Twelve years after Hurricane Katrina became the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, New Orleans is still struggling with infrastructure issues that make it difficult to stave off floods. As the city scrambles to fix its broken water pumps for the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, engineers are working with the Dutch government on a longer-term, environmentally friendly plan to let the water in and make New Orleans look more like Amsterdam.
“We can’t simply address the hard infrastructure issues,” like drain pumps and levees, said Justin Ehrenwerth, president and chief executive of The Water Institute of the Gulf, an independent research group. “We have to look at green infrastructure and develop better practices of living with water.”
Last month, The Water Institute joined forces with a Dutch research company, Deltares of the Netherlands, to develop nature-based solutions to New Orleans’ water problems. Dutch designers have been collaborating with New Orleans engineers and architects since 2006, but the work grows more urgent each year as climate change exacerbates the storms and coastal erosion that threaten to sink New Orleans. If the city can learn to embrace and store the water in productive ways, as Dutch cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam have done with their canal systems, flooding will cease to be as much of a threat.