Finding Opportunity In Adversity: A Water Challenge

DSC_0262Last Friday, the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce hosted yet another successful Impact Economy Forum. The topic for this quarter’s session was sustainable water management. Associates from Thomas Strategies, Dana Brown and AssociatesBayou Land RC&D, and Waggoner & Ball Architects  offered presentations on the challenges, and solutions, to sustainable water management that the City of New Orleans is facing. Though the event was promoted as Building a Blue-Green City, the real theme was finding opportunity within adversity. As Rami Diaz of Waggoner & Ball explained the recent release of GNO, Inc’s “Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan” establishes sustainability and innovation as the new paradigms for water management in the Impact Economy, and the future of the city is ripe with opportunity.

The panel of presenters which included Dana Brown of Dana Brown & Associates, Jeff Thomas of Thomas Strategies, and Jen Roberts of Bayou RC&D further elaborated on how the benefits of sustainable water management strategies far outstrip – by a ratio of 4:1 – the potential costs of future damages. Across the panel it was emphasized that when it comes to water management there are many things we are doing now that can be done better, and that the failure to do so is exacerbating our costs of living in both the short and long term. Simply pumping water out of the city, as we’ve done decades, is no longer a sustainable water management strategy. Dana Brown put it best when she said, “When you get 65 inches of rain a year you have to take care of your water. “

At community level, Jeff Thomas of Thomas Strategies stressed that green streets and pervious pavements are economical ways not only to prevent flooding but also subsidence. He argued that, “We should not be building traditional streets because they are cheaper.” Water management opportunities exist at the residential level as well. Rain gardens and French drains, can easily double as beautification projects. Implementations such as these can not only help to increase the amount of green space, they will also help to mitigate the ever rising post-Katrina flood insurance costs. Similarly, Jen Roberts, a watershed planner for Bayou Land RC&D, discussed how maintaining our natural aquatic resources can start at community level, and, furthermore, does not have to be divorced from a discussion of flood prevention.

The Q&A portion of the forum was filled with discussions of how to become involved, and there was no lack of businesses willing to make those connections, many of them through LifeCity. The future of water management is happening here in New Orleans, and Impact Economy is going to be a key player in taking this movement into the next stage of sustainability.

What can you do to play a role in helping New Orleans live with water more efficiently? First of all, educate yourself about water issues. Click through to read about what different organizations are working on. Second, sign up for the 2014 Water Callenge. And lastly, get out and vote! Saturday, October 19 is Election Day and the Sewerage & Water Board governance reform is on the ballot.