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Swiss Re, Veolia partner on New Orleans resilience project


(Reuters) — French water and waste group Veolia said on Tuesday it is in talks to install a flood prevention system in the city of New Orleans that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Veolia innovation director Laurent Auguste said a study will be carried out jointly with Swiss insurer Swiss Re and that Veolia - which operates the main New Orleans waste water plant -plans to increase its flood protection services globally.

Katrina inundated 80% of New Orleans and killed 1,572 people as water forced by the storm into inland canals overwhelmed levees and broke through floodwalls.

"With Swiss Re, we are in talks to start the first joint study to help the city of New Orleans boost its resilience against flooding," Auguste told Reuters.

Auguste said Veolia is in talks with several cities but that New Orleans could be the first where it will put this new type of service in place.

He said that Veolia - which supplies drinking water to nearly 100 million people worldwide and connects about 60 million to wastewater systems - already offers flood protection systems in the cities where it operates but will boost this service in response to increased flooding risk worldwide.

In Copenhagen, Veolia has installed an electronic system to make better use of existing canals and infrastructure to reduce flooding in case of heavy rain, which he said has reduced the amount of flooding by 80%.

Auguste said making better use of existing infrastructure is much cheaper than building new canals or water retention basins.

"We study the best combination of intelligent monitoring system and new infrastructure," he said.

August said that Paris - where Veolia has lost its water management contract - should also look at boosting its defenses as a major flood like the one Paris had more than a century ago would lead to some €30 billion in damages today.

"There will be another major flood in Paris again one day, it not a matter of whether but when. We need to act today to minimize the risk and improve security" he said.