A local university works to aid the city's green water management efforts

A local university works to aid the city's green water management efforts
Updated: Aug. 22, 2018 at 7:09 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Flooding from too much rain is always a concern, and as the city embraces "green" tools to augment water management. Dillard University has launched a new program to enhance the fight.

Heavy rainfall proves over and over that it can overwhelm conventional drainage systems and cause flooding on streets and beyond. Given that fact there's increased focus on "green" water management projects.

"Both ends you have rain gardens and then in the middle you'll have the connecting retention tanks," said Carson Gorecki, Senior City Planner with the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, as he stood at a "green" water management site in the Broadmoor Neighborhood.

S&WB grant money was used to fund about a dozen projects around the city.

"And the purpose of this site here is to mitigate localized street flooding, manage our storm water and improve water quality," Gorecki said.

It involves moving rainwater from the street to the site of gravel and vegetation.

"It looks like a catch basin but it actually connects directly into tanks in the site. And there's a perforated tank in there that's surrounded by gravel, so a lot of the water is able to infiltrate into the ground water around the site," Gorecki said.

And the process the intentional greenery that is part of the site is automatically watered.

"It's infiltrated into the vegetation, the vegetation retains that water, drinks it up, there's a lot of thirsty plants in these rain gardens and also filters the water, so we're improving the water quality just by natural resources," Gorecki added.

"If we put the rainwater back into the natural water table it would reinvigorate the soils, reinvigorate the organic matter that we live on and it would fight subsidence," said Dr. Robert Collins, Ph.D, a Professor of Urban Studies and Public Policy at Dillard University.

Collins is overseeing Dillard's new effort to further green water management.

"We're trying to change the culture in New Orleans and educate people about how it's important to live with rainwater," Dr. Collins said.

For the fall semester, Dillard launched its Urban Water Management Certificate Program.

"The only certificate of its type in the state of Louisiana," Dr. Collins stated.

An Urban Water blueprint for the region was released in 2014.

"We'd like to see the Urban Water Plan implemented, we'd like to see that move along at a faster pace and one of the ways we want to do that is to make sure we have well-trained professionals that can help to implement the city's Urban Water Plan," said Dr. Collins.

Back in the Broadmoor neighborhood, Gorecki said the green projects have been informative.

"One of the big lessons that we've learned is the challenge of maintenance. There's lot of vegetation and that takes maintenance," Gorecki said.

And there are limits to the amount of water rain such gardens can soak up, especially in the short-term.

"When the water reaches a certain height in the rain garden, to prevent flooding to adjacent properties and back into the street, this rain garden here is connected to this traditional catch basin where it'll drain into," said Gorecki.

And Dillard University believes its new program will help to push innovative water management in the city to new heights.

"We're trying to train students holistically in the policy aspects. The regulatory aspects of dealing with water," said Dr. Collins.

He said currently the one-year program is limited to Dillard students, but in the future there are plans to open it up to working professionals.

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