Opportunities in Every Drop
Looking for a business idea? Try managing water.
In the wake of the 2013 release of the Urban Stormwater Plan, discussions of water management are surfacing everywhere.
While much of the focus is on solving environmental problems like flooding, subsidence, coastal erosion and wetlands loss, entrepreneurs can view the topic through the lens of economic opportunity.
Implementing best water management practices in a region like southeast Louisiana will require the overhaul of a field that has remained largely static for nearly a century.
The good news is that we can again become a world water management leader, and in the process create a new, dynamic economic sector. Consider the needs – and the possibilities.
Job Training and Workforce Development
Greater New Orleans needs a major workforce upgrade — from increasing the number of workers in existing trades, like pipe fitting and welding, to encouraging engineers and designers to include water management in their plans. Delgado Community College and the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board have launched a joint venture to jump-start training, but the city will need many more educational opportunities. This could include entirely new curricula for high schools.
Maintenance and Repair
As we implement new systems, we will need to maintain, repair and even upgrade them constantly. Currently, fear of maintenance is a major impediment to progress on water management. From landscaping and street repairs to technical operations and controls, new business opportunities abound.
The unprecedented scope of the work required to restore coastal wetlands demands multiple new ideas and approaches. Urban water management will also benefit from new technologies and methodologies. “The Water Challenge,” held during Entrepreneur Week, showcased several fascinating new concepts.
While serving on the Advisory Committee for the Stormwater Plan, I traveled to the Netherlands and saw firsthand the large variety of techniques used to manage water in that country. Keep in mind that while government is the major player in terms of water management decision-making, much of the design and construction for government entities is typically done in the private sector.
Additionally, private sector developments offer opportunities for pilot projects that can showcase new technologies and blend in with future government projects.
In the early 1900s, New Orleans was the world leader in stormwater management and it should reclaim that status in the near future. This is one situation where even cutting-edge entrepreneurs can go with the flow.
The Greater New Orleans Water Collaborative
If water management sounds interesting to you, one place to learn quickly and make useful connections is the Greater New Orleans Water Collaborative. Launched last September, it brings together designers, educators, policy experts, builders and community members – anyone with an interest in any aspect of advancing the implementation of the best water management practices.
Joining the collaborative is as simple as going to its website (www.nolawater.org), clicking the “Get Involved” tab on the home page, and opting in. Sign up for information and events, and explore the site to start your water management education. A link to the Urban Stormwater Plan is located at the bottom of “The Collaborative” page. The calendar section includes both collaborative events and other learning/networking opportunities.
Solving southeast Louisiana’s water problems will indeed require a collaborative effort, and the GNO Water Collaborative is a great place to plug in.
Keith Twitchell spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macro-business levels.