Posts tagged with "Flooding":

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A grassroots organization starts an environmental movement in Iowa City

One might not expect Iowa City, a midsize heartland town of 70,000, to be on the forefront of urban sustainability issues. But Iowa City has everything to lose if climate change isn’t addressed. In 2008, a massive flood caused an estimated $64 billion in damage to the state, roughly equivalent to that caused by Hurricane Sandy. That flood was preceded by 239 tornados, which hit the Midwest over a nine-day period.

Iowa City, a UNESCO City of Literature, has a strong, culturally active citizenry, and now it is working to channel that energy into securing its environmental future. After the flood waters subsided, and the tornado damage was clear (damage from both of those events is still evident eight years later), a group of Iowa City residents began to seriously think about how design could be used to achieve a more sustainable urban center. “Ecopolis Iowa City” was organized to brainstorm urban restoration, biodiversity, local food, inclusionary and urban designs, renewable energy, and transportation initiatives for the future of the city. Initially holding informal meetings, Ecopolis Iowa City eventually started to sponsor forums that would use storytelling, music, and conversation to identify and generate ideas. From 2014 to 2016, the events eventually turned into a movement.

The city’s 2015 fall election saw a progressive council majority win for the first time in nearly 50 years. In spring 2016, Mayor Jim Throgmorton issued a “Regenerative City” proclamation. The proclamation set goals to “replant native prairies and trees to store carbon in the soils; expand urban agriculture; to power our city and neighborhoods efficiently through green building designs and renewable energy; to expand citywide recycling and composting through a zero waste ordinance; to make low-carbon transportation choices; to grow green jobs and support companies actively greening their operations.” By summer, the ideas from the Ecopolis Forums were worked into a proposed Iowa City Climate Action Plan.

The plan aims to expand and guide the regenerative city initiatives. Iowa City is already investing $60 million into raising a major route into the city above the 100-year flood level, but the plan calls for many more actions at different scales. From establishing protected “ecodistricts” to enforcing new sustainable building requirements, the plan may greatly affect the city’s future fabric. The plan sets greenhouse gas emission and transit diversity goals through 2030, with an eye on changing the way average citizens understand their impact on the environment.

Though the Iowa City Action Plan has not been formally adopted by the city, Ecopolis points out that the six million sandbags Iowa City residents filled to try and save their city in 2008 is a sign they are ready and able to make major changes. And with Ecopolis founders now on the city council, the time is better than ever.

This article was part of our Oct. 12 issue which focused on how water is shaping today’s landscape architecture and urbanism. Communities face deluges and droughts—for some, the stakes can be survival itself, but others see opportunities for decadence. To explore these stories from around the U.S. and the world, click here.

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This company is designing floating buildings to combat climate change disasters

