Towards an Integral Water Management Strategy in New Orleans

26 January 2012 by Marketing & Communicatie

Between 10 and 15 January 2012, a seminar and closed presentation was held by the Dutch Dialogues consortium in New Orleans.

Apart from TU Delft (Han Meyer, Architecture, and Frans van de Ven, CEG), the consortium is represented by Dutch and American knowledge institutes, engineering and design firms. Among the Dutch partners are Deltares, Royal-Haskoning, Arcadis, H+N+S Landscape Architects, Palmbout Urban Landscapes and Robbert de Koning Landscape Architects. The leadership of the consortium rests with the New Orleans based firm for architecture and urban design, Waggonner Ball.  

The consortium, under the name of “Dutch Dialogues”, is made up of parties that in previous years have held a number of workshops in New Orleans in order to explore the possibilities of combining the urban reconstruction of New Orleans and the introduction of a sustainable water system.
At the end of 2011, the consortium was formally commissioned by the Greater New Orleans Regional Association to create an ‘Integrated, Comprehensive and Sustainable Water Management Strategy’ for the Greater New Orleans Region. Besides the municipality of New Orleans, this region also comprises of the neighbouring municipalities of Jefferson Parish and Saint Bernard Parish.
The essence of the plan, for which the first concept was presented on 15 January, is gradually to transform New Orleans's existing water system into a system that is better suited to the differentiated subsoil of New Orleans. The existing system of soil hydrology and water control has been made completely uniform. During frequent heavy downpours whole urban areas can become flooded, in spite of the extremely high pumping capacity. The escape canals are designed as wide concrete channels that form impassable barriers separating neighbourhoods.
The new Water Management Strategy responds more adequately to the specific characteristics and possibilities of the soil type and the urban development structure in various parts of the city. Some areas have soil with a high absorption capacity and a great potential in public spaces to realise temporary detention storage channels – in the central reservations, for example, of the occasionally extremely wide boulevards. Other neighbourhoods that are more densely built and have a different soil quality require different tailor-made solutions. Moreover, new water structures on a regional urban scale, contribute to the spatial cohesion of the region.  

Unique interaction between Science, Engineering and Design 

A remarkable and significant innovation of the consortium is the close cooperation and interaction between science, engineering and design. In the area of science, the water issue is precisely quantified, and proposals are being developed for a monitoring system. In the area of engineering and design, new solutions for water containment, detention and drainage are being developed, which at the same time contribute to an improvement in the spatial cohesion of the city.
The integral character of this Water Management Strategy is unique, not only for New Orleans but also by Dutch standards. Although there are various examples in the Netherlands of integral water projects at the level of neighbourhoods, boroughs and urban districts, there is no example of such an approach on the scale of an entire urban region.  

On 15 January, the draft proposals were received enthusiastically and discussed by a company of representatives from the Greater New Orleans Region, the municipal authorities, the regional water boards, the State of Louisiana and various district and neighbourhood organisations.
The Water Management Strategy will be worked out in detail in the coming months. It will particularly focus on the more detailed technical and financial elements of the proposed measures, the spatial integration and the phased implementation timeline.
The proposal has to be completed and submitted in October 2012.  


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