Systemic resilience

A property of an infrastructure system that manifests when the larger system is organized in such a way that it can provide agreed critical services (power, heat, communications, mobility, water, and waste management) despite the impacts on its constituent systems, networks and assets due to a variety of hazard(s).


1. "Larger system" may refer to transboundary, national or sub-national infrastructure depending on the jurisdiction. See also "Transboundary infrastructure".


Modified from UNDRR (2022). Principles for Resilient Infrastructure 


Mississippi River and Gulf Outlet (Mr Go) shipping canal

An 11m deep and 200m wide shipping canal was built in 1965 to link the New Orleans industrial canal with the open sea to the east to allow shipping to approach the city. Within 3 months of completion Hurricane Betsy made history as the first US disaster to cost more than $1 billion with the unfortunate assistance of the Mr Go canal. Hurricane Betsy was a Category 3 storm of easterly winds from the Gulf of Mexico which the defenses along Lake Pontchartrain would otherwise have resisted. However, Hurricane Betsy funneled a 3.6-meter-high volume of water along the Mr Go canal toward the industrial canal, up and over the newly exposed low embankments of the industrial canal. This caused flooding in the eastern side of the city, which led to 13,000 houses being immersed in 2.7 meters deep flood waters, 60,000 people becoming homeless and 58 fatalities.

Construction of the Mr Go canal is an example of a failure to prioritize the systemic resilience of a city system (New Orleans) to a known resilience challenge (hurricanes). The asset itself, i.e., the Mr Go canal, was resilient, but it reduced the systemic resilience of the city system to which it was added. By contrast its closure after Hurricane Katrina (which reinforced the poor systemic outcomes of Mr Go) improved the systemic resilience of New Orleans.



  • Shaffer, G. P., Day Jr, J. W., Mack, S., Kemp, G. P., van Heerden, I., Poirrier, M. A., ... & Penland, P. S. (2009). The MRGO navigation project: a massive human-induced environmental, economic, and storm disaster. Journal of Coastal Research,
    (10054), 206-224.
  • Kiefer, P. K. (2021, August 11). The end of Mr. Go. Sierra Club. Retrieved February 15, 2023.