Press Releases

Dutch Dialogues Charleston team delivers final report to city outlining a more water-friendly future

Sep 27, 2019

BATON ROUGE, La. (Sept. 27, 2019) – A new report released to the City of Charleston Thursday outlines months of community conversations around how to make areas of this historic city more resilient to increasingly common flooding events.

Situated across barrier islands, a peninsula between two rivers and exposed on a third side to the Atlantic Ocean, Charleston, South Carolina, is increasingly exposed to increasing rainfall, tidal and storm-surge flooding. Recognizing this vulnerability, the Historic Charleston Foundation and the City of Charleston launched the Dutch Dialogues Charleston process led by The Water Institute of the Gulf, Waggonner & Ball Architecture/Environment and the Royal Netherlands Embassy supported by many stakeholders, businesses, non-profits and concerned citizens who volunteered their time for this effort.

Dutch Dialogues is a design-driven workshop model to help city agencies and relevant community, academic and private sector stakeholders understand new and/or alternative approaches for integrated flood risk mitigation. In Charleston, the work focused on four study areas within the city, each with its own character, challenges, and needs.

Rather than producing engineering plans or a list of projects, the Dutch Dialogues process help communities identify a common vision and guiding principals about how they will evolve and resolve the challenges of storm surge, tidal flooding, rainfall, stormwater drainage and the interaction between groundwater and surface water. Dutch Dialogues Charleston presented a vision, principles and recommendations to reduce the various flood risks alongside multiple benefits to community while also recognizing these decisions will involve tradeoffs.

“Our recommendations are grounded in science, inspired by community, based in design and informed through an acknowledgement of future uncertainties,” said Dale Morris, Institute’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, co-founder of the Dutch Dialogues process and Charleston team leader. “The lessons we have learned in Louisiana over generations of adapting to water challenges can be applied to areas all over the country and the world, including here in Charleston.”

The report outlines guiding principals for the city including: Looking for ways to slow down and store water in the landscape and natural systems before it floods homes, streets neighborhoods; developing a city-wide water plan to guide the city’s future and to be embedded in the city’s comprehensive plan; to respect the natural water systems and soils as a means to also accomplish flood risk mitigation; to focus development on higher ground, and discouraging development on lower, more risky ground; performing a groundwater assessment; providing better water management on public properties; engaging more of the private sector in these ongoing efforts and more.

“Long-term planning to manage the risks and the opportunities provided by the Lowcountry’s dynamic water systems is essential,” said David Waggonner with Waggonner & Ball, co-founder of the Dutch Dialogues process and Charleston team leader. “Insights from people and communities have grounded our planning and design work in Louisiana and have informed a series of guiding principles that are applicable to Charleston and other coastal areas. These dialogues should demonstrate the need for a comprehensive, realistic and inspirational Charleston Urban Water Plan to guide investment and development – or redevelopment – in both nature-based and man-made water infrastructure improvements.”

“This has been a great collaboration with so many from across the academic, private sector and all levels of government. We’re honored to share ideas from our work in Louisiana with our friends in South Carolina and, in turn, learn so much from their experience,” said Justin Ehrenwerth, president and CEO of the Institute. “We look forward to continuing to support Charleston and surrounding communities in moving towards a more resilient future.

Read the report and more about the Dutch Dialogues Charleston work at Dutch Dialogues Charleston or at The Water Institute of the Gulf.