Increased cooperation between federal, state, and local agencies has enabled New Orleans to strengthen its resilience against more frequent future floods and storms.

Facing rising sea levels, regular flooding, and land subsidence, the American city of New Orleans needed to re-set its approach to adaptation planning, as a lack of coordination between government agencies had left the city unprepared. The solution was establishment of the Urban Delta initiative, an integrated approach to storm protection, fostering cooperation between federal, state, and local agencies in order to build a strong, resilient city.

Through Urban Delta, New Orleans identified gaps in coordination and areas of service for which no agency had official responsibility, and is taking steps to rectify these oversights. One such case is management of groundwater and subsidence. This is now managed by the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, which is working with the city and citizen groups on the best ways to cooperatively manage this threat. Increased coordination is paying off, as New Orleans has begun a collaborative reconstruction of the city’s streets, drainage, and sewer systems. This rehabilitation is expected to increase the city’s protection from a 100-year storm level to a 500-year storm level, while also preventing 600,000 tons of debris from flood-related property damage over the next 50 years.

135,000 tons of CO2 reduced due to a reduction in municipal energy use related to water management

The challenge

Facing numerous complex challenges – including rising seas, diminished protective wetlands, intense storm threats, land subsidence, and regular flooding – the city of New Orleans  has had to reassess its water management practices by increasing collaboration between agencies to close gaps in services and ensure that the city is fully prepared to deal with extreme weather events.


Economic With Urban Delta, properly maintained groundwater levels will reduce land subsidence in New Orleans, which is estimated to cost around $2.2 billion in damages to structures over the next 50 years.

Environmental The energy needed to process and pump out water that falls within the protective levee system represents 60% of municipal energy use. Urban Delta is expected to reduce this energy consumption by up to 30%.

Health The project expects a correlated decrease in respiratory illnesses due to mold and other harmful health outcomes linked to water damage in buildings.

Social Urban Delta will create a defensible city that can provide equitable levels of protection for all city residents and accept displaced citizens from communities no longer viable due to coastal land loss.

About New Orleans

New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. The population of the city was 343,829 as of the 2010 U.S. Census. It is well known for its distinct French and Spanish Creole architecture, as well as its cross-cultural and multilingual heritage. New Orleans is also famous for its cuisine, music (particularly as the birthplace of jazz), and its annual celebrations and festivals, most notably Mardi Gras, dating to French colonial times. The city is often referred to as the “most unique” in the United States.

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