Increased cooperation between federal, state, and local agencies has enabled New Orleans to strengthen its resilience against more frequent future floods and storms.

The Challenge

Facing numerous complex challenges – including rising seas, diminished protective wetlands, intense storm threats, land subsidence, and regular flooding – the City of New Orleans has had to reassess its water management practices and increase collaboration between agencies to close gaps in services and ensure that the city is fully prepared to deal with extreme weather events.

 

The Solution

Facing rising sea levels, regular flooding, and land subsidence, the American City of New Orleans needed to reset its approach to adaptation planning, as a lack of coordination between government agencies had left the city unprepared. The solution was establishment of the Urban Delta initiative, an integrated approach to storm protection, fostering cooperation between federal, state, and local agencies in order to build a strong, resilient city.

Through Urban Delta, New Orleans identified gaps in coordination and areas of service for which no agency had official responsibility, and took steps to rectify these oversights. One such case is management of groundwater and subsidence. These areas are now managed by the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, which is working with the city and citizen groups on the best ways to cooperatively manage threats. Increased coordination is paying off, as New Orleans has begun a collaborative reconstruction of the city’s streets, drainage, and sewer systems. This rehabilitation is expected to increase the city’s protection from a 100-year storm level to a 500-year storm level, while also preventing 600,000 tons of debris from flood-related property damage over the next 50 years.

 

Environmental Benefits – The energy needed to process and pump out water that falls within the protective levee system represents 60% of municipal energy use. Urban Delta is expected to reduce this energy consumption by up to 30%.

Social Benefits – Urban Delta will create a defensible city that can provide equitable levels of protection for all city residents and accept displaced citizens from communities no longer viable due to coastal land loss.

Economic Benefits – With Urban Delta, properly maintained groundwater levels will reduce land subsidence in New Orleans, which is estimated to cost around $2.2 billion in damages to structures over the next 50 years.

Health Benefits – The project expects a correlated decrease in respiratory illnesses due to mold and other harmful health outcomes linked to water damage in buildings.

 

About Cities100

Presented by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), Sustainia and Realdania – Cities100 showcases leading solutions to urban climate challenges in ten sectors, ranging from solid waste management to transportation.

Available online and in print, Cities100 provides stakeholders an accessible format to explore achievable solutions for climate action in cities, and will be a useful tool for relevant groups ranging from impact investors and development organizations, to mayors and city governments.  You can access the full Cities100 2015 publication online here.