In Louisiana, firms by the dozen focus their skills on the fragile relationship between coastal lands and water. More than 100,000 professionals work in the state’s emerging water management sector, one that targets preserving coastal habitats while protecting the millions of people who live near the Gulf of Mexico.
Dutch Inspiration Meets Louisiana Collaboration
For inspiration, Louisiana leaders are looking to Europe and the low-lying Netherlands for fail-safe solutions. For more than 1,000 years, the Dutch have engineered structures to protect populated North Sea shorelines. There, they’ve achieved a delicate balance on the vulnerable deltas of three rivers: the Rhine, the Meuse and the Schelde.
The Netherlands offers more than physical plans for a fast-growing Louisiana sector. In time, water management could rival energy and health care atop the list of largest employers in the Louisiana economy.
Over 100,000 Professionals
Work in the State's Emerging Water Management Sector
In July 2017, leaders of the renowned Dutch research institute Deltares joined Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Ehrenwerth and other partners of the Water Institute of the Gulf to announce the two institutes will marshal resources to solve Louisiana’s coastal challenge and apply that research worldwide.
The Deltares partnership will serve as a boon to the Water Institute and development of the Water Campus — a 35-acre, public-private research park at the foot of the Mississippi River, near downtown Baton Rouge and Louisiana State University.
“By combining forces with private research institutions, such as The Water Institute of the Gulf and Deltares, this (agreement) will help us establish a beachhead for mission success,” Gov. Edwards says. “As we work to save hundreds of square miles of Louisiana’s coast, we will attract thousands of jobs across the state and build the Water Campus as a global leader in the water management sector.”
Already, the Water Institute of the Gulf has teamed with Deltares to develop a tool that uses real-time weather data to forecast flooding impact for schools, hospitals and other structures days ahead of a storm.
The Water Campus is a 35-acre, public-private research park at the foot of the Mississippi River, near downtown Baton Rouge and Louisiana State University.
Such is the sense of what’s at stake for Louisiana and other coastal environments, in emergency-weather situations and in the long climactic slog of coastal erosion. Lives are affected not just by storms, but also by natural and manmade forces squeezing shorelines, barrier isles, estuaries and marshes over generations.
Here’s why the five-year-old Water Institute ranks as a critical part of Louisiana’s water management sector: Its scientists — drawn from around the world — are modeling solutions for threatened ecosystems as varied as Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, the North Atlantic coast and the Great Lakes in the Upper Midwest.
“What we learn from our research can be applied in so many places,” Ehrenwerth says.
Environmentally Necessary, Economically Viable
Elsewhere across Louisiana, researchers and entrepreneurs are devising ways to slow and reverse coastal land loss, to boost seafood production, and to build shoreline defenses with maximum efficiency. Homegrown companies are exporting technology as communities around the globe face rising seas and other risks.
Strategic public and private investment aim to restore Louisiana’s coast, including a first-of-its-kind $50 billion master plan for coastal restoration. Simultaneously, this investment is driving expansion of a water management industry that will produce thousands of new jobs.
According to a 2017 LSU study,
per year in coastal-rebuilding projects over the next 15 years could generate
8,000 jobs & $1 billion
per year in economic impact
The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana, the state agency charged with executing the master plan, estimates that spending on marsh creation, coastal protection and other projects could average $1 billion to $2 billion per year during the plan’s 50-year execution period.
The state’s water management sector isn’t just about potential. In Louisiana, 118,370 people already pursue water management-related professions, where the average wage is $82,778, according to the regional economic development organization, Greater New Orleans Inc. Over the next decade, the industry is expected to grow by 23.4 percent in Louisiana, outpacing the nation.