"Watch out for the pothole!" It's a comment that, in some form, every driver and bike rider in New Orleans has heard countless times throughout their life. This deep hatred of potholes grows in every local's heart at a young age with just reasoning. The potholes are everywhere, like fish in the sea. Residents have begged their elected officials to fix the streets and fill the holes, but, even if the city did fill the holes, it's just a treatment for the symptoms.
The cause of the problem is the water, or rather, the mismanagement of such. The city is deeply tied to water. We get rain year-round, areas of the city regularly flood during storms, many of our careers are dependent on the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, and we all love to moan and groan about Sewerage and Water Board and their pumps, especially during big storms. Many potholes are formed by our constant rain having nowhere to go, so water in the street seeps down to the soil below. Our soil happens to be primarily clay-based which swells when wet and shrinks when it dries out. The constant swelling and shrinking in the soil begins to affect the pavement above and voilà! You have a pothole.
Thus, the way to fix the problem that is causing potholes is to stop water from seeping into the streets. We obviously have drainage and pumping systems but, as we all know, they aren't totally dependable. That is why some organizations have taken it upon themselves to find an alternate, sustainable solution: Green Infrastructure.
When Hurricane Katrina swept through the city, it took more than 100,000 trees along with it making New Orleans the most deforested city in the United States. There are several reasons the city has been flooding more often, but not having 100,000 trees to help soak up rain from the streets and residential areas is certainly not helping. Organizations like Urban Conservancy are trying to alleviate the issue by assisting households in replacing their flood-prone pavement with plants and rain gardens through the Front Yard Initiative. By having the soil and plants soak up the water, it reduces flooding in residential areas (like your yard or street) and lightens the load for our pumping systems. And did I mention that they reimburse the homeowner $2.50 for every square-foot of pavement removed?
Dubbed "Green Infrastructure," these organizations are trying to recover even a percentage of the losses we had from Katrina by using a sustainable and passive method. Whether you install a rain barrel with Green Light New Orleans, swap your pavement for a rain garden with the Front Yard Initiative, or plant a tree with SOUL's community forestry project it will all be for the betterment of the city. Less water sitting on the roads means less flooding and-you guessed it-less potholes.