The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans is the water utility serving every household in the New Orleans city limits. The water utility is responsible not only for water treatment as well as sewer and wastewater disposal, but also drainage operations throughout the city.
With the majority of the city below sea level, the city’s topography in the Mississippi River Delta creates a unique set of challenges for the operations of the water utility. Due to the city’s low elevations, rainwater must be pumped out through a network of drainage systems strategically placed throughout the city to avoid flooding. According to Eric Labat, supervising power dispatcher for the Sewerage and Water Board, more than 90 percent of the rainfall that occurs in New Orleans requires some amount of additional pumping. The pumping system has the capacity to evacuate an inch of rain within the first hour and a half-inch of rain per hour thereafter throughout the city. Even minor rainfall can require the need to activate the pumping system.