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


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.

About the Community

Camille Hadley is the co-founder and director of the Little Growers, Inc. project. She will be supported by Miss Mary Baker, 4-H Coordinator and Vice President of Little Growers Board. Camille and Miss Baker commit to engaging with the scientific partner by providing local knowledge and strategic direction over the duration of the project.

Scientist Wanted

Camille and Miss Baker seek a scientific partner to help Little Growers, Inc. investigate the drainage challenges facing residents of the Powell Driskoll subdivision and the garden at Lipscomb Street Park. Little Growers, Inc. will also be working with a social justice technology program called Socially Green and Conscious who have developed a water purification technique for pumping water from a nearby waterbody. In this case, Little Growers, Inc. would like to pump water from the lake on park property to the garden plot. The scientist will collaborate with the expert working on this aspect.

The scientist will also work with the community leads to prepare recommendations for presentation to residents and local government entities. Little Growers would like to work with the city to identify the necessary modifications that need to be made to the garden and surrounding neighborhoods.

As an initial first step, a scientist is requested for 2-3 months to work with Camille and Miss Baker to:

  • visit the neighborhoods with the community leaders,
  • examine and aggregate existing hydrological assessments,
  • summarize the flood vulnerabilities,
  • outline and recommend actions that can be taken to improve drainage throughout the neighborhood.


These initial steps will provide a foundation and refined scope upon which to shape the remainder of this TEX-FFUSA project.

TEX asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact that they can contribute to as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators. This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage.


Timeline and Outcome

Work will begin as soon as possible (December 2018). The first phase of this project will take approximately 2-3 months. Once a refined project scope is identified, the remainder of the project is expected to last 12-16 months.


Desired Skills and Expertise

  • Background in hydrology or environmental engineering
  • Experience working on projects that address urban stormwater management
  • Ability to translate difficult science terminology for a lay audience
  • Willingness to connect science to local concerns
  • Relaxed, easy going personality with a good sense of humor
  • Strong listening and communication skills
  • Competent and open to new ideas
  • Experience working in environmental justice communities preferred but not required
  • The scientist should be able to visit the community in-person and able to observe the neighborhood with community leaders-preference will be given to local universities and colleges

Collaborating Organization(s)

This project is part of one of TEXs’ cohorts. TEX has partnered with Flood Forum USA which supports grassroots flood groups across the country by helping them develop strategies for a sustainable future. TEX is working with twenty 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.