Building Flood Resilience in New Orleans

The Problem

With much of the city located at or below sea level, New Orleans is prone to flooding. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that many of the city’s catch basins are overgrown with weeds and clogged with garbage. New Orleans has thousands of catch basins, but does not have the resources to maintain them all.

The Solution

Through the Cities of Service Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA program, the city created an Adopt-a-Catch Basin program that allowed residents to adopt and maintain a catch basin in their neighborhood.

  • The city supported residents with trash pickup and supplies and tools, such as garbage bag, gloves, and trash pickers.
  • AmeriCorps VISTA members organized volunteer days and other events to clean up catch basins and neighborhoods, raise awareness about the importance of water management and resilience, and encourage community groups to adopt catch basins.
  • New Orleans also created an app on which residents can adopt catch basins and report problems.

The Results

The Cities of Service Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA members helped the city engage hundreds of residents to adopt catch basins around the city.

  • Residents have adopted more than 800 catch basins.
  • More than 300 residents have been adopted or helped clean the city’s catch basins. This has led to both increased awareness of the importance of managing stormwater to prevent flooding and improved relationships between city hall staff and residents in low-income neighborhoods where catch basins have been adopted.  
  • The city continued the Adopt-a-Catch Basin program in 2018 under the newly elected Mayor LeToya Cantrell, and tied it to other city cleanup initiatives to increase the program’s impact and ensure its sustainability.

Keys to Success

After flooding in August 2017, controlling local flooding became a priority for the city and Cities of Service and city staff were prepared to expand the program quickly. Due to the groundwork the AmeriCorps VISTA members and city staff had done to get the program started, the team was ready to plan a number of cleanups and more than 200 catch basins were adopted in the first month of the program.

We’re a small neighborhood but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference. Being small doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference for our environment and for future generations.”

— Brenda Lomax-Brown, Resident of New Orleans

Learn more about how New Orleans residents built resilience in their communities.