The Water Wise 7th Ward Initiative began in 2017 with a partnership between Water Wise Gulf South and Healthy Community Services.
Healthy Community Services is dedicated to serving the residents of the 7th Ward on a variety of topics to promote good health. While most of the focus is on food and nutrition, green infrastructure is also a part of the organization’s vision for a healthier neighborhood. Angela Chalk is the founding director of Healthy Community Services and has been the key point of contact for a majority of Water Wise activities in the 7th Ward. A lifelong resident of the 7th Ward and former Vice President of the 7th Ward Neighborhood Association, Angela has been instrumental in advancing green infrastructure in her neighborhood. The 7th Ward Neighborhood Association co-hosted the first Water Wise 7th Ward Neighborhood Workshop at St. Augustine High School in 2015 and Angela helped promote the workshop within the community. She also had the idea to build a demonstration rain garden on her property to enable her neighbors to see green infrastructure in action. Water Wise supported this idea and sponsored a rain garden and rain barrel build day at her house. It was a highly successful event that allowed Angela’s neighbors and friends to experience the process of building green infrastructure.
The footprint in which Water Wise 7th Ward works is from St. Claude Avenue to N. Broad Street to the Florida Avenue Canal and from Esplanade Avenue to Elysian Fields Avenue.
According to the New Orleans Data Center, the population of the footprint is 10,645. 77.9% of the residents are Black, 16.8% are White, and roughly 3.4% are Hispanic. A majority of the residents are renters (67%) and 27% of the households are vacant in the 7th Ward Statistical Region. The average household income is $33,783 and 63.2% of the residents are living at or above the poverty line while 36.8% live in poverty.
Many parts of the 7th Ward sit below sea level. In some areas closer to St. Claude Avenue, the elevation is above or at sea level. Areas closer to Esplanade Avenue sit at or above sea level due to the Esplanade Ridge, which is an area of naturally higher ground. However, moving in the direction of N. Claiborne Avenue and eventually N. Broad Street, the elevation falls below sea level. Some of the lowest elevations are below AP Tureaud Avenue and Elysian Fields Avenue near the Florida Avenue Canal.
S&WB Pumping Station #3 is responsible for pumping most of the rainwater out of the 7th Ward neighborhood and eventually to Lake Pontchartrain.
The 7th Ward is plagued by chronic flooding. Some of the causes includes:
- Lack of storm drains in certain areas such as between Claiborne Avenue and N. Galvez Street and Annette Street and Elysian Fields Avenue.
- Clogged storm drains
- Illegal driveways blocking functioning of drainage ditches
- Residential Development with a lot of impervious surface and not covered by the City Zoning Ordinance
- Littering which clogs storm drains
- S&WB pumps not functioning properly (for example in August of 2017)
- Run off from the I-10 Overpass
- More intense rainstorms due to climate change
- Lack of appropriate drainage infrastructure (such as lack of gutters on I-10)
- Imbalance of infrastructure investments, which is an equity issue
- Contractor malpractice such as observed cement and debris poured or run off in storm drains
Green Infrastructure in the 7th Ward
Water Wise 7th Ward has either held or participated in 37 community outreach, education, and social events that have engaged about 893 people in the topic of green infrastructure.
To date, Water Wise 7th Ward has
- Installed 25 rain barrels
- Installed 1 stormwater planter box
- Installed 7 rain gardens
- Installed 8 french drains
- Installed 1 bioswale
- Installed 2 permeable parking pads
- Planted 202 trees
- Removed 250 square feet of concrete
In total, these projects have a storage capacity of 9,047 gallons of rainwater.
The Water Wise Neighborhood Champions have also created a list of green infrastructure priority projects. This list can be found in the Water Wise 7th Ward Lookbook below.