urban Water Plan implementation. The Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, released in 2013, is a comprehensive strategy to mitigate regional impacts of stormwater and subsidence. Developed in partnership with international water management experts, the plan defines strategies for “living with water,” complete with proposed pilot projects. 

Since launching this summer, Urban Water @ 10 has engaged over 150 businesses, nonprofit and community-based organizations, government officials, and research institutions in a series of events and activities that gathered diverse perspectives on successes, challenges, lessons learned over the past decade, and ideas for the future. Today, the initiative culminated in the unveiling of recommendations for the next decade, as informed by these activities, that will help bring the benefits of living with water to all the people of Greater New Orleans, which can be found on www.gnowater.org. Following the release, participants celebrated the ten-year anniversaries of the Urban Water Plan and Urban Water Series with a celebratory reception. 

“For over 300 years, the economy of Greater New Orleans has been centered on our water resources,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “As seen in the Urban Water Plan, and again in the collaboration between public and private sectors exhibited during Urban Water @ 10, water can be our region’s greatest asset. The report released today demonstrates regional stakeholders’ request that ‘more of this’ should be a priority moving forward.  As we progress into the next ten years of urban water management and continue to build upon the past decade of progress, we can cultivate our water sector, invest in organic solutions, and harness our natural strengths, together.” 

The Urban Water @ 10 priorities, presented today to solicit feedback and action commitments, are based on themes, insights, and opportunities participants have collectively developed over the program’s duration. These priorities, and more detailed opportunities available at www.gnowater.org are intended to guide regional implementation of the Urban Water Plan over the next ten years: 

  1. Vision and Leadership – Nourish a collaborative space to consistently assess progress, intentionally develop leadership, collectively overcome challenges, and celebrate successes. 
  1. Regional Coordination and Governance – Develop a regional repository to house cross-jurisdictional modeling, measurements, toolkits, and convenings. 
  1. Democratic Participation and Engagement – Empower trusted messengers to grow and sustain citizen engagement. 
  1. Education – Invest in water and environmental literacy programs for residents at every stage of life. 
  1. Policy and Funding – Adopt stormwater standards and fees at local levels, while pursuing funding for regional projects, plans, and campaigns. 
  1. Contracting and Procurement – Execute alternative procurement methods to accelerate project implementation at all stages and better forecast project costs. 
  1. Training and Workforce – Align training opportunities with near-term needs and build equity through implementation. 
  1. Maintenance – Embrace maintenance and adaptive management as central pillars of living with water and at every stage of projects. 
  1. Scientific Research and Monitoring – Co-develop regional monitoring infrastructure and an open science data platform. 
  1. New Horizons for Adaptation Planning – Transform governance structures to support action and implementation, and celebrate the urban water successes already accomplished. 

“As Urban Water @ 10 concludes, I’m excited to know that the collaborative work to live better with water continues,” said Andy Kopplin, President & CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. “It’s clear that through working together to build this movement, we are creating a more just, resilient, and vibrant region for all. As the Greater New Orleans Foundation celebrates our centennial year, we are more driven than ever to continue the work that will ensure that our region thrives for the next 100 years.” 

The three administering organizations partnered with the City of New Orleans Office of Resilience and Sustainability, Waggonner & Ball Architects, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), and the University of New Orleans Center for Hazards Assessment, Response & Technology (UNO-CHART) to execute the program, which consisted of a series of events and workshops.  

“As we celebrate the successes of the past decade, we also recognize that the next 10 years will bring new challenges, uncertainties, and risks for our region,” said Josh Lewis, Schwartz Professor of River and Coastal Studies and Research Director of the Tulane ByWater Institute. “Urban Water @ 10 enabled the region’s water research community to learn from each other, identifying where science can help maximize the impact of urban water projects as we anticipate and adapt to ongoing environmental change.” 

The framework of Urban Water @ 10 was supported by a planning grant from the National Science Foundation Sustainable Regional Systems Research Networks program. Activities benefited from consistent collaboration and dialogue between partners and participants in the water sector. The administering organizations intend for Urban Water @ 10 programs and priority actions to position regional water stakeholders to compete for and capitalize on an abundance of growth opportunities, such as federal infrastructure funding, resilience planning challenges, and scientific research grants. 

Urban Water @ 10 Overview 

In July 2023, Urban Water @ 10 launched at a commencement event gathered at the Tulane River and Coastal Center.  Activities during the commencement included interactive mapping and visioning activities for participants to look back over a century of water management, share accomplishments from the past decade of implementation, and envision how work done over the next few years will be remembered 100 years from now.  These activities provided a foundation for gathering input, information, and recommendations that would carry throughout. 

Urban Water @ 10 Roundtables offered an opportunity for in-depth, small group reflection for participants to provide input on past successes, challenges, and recommendations for action.  Hosted in August and September, the five roundtables were organized by sector: Construction & Maintenance, Design & Engineering, Public Institutions, Science & Monitoring, and NGO & Workforce.  Roundtables contributed to the successful framework of Urban Water @ 10 by initiating dialogues across individuals in a sector, enabling input to penetrate beyond surface-level challenges or opportunities and include specific details needed for thorough recommendations. 

To build upon the roundtable discussions, participants attended the Urban Water @ 10 Summit.  This day-long program was hosted at Greater New Orleans Foundation and offered 10 small-group sessions organized by theme, rather than sector.  Participants co-developed solutions to prevalent topics, using insights gathered during Roundtables.  To prepare for the Summit, the Urban Water @ 10 partnering organizations distilled input from Roundtables; and from input at the Summit, ten draft priorities were developed to be presented at the Finale.