At 16, Meagan Williams witnessed the impact of Hurricane Katrina when it hit New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2005. Today, she is actively involved in managing water in the city, using her knowledge and experience to help her city deal with the power of water.
According to Yale Climate Connections, even after the storms had passed in 2005, she remembered seeing the devastation at her aunt’s home.
“Every single window had blown out of the house,” she said in an interview with the outlet. “And the water line is maybe an inch from the top of the ceiling. Every single thing is caked in mud and mold. And that’s when the wheels started turning… I pretty distinctly remember telling my mom that day some version of, ‘I want to help,’ — no idea what that meant.”
Williams turned her passion for helping others into a career as a civil engineer. Currently, she serves as the urban water program manager for New Orleans’ Office of Resilience and Sustainability. In this role, she focuses on developing strategies to manage the surplus water in the city.
The pacesetter played a pivotal role in advocating for the creation of the stormwater manager position in New Orleans when she saw the need for such a role. She established herself as a leader and advocate for green infrastructure engineering.
“It was a need that I really saw, just by observing,” Williams said to The University of New Orleans. “As I started to learn about them and understand them, I really saw the benefit that it could provide for our city.” She was introduced to green infrastructure while working as a project manager for a roadway program.
Green infrastructure engineering involves incorporating elements that mimic natural processes. This can include replacing cement or asphalt roadways and sidewalks with features like rain gardens, bioswales, or ditches that absorb and hold water, she told The University of New Orleans. These measures help the city’s drainage system keep up with excess water and prevent flooding.
Williams oversaw the Pontilly Neighborhood Stormwater Project, which serves as an exemplary model for green infrastructure strategies. With a budget of $15 million, the project aimed to mitigate flood risks while also enhancing the beauty of the green spaces in the Gentilly Woods and Pontchartrain Park neighborhoods.
Williams’ dedication to assisting in preventing disastrous flooding for the citizens of New Orleans is continually motivated by the recent changes in the environment and her experiences as a Hurricane Katrina victim.
The University of New Orleans alumna said last year that she was pursuing a master’s degree in civil engineering from the university.