City of New Orleans

NOLA Water Monitoring System Design


The Challenge

As the City of New Orleans moves forward with construction projects to help improve the water and wastewater networks overseen by the Sewerage and Water Board, there was an opportunity to set up a monitoring system that could help water management into the future. This monitoring system would be used to help monitor system performance, identify possible hazards to people and infrastructure and serve as input information for real-time forecasting and other numerical models for better future system performance. The work will begin with an 18-month analysis and modeling done through collaboration between Deltares, The Water Institute of the Gulf, and Tulane University to focus on the New Orleans subsurface. The aim is to ensure that rainwater, surface water, groundwater and land subsidence in the urban area can be managed in a coordinated way. This analysis will inform the design and management of green infrastructure projects funded in the Gentilly Resilience District and guide ongoing urban water planning throughout the city.

The Approach

The Water Institute of the Gulf, working with its partners at Deltares and Tulane University will analyze current subsidence and water flows under and around the city and to look at expectations for future climate change, sea level rise and subsidence impacts. This analysis will be made on the basis of 63 soil drilling operations around the city.

In addition, specifications for measuring instruments will be drawn up and a database will be established for measurement data. Finally, work is taking place on a numerical groundwater/soil subsidence model, which will be followed by the design and installation of an integrated water monitoring network. The result will be New Orleans’ first ever groundwater monitoring network to provide decisionmakers with information necessary to set data-based priorities to maximize impacts.

Once the subsurface has been charted and the status quo established, researchers will be able to test the impact of possible and planned solutions such as water-permeable streets and gardens used to store water. Finally, a study will be done to examine the feasibility and opportunities for a “real-time” automated pumping system that would be based on weather forecast.

The project’s development will include input from agencies, the city and local residents and will show what can be done at different scales, from private land to the district levels, to reduce land subsidence and floods, and to support the city policy and the Sewage and Water Board of New Orleans.