What if, instead of washing out, a city could float when it floods? "Our system takes the onus of flood protection off the taxpayer and puts it onto the developer, the owner, and the builder. Why is the public subsidizing irresponsible construction in floodplains when there are better ways to build?" asked Greg Henderson, the founder and CEO of Los Gatos, California–based Arx Pax. The company has developed a new technology to boost resiliency in coastal areas and flood zones by building not on land, but over water. The SAFE Building System is a self-adjusting, three-part floating foundation made of precast concrete pontoons that can support not only homes, but towers and city blocks. Far from an engineer's fantasy, the system has precedent in the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, which carries Seattle drivers across Lake Washington to the suburbs, and the Mega-Float, the world's largest airport over water in Tokyo, Japan. Though the ambitious system is buoyed by Silicon Valley optimism, the design inspiration for the project is humble. Houseboats, like the ones in Mission Bay that Henderson studied in architecture school at UC Berkeley, are impervious to earthquakes and floods—a solid model of how buildings could float above disaster.
Like houseboats, which vary by region and the owner's budget, the SAFE system is replicable but responds to local conditions. At every site, a few feet of water is introduced to float the structures before any floods, like a swimming pool for buildings. The pontoons can be made of myriad materials in response to local conditions; Henderson is adding fly ash and other admixtures to ordinary Portland cement to create pontoons that have a lifespan of hundreds of years. In an explainer video, Arx Pax uses Miami Beach, Florida, as a model to demonstrate how the SAFE system could be implemented.An idea, though, is only as feasible as its permitting. Arx Pax is researching local regulations around the installation and maintenance of in-ground pools for guidance on how to pitch the SAFE system to municipalities. California's Marin County, for example, has rules that govern houseboats, "so there is regulation out there," said Henderson. "We're pushing some envelopes, but we're not doing anything new. We're pulling together existing technologies so it should be easy for people to get behind [the system]." Henderson wants communities—and the federal government—to rethink the reactive approach to disaster planning. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)'s rebuild and retreat model, he said, doesn't work when, by some estimates, sea levels could rise more than six feet by 2100. Building on stilts or doing nothing are less cost-effective than the SAFE system long-term, Arx Pax argues, because more frequent extreme weather events will continue to destroy coastlines and cities on floodplains. Even levees have problems (beyond breaches): Their slopes take up precious real estate, a proposition that may be feasible in some areas but less desirable in places with high land costs. For cities in climate-change denial, there is still time to reconsider approach to hazard mitigation. Right now, Arx Pax is in talks with FEMA to adopt the technology, and the company is working with a few flood-prone U.S. communities that Henderson declined to name. Internationally, Arx Pax is doing a pilot project with Republic of Kiribati (a small, low-lying island nation in the Pacific Ocean) to increase its resiliency.
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Miami battles rising floodwaters even as development booms

In terms of cities and climate change, Miami Beach is the biggest canary in the coal mine. At approximately four feet above sea level, this 19-square-mile strip of artificial and natural islands faces frequent flooding during storms and high tides. (Last September’s king tide—a colloquial term for high tide—reached 2.2 feet.)

The city is aggressively fighting the watery onslaught: Over the next five years, Miami Beach will spend $400 to $500 million in anti-flooding defenses that include pumps, raised roads, and seawalls.

This is money well spent. The Miami area sits on limestone that absorbs floodwaters and can force the deluge back to the surface, making flood control a special challenge. Still, environmental concerns aren’t stopping new developments across Miami. The economic timeframe for developers (and the residents buying and renting) remains relatively short compared to the long-term threat.

In addition to flooding, another, more insidious threat looms: Miami maintains its Biscayne Aquifer by channeling freshwater from Lake Okeechobee to push back against saltwater intrusion, which means the region may have to choose between flooding or drinking salt water. By 2060, some estimates place sea-level rise at three feet. Further down the line, questions of how federal and private insurers will provide flood coverage —and how eager banks will be to issue mortgages—may also arise.

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FEMA updates New York City flood maps for rising sea levels

Today Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that New York City’s flood maps will be revised to add more buildings to high flood risk areas. “We are building a stronger, more resilient city to confront climate change. Our city needs precise flood maps that reflect real risks, both today and years from now—and we have to do that fairly. We will work closely with FEMA to ensure New Yorkers in the floodplain are prepared, and that the tools to make them more resilient, like flood insurance, remain available and affordable. We are grateful to FEMA to agreeing to this partnership,” said Mayor de Blasio, in a statement. The agency's decision comes after the de Blasio administration appealed to FEMA last year to update flood risk calculations for the city and region, a move that added 35,000 buildings to the highest flood risk areas. According to FEMA regional administrator Jerome Hatfield, the region's coastal flood risk maps have not been updated since 1983, a comparatively halcyon time when climate change–intensified superstorms did not threaten to annihilate New York City. FEMA's revised maps, created in association with the New York City Panel on Climate Change, will give more accurate current and future flood data that accounts for global warming. The goal is to give eligible homeowners a better idea of their risk, crucial information in the selection of appropriate flood insurance. FEMA requires mortgage-holding homeowners in the highest risk areas to buy flood insurance; as a result of today's announcement, New Yorkers in the highest-risk flood zones will save millions of dollars in flood insurance premiums. (Those in lower-risk zones are encouraged, but not required, to purchase insurance, too.) To educate its citizens on the dangers of the rising seas, the city has created a comprehensive site for flood risk information, and the city plans to do additional outreach once the new maps go into effect.
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Jean Nouvel’s vegetated Miami tower touted for its man-made lagoon

