Water Institute of the Gulf working on projects in Southwest Louisiana

Updated: Jan. 31, 2018 at 7:31 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Sometimes, when flooding is expected, people don't heed warnings saying, "Well, I've never flooded before."

But there's technology to show people, several days out, who will see water and who likely won't and it's coming to our area.

Water is a huge issue for the future -  whether it's for drinking, economic development, or protecting lives and property from flooding.

Community, government and business leaders invited by the Alliance for Positive Growth and Empire of the Seed heard from the Water Institute of the Gulf- which has several projects in Southwest Louisiana.

Those gathered heard from president and CEO Justin Ehrenwerth who explains modeling and real time forecasting is a part of their work to prepare for flooding.

"What we've done at the Water Institute is we have developed state of the art and this is in partnership with the Dutch, really the best technology that exists in the world.  A system like this doesn't stop flooding.  What it can do is get us best prepared," he said.

Both Ehrenwerth and Water Institute Vice Chairman Rick Richard visited the Netherlands last year, to study structures that make the Dutch famous for flood prevention.

He showed an example of the technology.

"This is a town in the Netherlands. This is a simulation.  Imagine if five days in advance of the next storm, we had this capability where we could go to the street level and predict what's going to flood and what's not expected to flood. Even if it turned out we had a variance in our capabilities and our model, let's say we were six inches off, which is pretty significant, you really get a very good sense from a first responder perspective, alright that road in the upper area here looks like it's going to be passable, these communities here really need to get evacuated. An individual could look at his or her home," he explained.

"In the Baton Rouge area, for example, there were a lot of people in the storm of 2016 who said, 'I'm not worried, I've heard this before. My home's never flooded.' Well it did.  Maybe sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words," said Ehrenwerth..

He says the simulation could be updated as variables such wind direction change.

Richard says the institute is working on several projects in Calcasieu parish.

"The parish has a contract, two contracts.  One for the watershed modeling and the other one is for a GIS  plus forecasting about flooding that you can see in real time.  And then the Port of Lake Charles also has a contract about the dredging and what's the best way to keep that going. The port has that going along with some industry partners," said Richard.

Also, he says there's a pilot project anticipated for Contraband Bayou.

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