Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery

by Bayou City Waterkeeper
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery
Nature-based Resiliency in Harvey Recovery

Project Report | Jul 1, 2021
Resiliency for All Our Communities

By Bayou City Waterkeeper | Team Members

Buffalo Bayou Park
Buffalo Bayou Park

Last month, GlobalGiving featured Bayou City Waterkeeper in Viewpoints - you can check it out here and read some of the highlights below!

Communities are turning to nature to help prevent disasters. For Kristen Schlemmer, Bayou City Waterkeeper's Legal Director, that swamp was also a natural playground to escape her otherwise concrete and car-lined neighborhood. The area that surrounds modern-day Houston has always experienced heavy rainfall. The Karankawa and the Atakapa Indigenous peoples lived with the land's natural flooding cycles for at least 2,000 years before settlers arrived and eventually spread across the land in the 1830s.

The settlers viewed the natural floods as a barrier to building towns and farms at a large scale, so they cleared as much of the coastal ecosystems as they could.

But wetlands aren’t just pretty scenery. These dynamic aquatic ecosystems prevent flooding by temporarily storing and slowly releasing stormwater. The slow process gives the sediments and pollutants time to settle out. This made Houston the swamp Kristen grew up playing in. But by that time, the city was already filling the wetlands at an increasing rate. As Houston continues to grow and expand its suburban footprint, our wetlands and communities remain at risk.

As our local and state leaders claim to embrace a vision of a flood-resilient region, it makes no sense to pave over the fragile natural defenses we have left. As the climate crisis continues to cause more hurricanes due to global sea level and temperature rise, experts fear that Houston will be hit by “once-in-a-lifetime” storms like Hurricane Harvey more often. The consequences of rampant growth are largely borne by residents who live downstream, and taxpayers will once again be left footing the bill.

How to balance or reverse the negative effects of grey-infrastructure and impervious payment? Nature-based solutions are a critical part of the solution. Bayou City Waterkeeper is working to preserve those ecosystems. We works with historically underserved communities to develop equitable flood plans and advocate for policies that use natural systems to protect communities from flooding.

The evidence for natural solutions as effective and cost-efficient ways to prevent flooding is on Bayou City Waterkeeper’s side. One acre of wetlands can typically store 1-1.5 million gallons of floodwater. In the Gulf region, every dollar spent on wetland restoration can yield more than $7 in flood reduction benefits.

“My pocket of Houston was built on a swamp that was intended to take on floodwaters. Had we taken that into account from the start, we could have saved people a lot of heartache over the last decade in particular,” Kristen said as she reflected on the statements she always heard growing up.

But the harm has already been done. And Kristen and the Bayou City Waterkeeper team aren’t confident it can be reversed solely by building complex and costly infrastructure (like coastal barriers), as some are pushing for. We know they need to work with nature and the people most affected by Houston’s floods to prevent more harm. Because harm always has multiple layers.

“We often focus on the inequities of disasters, but what we’ve seen in Houston is that disasters affect everyone. But some communities have the means to recover, and some don’t,” Kristen said.

To position the people most impacted by the floods at the forefront of change, Bayou City Waterkeeper has worked with the Coalition For Environment, Equity, and Resilience to develop a community flood resilience task force. This puts community members affected by flooding in a direct advisory role to the county government—so they can advocate for equitable natural solutions that work for everyone. We are making strides to ensure all our communities are protected and that we are working with—rather than against—nature for our long-term resilience.

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Mar 8, 2021
Advancing the Need for Resiliency in Houston

By Jordan Macha | Executive Director

Nov 20, 2020
Working With Nature & Our Communities

By Jordan Macha | Executive Director

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Organization Information

Bayou City Waterkeeper

Location: Houston, TX - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @bayoucitywk
Bayou City Waterkeeper
Ayanna Jolivet Mccloud
Project Leader:
Ayanna Jolivet Mccloud
Executive Director
Houston , TX United States

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