West Avenue in Miami Beach is set for a Jean Nouvel high rise surrounded by an elaborate man-made lagoon.  The tower will be covered with suspended vegetation that, at least in renderings, casts the structure in a distinctly green hue. This is Nouvel's second attempt at building in the city after his Grove Heights project lost a competition in 2013. "Monad Terrace" as the 14-story tower is known, is set to top out at 149 feet, just a hair below the city's height limit of 150 feet. Developers JDS also recruited Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design to work on the scheme which boasts a glass facade encircled by water and a green wall, covered in foliage on one side. Inside, the structure will hold approximately 80 residential units that will offer two–five bedroom layouts, each with views out three or four sides of the building. Topping the structure are two penthouses, each with its own private pool. To maintain privacy, reflective screens—that allow views out but obscure view in—sit in front windows, creating a staggered facade. The lagoon, however, is the complex's showpiece. Occupants can stroll up to seating in the middle and edges of the lagoon or take a dip in the swimming pool along the bay where a waterfall is planned. According to managing partner at JDS Development Group, Michael Stern, the pool will be visible from the bay. It's not all good news though. Elaborate water features may be easy on the eye, but rising sea levels are a very real threat to those along the coast on Miami's South Beach. The issue surfaced late last year when The New Yorker published findings that said the idyllic retreats of the area could be underwater in under 50 years. Nouvel's design however, looks to be high and dry. "Our design is very conscious of what is going on to changes to the streets and concerns about sea level rise," said Stern speaking to Curbed Miami. Monad Terrace will be the first building in the West Avenue vicinity to encompass the higher street level requirements. Nouvel has been inclusive of the potential disastrous surroundings in his design. Landscaping dotted around the building can absorb water, meanwhile below street-level garages can act as water-tight "bathtubs." Speaking on the matter, Stern commented that "the landscape is designed that if any salt water intruded it is tough enough to live through that event."
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Flood prevention scheme in the Netherlands creates unique byproduct: an urban river park island

After a close shave with nature 20 years ago, the Netherlands has sought to reinvent defensive flood prevention. "Room for the Waal" is an anti-flood program in Nijmegen, a city which spans the River Waal, Europe’s busiest waterway, where a sharp turn forms a bottleneck as it nears the city. In 1995, heavy rains in upstream France and Germany caused an upsurge in water levels in Nijmegen that threatened to breach the dikes, warranting the evacuation of the city’s 170,000 residents, as well as cattle. Despite a crisis averted, the city is undertaking a flood resilience initiative focused on widening the floodplain rather than hedging its bets with fortified embankments. Through this floodplain, excavators will carve a new channel for the River Waal, leaving an island at its center. For starters, the dikes will recede 1,148 feet inland, and the resulting widened floodplains will be excavated to create room for a new channel. The island that is left behind presents an opportunity to construct a whole new section of city along with a unique urban river park, thus creating a two-fold tool for urban regeneration and flood deterrence. At certain points, the island is at a sufficient elevation for this purpose. The city is building four new bridges to connect the new island to both sides of the river, while a new neighborhood is rising across the river from the city center, balancing urban development on both sides of the waterway. Existing floodplains along the River Waal consist mostly of agricultural land, but 50 families in the village of Lent will need to relocate nevertheless in order to accommodate the receded embankments. Room for the Waal is part of national flood prevention program "Room for the River," into which the Dutch government is investing 2.3 billion euros (nearly $2.6 billion) on more than 30 crucial river locations to protect four million people who live on flood-prone territory. The approach consists of broadening and deepening floodplains and removing groins that obstruct water flow.  Room for the Waal is expected to complete at the end of this year with a final cost of $381.6 million.
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Detroit gets its feet wet with “blue infrastructure”

