Press Releases

New Orleans’ Drainage System Recognized as Historic Civil Engineering Landmark

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, May 23 2023

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA — The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) celebrated the New Orleans drainage system’s Civil Engineering Historic Landmark designation with a dedication ceremony on Tuesday, May 23 at Drainage Pump Station 6 located at 345 Orpheum Avenue.

ASCE’s Historic Landmark Program honors civil engineering achievements that have played a unique role in shaping the world. With this designation, New Orleans’ drainage system joins the esteemed list of famous landmarks worldwide, such as the Hoover Dam, the Eiffel Tower, and the Suez Canal.

“New Orleans owes much of its history to the great minds behind our drainage system,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “Their brilliance and tenacity allowed New Orleanians to build a city with unparalleled access to major inland hubs due to the natural advantages of being a port city. Our drainage system remains one of our city’s most important pieces of infrastructure. Our ongoing improvements to our water utility is essential in combating climate change and allowing families to continue to live in this great city for generations to come.”

Designed around the turn of the 20th century, the drainage system has been integral to New Orleans’ survival, overcoming extraordinary natural conditions. The city receives over 62 inches of rain per year—among the highest annual rainfall in major U.S. cities—and New Orleans’ bowl-like topography means the city cannot rely on gravity to drain that water out. Instead, every drop of rain that falls must be moved out with pumps and through canals. Understanding the challenges ahead of them, the original engineers decided to create separate systems for drainage and sewage, making New Orleans one of the first examples of a city utilizing this type of infrastructure.

“On behalf of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, I would like to thank ASCE for recognizing such a critical engineering accomplishment,” said Ghassan Korban, SWBNO Executive Director. “We are proud to continue the legacy of the bold, creative civil engineers who came before us—whose achievements have been integral to New Orleans’ survival for generations.”

As stated in the ASCE Historic Landmark nomination, by 1905, the city’s drainage system served 22,000 acres with 40 miles of canals, miles of pipelines and drains, and six pumping stations operating on the east bank of the Mississippi River. Today, the drainage system pumps all rainwater from a 60,000-acre area using 24 pump stations with 120 pumps and over 170 miles of drainage canals. SWBNO is continuously improving its drainage system, building upon a solid foundation to create a resilient system that will better serve New Orleans today and for generations to come.

Through the Corps of Engineers partnership, $2.7 billion dollars has been invested in the Southeast Louisiana Area which has provided an estimated benefit of $7.3 billion dollars to the American taxpayer.

“The partnership between the Corps of Engineers and the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans is unique as this is the only city in the country where the Corps of Engineers is involved with internal drainage," said Colonel Cullen Jones, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District Commander.

“This dedication offers us the opportunity to recognize and understand the work involved in maintaining and operating this drainage system on which we all rely,” said New Orleans City Council Member and SWBNO Board member Freddie King, III. “Thank you to the men and women of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans who work diligently year-round and in all weather conditions to keep our city safe. We are indebted to them for their hard work and dedication.” 

"The people of New Orleans know better than anyone that day-to-day life does not happen without an adequate drainage system," said ASCE New Orleans President Kyle Galloway. "The work we are honoring today has been and continues to be absolutely essential for the existence of the modern city and the magnificent culture we all love."

Learn more about the history of SWBNO’s drainage system at



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