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Evaluating Urban Stormwater Drainage to Create Flood-Resilient Neighborhoods and Gardens

Melbourne, Florida

Featured image for the project, Evaluating Urban Stormwater Drainage to Create Flood-Resilient Neighborhoods and Gardens

Photo Courtesy of Camille Hadley


The initial project focused on evaluating stormwater drainage related to flooding near the Little Growers’ community gardens location to better understand and protect the community and related education efforts from flood damage.  

Camille Hadley, director of Little Growers, Inc. and Dr. Mitchell Roffer, President of Fishing Oceanography, Inc. worked together and found through Dr. Roffer’s expert assessment that the flooding issues in the area were normal for the region and that isolated events resulted in the initial flooding concern presented in the project.  This assessment was completed through measurements of rain gauges in the vicinity tracked over time and measurements collected after storm events. 

The finding about the flooding events in the region allowed the project to evolve into its current state:  Building a new community garden as part of Camille Hadley’s Little Growers, Inc. in Brevard County, Florida. An important theme for this project involves environmental and food justice.  Dr. Roffer and Ms. Hadley continue to work together and with the community to ensure the space is safe and healthy for education efforts to continue.   Ms. Hadley leads the efforts for design and building after leasing a new space for the garden and education area; Dr. Roffer continues to serve as an expert advisor on the project.


Melbourne, Florida is a city in Brevard County southeast of Orlando. The city is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the Indian River Lagoon and a thin barrier island that stretches from Cape Canaveral south to Palm City. When Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida in early September 2017, people were trapped in their homes by floodwaters for days, creating a complicated emergency response. Residents point to clogged storm drains that prevent water from easily escaping their neighborhoods. Many homes impacted by Irma were rendered uninhabitable and owners were forced to leave. Some residents even witnessed small tornadoes churning across lawns. Today, flooding can occur from just a couple hours of precipitation; larger rain events cause widespread flooding. As seas continue to rise along Florida’s coast, high tide and storm surge also contribute to widespread flooding.

The Powell Driskoll subdivision of Melbourne is considered a food desert by the USDA. Upon moving to the area, Camille and Rondy Hadley recognized the food insecurities around them and decided to take action towards a sustainable solution by starting Little Growers, Inc. Little Growers, Inc.. is a youth-centered urban agriculture project that promotes community food security, sustainability, and serves as gateway to leadership development opportunities for at-risk youth in a positive, friendly, and productive atmosphere. The garden is situated within Lipscomb Street Park—a low lying area of the city near the Indian River. During heavy rains, the garden becomes water-logged and damages crops. Vegetables are easily susceptible to disease due to moisture and water-logging issues. One particularly bad flood resulted in the loss of all its pumpkins and cucumbers.

A historically black city, much of Melbourne is undergoing gentrification. In the face of this rapid change, the group would like to address the chronic flooding in a way that preserves their cultural heritage and identity.

Camille and Little Growers, Inc. would like to find a scientific partner who can help them obtain a better understanding of their neighborhood flooding situation and how to reduce water-logging to the garden. There are plans to expand the garden in a sustainable manner, utilizing rainwater captured in rain barrels and water from the Lipscomb Street Park lake.

The goal of this TEX project is to bring scientific evidence and understanding to the questions and priorities of local residents, so that residents can use that science to make decisions and take actions.

This project has been conceived and designed in partnership with community leaders at Texas Organizing Project and with our national partner, Flood Forum USA.


Trees With A Purpose

At a community meeting on August 9th at the Evans Community Center, Community Leader for the Melbourne, FL project, Camille Hadley, introduced the concept of “trees with a purpose” a joint program with Keep Brevard Beautiful. Camille spoke to a crowd of 19 people about how choosing native and/or fruit bearing trees can help mitigate flooding while providing the additional benefit of providing fresh wholesome food in a food desert.

Camille also shared a questionnaire with the attendees as part of her climate change education program including climate change, flooding and resiliency.


All updates for this project

Project Team

Community Lead

Camille Hadley is the co-founder and director of the Little Growers, Inc. project.

Bio coming soon!

Science Liaison

Dr. Mitchell Roffer is the President of Fishing Oceanography, Inc., a scientific consulting company that focuses on fisheries oceanography and remote sensing along with environmental education and advocacy, as well as, sustainable alternative energy, waste disposal and bio-remediation solutions that was founded in 2019 in Melbourne Beach, Florida. Prior to this he was President of Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service, Inc. (ROFFS™), another consulting company that he founded in 1989. Roffer is also “Guest” faculty at the Florida Institute of Oceanography, Department of Ocean Engineering and Marine Science. For Roffer’s entire career he has been advocating for clean water and air, healthy ecosystems and sustainable fisheries based on the best objective science. He continues to be focused on fisheries satellite oceanography and ecosystem-based decision making to ensure essential food security and biodiversity around the world. He has long been involved in education and outreach, as well as, climate and environmental science.

While many in the fisheries world know Dr. Roffer for his pioneering and continued work with operational fishing forecasting analyses and habitat classification, he has received significant national and international attention for the innovative oil oceanographic analyses products after the British Petroleum Deep Water Horizon explosion and oil spill, as well as, other pollution monitoring products after hurricanes, Katrina, Rita and Harvey. Roffer enjoys traveling, kayaking, birding and fishing. Roffer has been an active member of NASA’s prestigious Biodiversity and Ecological Forecasting Science Team since 2003.


Collaborating Organization(s)

This project is part of one of Thriving Earth Exchange’s cohorts. Thriving Earth Exchange has partnered with Flood Forum USA which supports grassroots flood groups across the country by helping them develop strategies for a sustainable future. Thriving Earth Exchange is working with 15 of their grassroots groups to connect them with scientists who can help them better characterize neighborhood-level flood risks and work effectively with local decision makers to mitigate those risks.


ISeeChange is dedicated to empowering communities to document and understand their environment, weather and climate in order to increase resilience. ISeeChange mobilizes communities to share stories and micro-data about climate impacts to inform and improve climate adaptation and infrastructure design. Their platform, tools, and investigations provide equitable, iterative ways for residents to personalize, measure, and track climate change impacts and better participate in community adaptation decisions.

Each post is synced with weather and climate data and broadcast to the community to investigate bigger picture climate trends. Over time, community members can track how climate is changing, season to season, year to year, and understand the impacts on daily life.

ISeeChange is a strategic partner of Thriving Earth Exchange as community members use their platform and tools to better characterize, visualize, and communicate neighborhood-level climate trends and co-develop solutions to mitigate those risks.