Detroit's Water & Sewerage Department hopes an experiment in so-called blue infrastructure will help the cash-strapped city stop flushing money down the drain. The Detroit Free Press reported that a pilot project in the far east side area of Jefferson Village will divert stormwater runoff into a series of small wetlands and pieces of green infrastructure to reduce the pressure on an overloaded city sewer system. Such experiments in alternative stormwater management could save owners of large, impervious surfaces like parking lots tens of thousands of dollars each year in forgone drainage fees, while the city could save millions by scaling back or scrapping expensive, "gray infrastructure" investments like newer sewer pipes. But the plan, which is expected to be ready in a few months, is not a done deal, writes John Gallagher in the Detorit Free Press:
It is by no means a simple problem to solve. Multiple licenses and approvals would be needed from a variety of agencies, including the city itself, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and others. But there is great enthusiasm among experts for trying the experiment. Blue infrastructure is a key recommendation of the Detroit Future City visionary framework and has been much talked about in recent years, but nothing of this magnitude has been done so far in Detroit. So far, "blue infrastructure" in metro Detroit has meant the creation of porous parking lots and so-called "green alleys" that allow rain and snowmelt to filter down into the ground beneath instead of running off into sewers.
Across the nation urbanists and landscape designers are embracing innovative stormwater capture and retention techniques as concerns over climate change, flooding and drought collide with a renewed interest in public spaces and site design.
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Des Moines Dialogue by Substance Architecture

Zinc and glass unite riverfront pavilion and pump house.

In 2009, just as construction on its Principal Riverwalk pavilion was about to begin—and following years of funding-related stops and starts—Des Moines-based Substance Architecture received some unexpected news. The firm was commissioned to design a second building, a pump house, on an abutting plaza. At that point, recalled Substance's Paul Mankins, it had been about three years since the firm started work on the pavilion. "There was some discussion in the office about whether the pump house should be an independent piece, or whether it should be formally related to the pavilion," he said. "Our decision was that the pavilion would be stronger if it had this piece as a foil." Using a limited material palette of zinc and glass accented by Jun Kaneko's artwork, Substance succeeded in creating a dialogue between the two small riverfront buildings, despite their differing programs and dates of origin. The pavilion's form was shaped as much by practical circumstances as by a particular aesthetic vision. The Wallace Roberts and Todd (WRT) master plan for the Principal Riverwalk, a joint development of the City of Des Moines and the Principal Financial Group, determined the wedge shape of the site. "We're not a firm that typically does triangular buildings," noted Mankins, "but the inner workings of the floodwall were already in place before we started." The architects were further constrained by a tight budget. Rather than distribute the program across a single floor, said Mankins, "we were able to convince WRT to manipulate the plaza, tip it up to stack the program." The move cut the pavilion's footprint in half and allowed Substance to push the service functions down into the plaza itself, thus decreasing the cost of the envelope. The pavilion's focal element is its glass-enclosed cafe, stacked directly atop the cast-in-place concrete box housing the service functions. The architects created an outdoor seating area by pulling the building ten feet away from the floodwall. This gesture, too, was in part a pragmatic one, as it "eased conversations with the Army Corps of Engineers," said Mankins. "The end result produces an exterior terrace, which is fantastic. But it was not purely a design-driven decision; it was also a political decision."
  • Facade Manufacturer VMZinc (zinc), Bliss Nor-Am (glazing), Jun Kaneko with Derix Glasstudios (glass mural)
  • Architects Substance Architecture
  • Facade Installer Cramer and Associates
  • Location Des Moines, IA
  • Date of Completion 2013 (pavilion), 2014 (pump house)
  • System folded zinc over steel-framed glass enclosure
  • Products VMZinc siding and roofing, Ipe siding, Bliss Nor-Am windows and doors, Minnesota limestone
To mitigate solar gain, Substance shrouded the pavilion in folded black zinc that serves as both roof and wall. A broad overhang to the south provides shade in summer without sacrificing the view downriver. On the west side of the cafe, the zinc facade is louvered. "It's basically like an enormous blind with the fins oriented north," said Mankins. "It allows you to view directly north, which is upriver, unobstructed, but it blocks the western sun." The second project, the pump house, entered the mix following the flood of 2008. "We have a storm and sanitary sewer system that's cutting-edge technology for 1750," quipped Mankins. After two 500-year floods in less than two decades, the city decided it was high time to upgrade its flood management system. The pump station designed by Substance contains three pumps, one of which already existed. "There are other pump stations in Des Moines, typically just cinderblock walls around an emergency generator and several propeller pumps," explained Mankins. The architects took a different tack, echoing the neighboring pavilion with a two-part design. They encased the existing pump in translucent glass, then wrapped a triangular zinc wall around the two new pumps and associated components. Below the pump station's zinc walls, Substance used a type of Minnesota limestone deployed by WRT throughout the Principal Riverwalk development. Substance had already worked with artist Jun Kaneko on several pieces for the pavilion. The firm returned to ask for a final artwork, a multicolored glass mural. "When we were designing the pump station, we always wanted this glass mural," said Mankins. The designers collaborated with Kaneko and Germany's Derix Glasstudios on the mural itself, then engaged C3 Lighting Solutions and Commonwealth Electric to design and install an LED system for internal illumination. With the language of limestone uniting them with the rest of the Principal Riverwalk, said Mankins, the pavilion and pump station appear as "two objects placed on plazas formed by flood walls." Their relationship to one another is a (happy) marriage of opposites, thanks to the architects' strategic use of zinc and glass. "One is closed, the other open," said Mankins. "But they're clearly related to one another."
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EPA picks 5 cities to join green infrastructure program

