It’s one thing to know that New Orleans is suffering, badly, from a chronic case of aging infrastructure. It’s another to see it in black and white, not to mention red.
New Orleans was once a city on a ridge — or on a series of them, anyway. Development coalesced along higher ground that fronts the Mississippi River, which for eons replenished the adjacent land when it periodically spilled its banks and left behind new sediment, as well as near a few smaller waterways. That’s why the city’s famed historic neighborhoods tend to be clustered in those areas, while newer developments grew only after engineers figured out how to pump out swampier land to make it suitable for building.
It would only stand to reason that older neighborhoods rely on older infrastructure. And a new interactive map put out this week by the beleaguered Sewerage & Water Board — less than two weeks after a huge 114-year-old water main burst, flooded nearby streets and prompted yet another boil water order — confirms it in dramatic fashion.
From Uptown to the French Quarter, from Bywater and the Lower Ninth Ward across the river to Algiers Point, the pipes on the map are color-coded red. And a web of red translates into a network of pipes that have been around for over a century.
"Although much of historical New Orleans is cause for celebration, the age of her water pipes is not," agency officials wrote in a press release.
In case anyone doubted that, seeing what’s on this map should be believing.