“Swamp Thing: A Smart Water Grid” a project developed by Isaac Cohen and Kate Hayes in the ParadoXcity Studio New Orleans 2011. The centralized municipal drinking water supply of the city relies to 100% on the fresh water of the Mississippi. The system is dimensioned to buffer fresh water supply for 6 hours with tanks in any event of the river tap being compromised (e.g. industrial spill). After Katrina the distribution system of cracking and leaking underground pipes has a loss of up to 70%.
The project suggests to tap into the presently seperate systems of drainage as a redundant source for water supply. We propose to retrofit and build upon existing drainage system of pumps and canals to actively redirect water to the most needed areas of the city instead of discharging it outside the drainage basin. The proposed system manages water effectively and expressively as a vital resource in a city that has historically struggled to keep water out.
Drawing upon the cultural connotations of the swamp and the technological workings of a smart grid system, this multi-functional and performative infrastructure acts on multiple scales – from the city, to the neutral ground corridor, down to the individual lot scale.
A smart system for water management is flexible and can adapt to various conditions to most effectively distribute storm water based on demand. This system acts in contrast to the current, mono-functional system that simply pumps water out of the city. The addition of swamps to the system in the first phase facilitates the creation of new, dynamic public spaces in New Orleans.
In this smart system, the pump stations act as central nodes. Each pump station has anywhere from one to fifteen pumps which can be individually controlled to modulate and allocate water and flows throughout the city. By tying the largest pump station to the water treatment facility, the ultimate goal is for the 64 inches of precipitation that falls on New Orleans every year to be cleansed and repurposed to serve all freshwater needs in the city.
This smarter system necessitates a move towards collection and storage of water at the lot scale. Not only can individuals use this water collection as grey water, but it can be fed into the smart water grid as needed. This lot scale system will begin to influence consumer behavior and attitudes, reducing the reliance on municipal scale water distribution, ideally before the city’s freshwater supply is significantly compromised. The project is incrementally worked towards a decentralized system of distribution.