New Orleans Utility Manages Weather Challenges

March 29, 2013

The Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans serves every household within city limits. With a majority of the area 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 low elevation, rainwater must be pumped out through a network of drainage systems strategically placed throughout the city. According to Eric Labat, supervising power dispatcher for the Sewerage & Water Board, more than 90% of the rainfall that occurs in New Orleans requires some amount of additional pumping. The drainage pumping system runs on power generated by the water utility, which requires an additional expense for the operation of the equipment and additional personnel to monitor the activity. Accurate rainfall forecasts are vital to manage both costs and manpower to operate the drainage systems. 

The board has relied on Schneider Electric’s MxVision WeatherSentry Water Utility Edition for more than 25 years. It supplies accurate, detailed local forecasts based on proprietary forecasting systems and experienced meteorologists. Conditions can be forecast up to 15 days in advance, with hourly outlooks for the first three days. The precipitation forecasts were ranked No. 1 in the industry for the sixth consecutive year by

Labat’s team watches the radar 24/7 to monitor rainfall intensity, movement and rates to help determine drainage needs and staffing. Labat said, “Without the drainage system operating, the city would not hold water; the topography is such that there is no natural runoff. This technology allows us to be much more accurate, and serves an essential function for us to meet our mission to the city of New Orleans.”