Evaluating Urban Stormwater Drainage to Develop Flood-Resilient Neighborhoods

Northeast Houston, Texas

Featured image for the project, Evaluating Urban Stormwater Drainage to Develop Flood-Resilient Neighborhoods

Photo Courtesy of Constance C. Luo


In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the neighborhoods of east and northeast Houston suffered extensive damage. Majority of the drowning deaths from the storm occurred outside the mapped flood zones designated as being in the 100- and 500- year floodplains, including the zip code of 77078. This region is known officially as Northeast Houston by the City of Houston and Harris County but informally called East Houston by residents. Nearly one year after the storm hit Southeast Texas, many people in the predominately African American and Latino communities of Northeast Houston find themselves still suffering from the impacts of the storm. Many residents are now living in temporary mobile home parks, houses contaminated with mold, and facing the reality of an outdated and crumbling drainage system. Storm drains and ditches throughout this area of the city become clogged and go unaddressed, further exacerbating flooding. Residents also report feeling traumatized by the unprecedented impact Harvey made and lacking confidence that they will remain protected during future storms.

The Texas Organizing Project (TOP) is a community-based non-profit working to improve the lives of low-income and working-class Texas families through civic and electoral engagement as well as community organizing. The group conducts direct action organizing around issue campaigns such as education reform, criminal justice, and affordable housing. A recent campaign has rallied residents around the issue of resilient flooding infrastructure. Homeowners are tired of just talking about the issue and want to see real action around flood infrastructure improvements.

TOP would like to find a scientific partner who can help them obtain a better understanding of Northeast Houston’s flood risk and outline a step-wise process on how to fix their specific drainage issues. 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.

Project Team

Community Lead

Constance C. Luo is a Community Organizer with the Texas Organizing Project (TOP), a community based nonprofit organizing low income black and brown Texans for justice in their communities. She works closely with TOP membership to develop their leadership skills in public speaking, meeting with elected officials, facilitating meetings, member/volunteer recruitment and fundraising. She also leads the language justice program in the Harris County office, ensuring that all aspects of the organization are accessible for both English and Spanish speakers. Prior to her work with TOP, Constance worked as an organizer in Chicago in the areas of housing, political campaigns and voter registration.


Scientific Liaison

Edith Newton Wilson, PhD, owns Rock Whisperer LLC, a consulting firm that contracts with companies, engages in community outreach, and mentors young professionals who are interested in applying skills from the fossil fuel business – such as mapping, flow modeling, and risk assessment – to global clean energy, food and water projects. Prior to founding her business, Edith spent 25 years working with energy companies in various roles including geological exploration, commercial, and HR. She holds degrees in earth science from Dartmouth College and the Johns Hopkins University, where her dissertation work focused on low temperature aqueous geochemistry and fluid transport models.  Edith lectures on research topics from induced seismicity in Oklahoma to economic factors driving the transformation to renewable energy, and she is engaged with community partners to expand clean energy deployment among young people in the informal settlements and townships of South Africa.

Collaborating Organization(s)

This project is part of one of TEXs’ new 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 twelve 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.