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New Orleans, from waterlogged to water-rich

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  February 24, 2014 10:47 AM

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New Orleans has well-chronicled trouble with water: It sits partially below sea level, between a lake and a river, and it stands to flood whenever it rains abnormally hard. The city, which is also sinking, is trying make do by turning its water liabilities into assets. As a short piece in Yale Environment 360 explains, officials recently chose the architecture firm Waggonner & Ball to develop a Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan. The firm's ideas, which have been rendered in striking, forward-looking illustrations of a redesigned cityscape, are based around the principle of retaining rainwater where it falls, rather than trying to pump it out of the city, as New Orleans does now. The retained water would be used to fill refurbished Venice-like canals, and to irrigate expansive "greenways"- stretches of lush vegetation in the middle of the city that would absorb the rainwater before it flows into roads and living rooms. If you live in New Orleans, the vision is almost enticing enough to make you say: Let it rain.

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West Esplanade Canal (existing)
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West Esplanade Canal (proposed)
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Lafitte (existing)
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Lafitte (proposed)
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Images courtesy of Waggonner & Ball Architects.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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