New Orleans, was settled by the French in 1718 on the high ground adjacent to the Mississippi River--only 14 feet above sea level. Many sections of the city are as much as six feet below sea level. As result of its unusual topography, the city was subject to periodic flooding from the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, as well as frequent inundation from the high intensity rainfall.
Water for drinking or general use was either collected in large cypress cisterns that stored rain water from the roof tops or taken from the river and allowed to settle in large earthenware jars. At this time, there were no purification or sterilization procedures.
In 1899, the Sewerage and Water Board was authorized by the Louisiana Legislature to furnish, construct, operate, and maintain a water treatment and distribution system and a sanitary sewerage system for New Orleans. Today the agency keeps the city with an adequate water supply for drinking and fire protection.