Five state capitals will get help from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop green infrastructure that could help mitigate the cost of natural disasters and climate changeResiliency, whether it be in the context of global warming or natural and manmade catastrophes, has become a white-hot topic in the design world, especially since Superstorm Sandy battered New York City in 2012. EPA selected the following cities for this year's Greening America's Capitals program through a national competition: Austin, Texas; Carson City, Nev.; Columbus, Ohio; Pierre, S.D.; and Richmond, Va. Since 2010, 18 capitals and Washington, D.C. have participated in the program, which is administered by the EPA in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. In each city, EPA will provide technical assistance to help design and build infrastructure that uses natural systems to manage stormwater. Here's a bit on each of the new projects via EPA:
· Austin, Texas, will receive assistance to create design options to improve pedestrian and bike connections in the South Central Waterfront area, and to incorporate green infrastructure that reduces stormwater runoff and localized flooding, improves water quality, and increases shade. · Carson City, Nev., will receive assistance to improve William Street, a former state highway that connects to the city's downtown. The project will help the city explore how to incorporate green infrastructure through the use of native plants, and to enhance the neighborhood's economic vitality. · Columbus, Ohio, will receive assistance to develop design options for the Milo-Grogan neighborhood that use green infrastructure to improve stormwater quality, reduce flooding risks, and encourage walking and cycling. · Pierre, S.D., will receive assistance to redesign its historic main street, South Pierre, in a way that uses green infrastructure to reduce stormwater runoff and improve resiliency to extreme climate conditions. · Richmond, Va., will receive assistance to design options for more parks and open spaces, and to incorporate green infrastructure to better manage stormwater runoff on Jefferson Avenue, a street which serves as the gateway to some of Richmond's oldest and most historic neighborhoods.  
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Floating Farnsworth: Mies van der Rohe’s Iconic Illinois House Could Get Flood Protection

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s archetypal modernist home, the Farnsworth House, is drowning. The banks of the Fox River served as an idyllic setting for the building’s white steel and glass when it landed in Plano, Illinois. But lately the Fox has gone rabid, spilling over its banks three times in the past 18 years. So what to do? Preservationists are looking at installing hydraulic jacks to lift the house during floods, to the tune of about $3 million. Call it the Three Million Dollar Modernist. Ironically Mies put the house on stilts to prevent such flooding; I guess you can’t outwit a wily Fox.
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Rebuild By Design> BIG’s “BIG U” for Lower Manhattan

