Water is Southeast Louisiana’s biggest asset. Louisiana comprises 40% of the nation’s wetlands. The region has a thriving port and maritime industry. It has a growing water management industry, especially with the large amount of coastal restoration work taking place.
But, water is also Southeast Louisiana’s biggest threat. Louisiana accounts for 90% of wetland losses in the nation. Locally, flooding caused by heavy rainfall occurs frequently when drainage systems are overwhelmed. The region’s source water is threatened by runoff, sewage contamination, and agricultural pollution. Over the next 50 years, as the climate continues to change, inaction will cost the Greater New Orleans community nearly $8 billion in stormwater flood damage, $2.2 billion in subsidence damage, and $600 million in avoidable insurance costs.
Water is so ingrained in Southeast Louisiana’s way of living and economy; however, there has been no concerted effort to identify the assets and challenges the region possesses – assets it can leverage to grow the water economy and challenges it needs to address to maximize this economic growth. Moreover, there has been a lack of support for innovators and entrepreneurs who have solutions to the challenges that Southeast Louisiana faces due to water.
In 2010, together with the Idea Village, the Foundation co-founded the Water Challenge, a nationally-awarded program that mentors start-ups on how to turn their ideas to solve the region’s water issues into viable solutions. In 2014, Propeller, a local social enterprise accelerator, took over the implementation of the Water Challenge. This program culminates in a Water Challenge Day that is a featured event at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. The Water Challenge Day was one of the primary draws of the week, attracting more than 320 individuals in 2015.
In order to broaden its work in the water economy, the Foundation has funded a study by NOLAVibe’s Grasshopper Mendoza and Steve Picou to conduct research on water-related assets in the 13-parish Southeast Louisiana region.
$170,360 to Propeller to implement the Water Challenge program.