In New Orleans, architects and city planners redeveloping neighborhoods flooded by Hurricane Katrina are looking at ways to live with water – not just pumping it out.

For example, the city is converting numerous vacant lots into rain gardens that will absorb, hold and release stormwater slowly after a storm. The idea is to lighten the load on the city’s drainage system during heavy rains.

The pilot project was an 11,000-square-foot site in the Fillmore neighborhood. Called the “Gentilly Rain Garden,” it features native trees, shrubs and other plants that do more than beautify the space.

During storms, the shallow garden temporarily captures and holds rainwater — helping to prevent floods. Then, over the next two days, the water slowly filters down among the plants, into the ground.

David Lessinger, with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, says the goal is to create similar gardens throughout the city:

Lessinger: “One rain garden doesn’t do a lot to mitigate street flooding, but fifty rain gardens interspersed throughout a neighborhood can make a significant impact.”

By planting rain gardens, New Orleans is improving climate resilience and the community’s quality of life.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Soundbite credits: Jesse Hardman and Laine Kaplan-Levenson from WWNO (for helping to produce).
Photo source: article on a new educational series called Green Keepers (slideshow photo credit — Ramiro Diaz).

More Resources
Living With Water: A New Vision for Delta Cities
Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan
Tulane’s Dutch Dialogue Design Studio Series Focuses on Urban Wetland

Julia Kumari Drapkin

Julia Kumari Drapkin founded ISeeChange after a decade of reporting natural disasters and climate change across the globe and in her own backyard on the Gulf Coast. She is the founder of ISeeChange, a...