In early April, the ten finalists in the Rebuild By Design competition unveiled their proposals to protect the Tri-state region from the next Sandy. And in the near future, a jury will select a winner—or winners—to receive federal funding to pursue their plans. But before that final announcement is made, AN is taking a closer look at each of the final ten proposals. Here's BIG's "Big U" that could save Lower Manhattan from the next superstorm. Team BIG encased Lower Manhattan in  the "Big U," a ring of flood protection measures and community and recreational programming. The 10-mile system is separated into compartments that provide unique storm mitigation strategies and programming for the distinct communities along Manhattan's outer edge. On the East Side, the Bridging Berm protects against future storms and provides access to riverfront parkland when the waters are calm. Underneath the FDR Expressway, BIG would install panels that are decorated by local artists and can be deployed as storm-walls when necessary. A new berm in Battery Park would protect the country's financial center and provide a new pathway through the already popular public space. And an existing Coast Guard building is replaced with a "reverse aquarium," which "enables visitors to observe tidal variations and sea level rise while providing a flood barrier." The team includes One Architecture, Starr Whitehouse, James Lima Planning + Development, Project Projects, Green Shield Ecology, AEA Consulting, Level Agency for Infrastructure, Arcadis, and the Parsons School of Constructed Environments.
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New Orleans Unveils Urban Water Plan That Embraces Flooding

[beforeafter]nola-urban-water-plan-07anola-urban-water-plan-07b[/beforeafter]   On September 9th, New Orleans unveiled an innovative proposal for flood management: the New Orleans Greater Water Plan. Designed by Dutch engineers and led by chief architect and planner David Waggonner of locally-based firm Waggonner & Ball Architects, the plan seeks to mitigate the damages caused during heavy rainfalls. The concept is simple: keeping water in pumps and canals instead of draining and pumping it out. The idea is to retain the water in order to increase the city’s groundwater, thereby slowing down the subsidence of soft land as it dries and shrinks. [beforeafter] nola-urban-water-plan-05b nola-urban-water-plan-05a[/beforeafter]   New Orleans is built on swampland and suffers ravaging damages when floods occur, as sea levels rise quickly and the community becomes quickly submerged. The current floodwater management system uses a forced drainage mechanism that dries lands quickly. This heavy reliance on drainage practices leads to damaged lands, severe soil imbalances, and subsidence. As the ground sinks, the city’s infrastructure weakens. Not only does this increase residents' exposure to risk when faced by a natural disaster, but it also diminishes the value of the area’s waterways as public assets. Under the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, floodwaters are retained rather than drained. During rainfall, water is slowed down through water retention and corralled into areas used as parks during dry seasons. The retained water is then channeled into canals and ponds that will help sustain wildlife, improve soil quality, and increase safety levels in case of flooding. Water will flow year round, ultimately maintaining the stability of soils and the general health of the city’s eco-system. [beforeafter]nola-urban-water-plan-08anola-urban-water-plan-08b[/beforeafter]   Nowadays, water-management is a particularly important issue as the world is looking for ways to appease and manage the impacts of climate change and increased human activity. Louisiana is currently experiencing the highest rates of sea-level rise, making the ‘Big Easy’ highly vulnerable to damages caused by intense downpours. The $6.2 billion plan would help mitigate flooding during heavy rainfalls, and repair soils that have been dried up by the previous flood management system, hence preventing further sinking of the ground under sea level. Refurbishing centuries’ old infrastructures will be challenging and it still remains unclear how the plan will be funded. The project’s estimated competition date is 2050. City officials believe that it would be effective in mitigating the risks induced by floods and will bolster the appeal of acquiring local real estate.The Urban Water Plan re-envisions New Orleans as a vibrant metropolis of ponds and canals. The core idea is to efficiently manage water, instead of trying to get rid of it. If successful, the plan will transform the city into an urban landscape filled with rain gardens and bioswales, create appealing waterfront properties, and promote home values. New Orleans is on the right track to becoming a potential leader in water management and a potential model for other cities around the world. [beforeafter] nola-urban-water-plan-06bnola-urban-water-plan-06a[/beforeafter] [beforeafter] nola-urban-water-plan-04bnola-urban-water-plan-04a[/beforeafter] [beforeafter]nola-urban-water-plan-09anola-urban-water-plan-09b[/beforeafter] [beforeafter]nola-urban-water-plan-03anola-urban-water-plan-03b[/beforeafter]