Adaptation & Nature-Based Solutions

New Orleans faces several water-related climate issues due to its unique geographical and environmental characteristics.

Some of the key issues related to our urban water crisis are: Subsidence and Land loss, Sea level Rise, Extreme Weather events (Hurricanes and Tropical Storms), extreme rainfall events, Erosion and Wetland Loss and aging infrastructure.    To address these challenges, New Orleans has implemented various measures such as strengthening levee systems, investing in improved drainage infrastructure, and incorporating nature-based solutions like wetland restoration.

However, the city continues to face ongoing threats from climate change, necessitating further adaptation and resilience-building efforts to ensure the long-term sustainability of New Orleans' water management and protection against water-related climate issues.

To achieve the objectives of the Climate Action plan, the City of New Orleans Office of Resilience and Sustainability is allocating resources to various projects aimed at effectively and sustainably managing stormwater.   

Click here to learn more about Green Infrastructure

Development Projects Underway

The New Orleans Office of Resilience & Sustainability oversees various development projects across the city focused on improving resilience, sustainability, and quality of life for residents. Some key development projects include:

Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Restoration

 

Lincoln Beach Redevelopment

Terms to Know

Subsidence and Land Loss

New Orleans is situated in a low-lying area, surrounded by water bodies like the Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, and the Gulf of Mexico. The city's land is prone to subsidence, which refers to the sinking of the land surface. This subsidence, combined with human activities like oil and gas extraction, has led to significant land loss over the years, making the city more vulnerable to flooding.   

Sea-Level Rise

One of the most pressing concerns for New Orleans is sea-level rise. As global temperatures increase, the melting of polar ice caps and the expansion of seawater contribute to a rise in sea levels. New Orleans already sits below sea level, protected by levees and pumping systems. However, the rising sea levels further heighten the risk of storm surges and coastal flooding, putting the city and its residents at increased danger.   

Hurricanes and Storms

The city is no stranger to hurricanes and severe storms. Its geographical location along the Gulf Coast makes it susceptible to these weather events. Climate change is expected to intensify hurricane activity, leading to stronger storms and increased precipitation. This poses a significant threat to New Orleans' infrastructure, as heavy rainfall can overwhelm the drainage system, causing widespread flooding.   

Land Subsidence and Water Management

The extraction of groundwater from beneath the city contributes to land subsidence. As the land sinks, it becomes more difficult to manage water effectively. The drainage system in New Orleans relies on pumps to remove water from the city, but as the land sinks, the effectiveness of the system decreases, leaving the city vulnerable to flooding even during regular rain events.   

Erosion and Wetland Loss

New Orleans sits at the edge of a vast coastal wetland region, which acts as a natural buffer against storm surges and helps absorb excess water. However, erosion and wetland loss have been significant issues in the area. Human activities, including canal construction and the diversion of river sediment, have disrupted the natural replenishment of wetlands, reducing their protective capacity and exacerbating the city's vulnerability to flooding.   

Urban Heat Island Effect

A temperatures rise due to global warming, urban areas experience even higher temperatures compared to their surrounding rural areas. In New Orleans, this effect is intensified by factors such as the city's extensive concrete and asphalt surfaces, limited tree cover, and concentrated human activities. The dense urban environment absorbs and retains heat, leading to elevated temperatures during the day and limited cooling at night. The urban heat island effect not only contributes to discomfort for residents but also poses serious health risks, particularly for vulnerable populations. Additionally, the higher temperatures increase energy demands for cooling, resulting in increased energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Addressing the urban heat island effect is crucial for New Orleans to enhance climate resilience and improve the well-being of its residents. Implementing measures such as increasing green spaces, promoting urban tree planting, and incorporating cool roof technologies can help mitigate the urban heat island effect and create a more sustainable and livable city.