The Water Collaborative Seeks To Assist All at Flood Risk Through Education, Policy and Equity

Credit: The Water Collaborative

Established in 2017, The Water Collaborative is an organization that seeks to build a diverse network for all impacted by flood risk by focusing on equitable practices to live and thrive with water.

Executive director Jessica Dandridge spoke to me about The Water Collaborative’s goals in the New Orleans area.

Dandridge was born and raised in New Orleans. She studied clinical science and sociology at Xavier University and received her Master’s from the New School of Public Engagement in international security and conflict. 

From there, she worked with The Rockefeller Foundation in Alabama, organizing Black farmers to democratize their cooperative over fourteen counties. Dandridge has been executive director of The Water Collaborative since 2019 and helped revamp the organization to be more holistic in its approach to water.

The organization aims to focus on climate adaptation, specifically around infrastructure. Another focus of The Water Collaborative is water justice.

“We realize that green infrastructure is great, but if you can’t pay your water bill it doesn’t really matter,” Dandridge said. “So, we want to make sure that we are holding our utility company, our city, and our state accountable around affordability measures, access, and water quality.”

Executive Director Jessica Dandridge

The Water Collaborative shares its mission in three branches: education, policy, and equity.

The organization believes in holistic education for residents across the Greater New Orleans Area and Gulf Coast Region about flood solutions, resources, and workforce development. Dandridge explained that many residents don’t understand how the water system works, so the organization uses tours and workshops to educate people on water.

The Water Collaborative helps create policies in New Orleans and across the state. In addition, the organization helps co-develop and write policies at the federal, state, and city levels.

Most importantly, The Water Collaborative believes that residents should have first access to jobs in water management and justice. The organization seeks to ensure equitable policies and measures are always considered and that the most vulnerable communities receive resources for sustainable development.

Some accomplishments of The Water Collaborative include:

  • Water Collaborative members developed and adopted an amendment to the City of New Orleans Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, eliminating possible exemptions from stormwater management requirements, and successfully advocated for removing a proposed appendix to the CZO that discouraged home elevations.
  • Collaborative members spearheaded the analysis of the proposed Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, established by Executive Order 13690; Collaborative members conducted the drainage fee survey and research for the Sewerage and Water Board.
  • Collaborative members have led efforts to pilot and promote the use of permeable paving materials in local business parking lots, including Parkway Bakery in the Bayou St. John neighborhood.
  • A group of organizations and activists convened by Bayou Rebirth to strategize responding to the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board’s request for proposals for green infrastructure projects.
  • The Greater New Orleans Foundation convened meetings of vital water management specialists and activists. 

To read more about what The Water Collaborative has achieved, visit their website here.

You can donate to The Water Collaborative here.

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