Key Findings from the Front Yard Initiative on Residential Green Infrastructure in New Orleans.
In June 2020, the Urban Conservancy surveyed our Front Yard Initiative participants who installed green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) on their properties between 2015 and 2019. The survey assessed the functionality, aesthetics, and maintenance of residential GSI and informs our collective work and advocacy in New Orleans’ green sector. You can read the final report and more in Resources.
More than 80% of the FYI homeowners who qualified for the survey (finished their FYI project >1 year ago) responded, giving us 102 total responses. Topics ranged from the effectiveness of green infrastructure in reducing flooding on the property, to the FYI program’s cross-pollination with other gardening nonprofit and volunteer groups over time.
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This version of the report is interactive. You can also download a print version here.
Kelly, who is an alumnus of the FYI program, loved the home he bought in Faubourg Delachaise, but he was not a fan of the dilapidated 30-foot concrete driveway that came with it.
With a $950 reimbursement from FYI, Kelly was able to tear up 350 square feet of cracked concrete with the help of his contractor.
From that point on, Kelly took it upon himself to finish the project. After a lot of manual digging, he installed an impressive water-retention system where his cracked driveway had been, excavated a 48-inch-deep French Drain where his property met the sidewalk, then dug two 10-inch-deep runners down the length of the driveway. He then filled the French drain and runners with gravel, then paved them with sand and bricks to create a functional, and more sustainable, driveway.
The Urban Conservancy and their partners in the Umbrella NOLA project were featured in Grist recently. The Hoffman Triangle in Central City is one of many New Orleans neighborhoods that experiences regular localized flooding. Umbrella, a coalition of green-sector nonprofits that includes the Urban Conservancy, ThriveNOLA, Green Light New Orleans, and SOUL NOLA, works to alleviate these localized flooding issues with residential interventions, in partnership with residents and faith leaders.
“You can do two things at once. You can create space for water to go, and, if you’re thoughtful about it, you can create space within society for people who are being shut out economically.”
-Dana Eness, Executive Director of the Urban Conservancy
For the uninitiated, long time St. Charles fixture Avenue Pub has been working on a block-wide project, funded by a healthy mixture of nonprofit partners, grant makers, neighbors, and the pub owner herself. The project is designed by Dana Brown Associates and aims to remove over four-thousand square feet of concrete. Several forms of green infrastructure will be added, and the project has a projected storage capacity of 28,000 gallons of water.
For some time, New Orleans property owners have replaced green spaces with concrete and other impervious surfaces in efforts to expand parking and reduce yard maintenance. Serious flooding issues began to emerge across the city as a result. Now there is a program incentivizing homeowners to remove their pavement and install grass and other permeable materials so that rain can soak into the ground again, reducing storm water runoff.
In this episode of Waterloop, Dana Eness explains The Front Yard Initiative. Dana explains how the initiative helps property owners to redesign their front yards, the growing appreciation for green solutions among New Orleanians, and the success of the program, which keeps 2 million gallons of water out of our streets and drains yearly.
“Most New Orleanians have dealt with flooding at one point or another, and climate change threatens to make this problem even worse.
To inspire young people to help find new solutions to the flooding issues presented by climate change, Entergy recently sponsored a week-long educational symposium, Loyola Academy Science + Design, hosted by Loyola University. This was Entergy’s second year sponsoring the workshop
‘Climate change poses a significant risk for our communities,’ said Patty Riddlebarger, vice president of corporate social responsibility for Entergy Corporation. ‘Through our support for the Loyola Science Academy, we hope to increase the resiliency of our communities and equip students and residents with the knowledge and tools to advocate for effective storm water management practices and policies to combat climate change.’
Loyola professors Dr. Aimée Thomas and Dr. Bob Thomas led the group of 20 high school and university students, and recent university graduates to teach them how green and gray infrastructure can help mitigate against the impact of climate change…”
New Orleans, LA, September 24, 2020 — Since Katrina, New Orleans leaders have looked for innovative ways to relieve pressure on the city’s pumping systems during storms and other heavy rain events. Many are advocating for more “green stormwater infrastructure” that will allow the ground to soak up water that would otherwise be sent to catch basins.
Unlike curbs, gutters and drains that move stormwater from a built environment into a nearby body of water, green infrastructure is designed to capture the rain water where it falls. Picture an impermeable parking lot, for instance, that’s been converted into one built with a permeable paving system on top of soil that has been conditioned to enhance its ability to take on water. If you’ve been to Parkway Bakery and Tavern near Bayou St. John, you can picture what it looks like.
A lot of people – from the federal government down to local contractors – have been getting involved in GSI projects. The Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Sewerage and Water Board and the City of New Orleans are collaborating on a campaign called “Every Drop Makes a Difference.” The Gentilly Resilience District, meanwhile, will use a $141 million federal grant to create water features, permeable sidewalks and other water-management infrastructure.
One local nonprofit that’s focused on residential GSI projects is the Urban Conservancy, which just released a report on its Front Yard Initiative based on survey responses from 68 of the homeowners who have participated in the program. In five years, the initiative has raised approximately $100k from the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Wisner Foundation and other benefactors and used the funds to pay a portion of the cost of residential GSI projects citywide.
Urban Conservancy’s Dana Eness said the good news is that the study shows that “green stormwater infrastructure actually works,” and the functionality only increases over time as plants and their root systems have become fully established.
September 2020– Read the Front Yard Initiative’s (FYI) report, published September 2020
FYI’s 2020 Green Stormwater Infrastructure Homeowner survey findings demonstrate that homeowners can significantly decrease flooding on their properties while reducing runoff to storm drains by removing impermeable pavement and installing green stormwater infrastructure (GSI).
The Urban Conservancy (UC) surveyed FYI participants who completed their gray-to-green projects from 2015 to December 2019 to assess the long term benefits and issues with residential GSI. Of the 78 eligible respondents 68 completed the survey (or 86%).
The results of this study support the notion that GSI has many beneficial effects: reducing localized flooding, beautifying outdoor space, bringing back lost habitats, stimulating local economies and more. FYI participants have even reported compounding effects; as their rain gardens and native plants grow in they continue to see greater benefits.
“This data has incredibly positive implications for New Orleans as we continue to look for ways to reduce the risk to people and property that comes with our increasingly intense rainfall events,” says Dana Eness, Executive Director of the Urban Conservancy. “It shows that residential GSI, when properly installed, is effective, economical, not overly burdensome to maintain, and enhances community safety and quality of life by reducing frequency and severity of flooding while keeping thousands of gallons of water per rain event out of our streets, catch basins, and pumping system.”
FYI strives not only to incentivize homeowners to remove impermeable pavement, but also to advocate, inspire and to help guide New Orleans into a more sustainable future. It is our hope and our goal that this report may bring a greater understanding and awareness of the importance of GSI on residential properties and that this in turn increases the implementation of GSI. We want to thank all of our FYI participants and green sector contractors for their indispensable help in bringing New Orleans that much closer to a green future!