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EXPLAINER: What is saltwater intrusion and how is it affecting Louisiana’s drinking water?

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — For months, residents within the southeast nook of Louisiana have relied on bottled water for consuming and cooking, with the water from the tap popping out salty.

Plaquemines Parish Councilman Mark “Hobbo” Cognevich, who represents the affected space, stated grocery shops are always having to restock plastic water bottles, neighbors have reported getting rashes after showering, and, general, the neighborhood is “fed up” with the scenario.

“We’re praying for rain,” Cognevich stated. That may be a sentiment echoed by officers throughout the state, because the drought-stricken Mississippi River’s stream is low and sluggish, permitting for salt water from the Gulf of Mexico to intrude upstream and threaten communities’ consuming provides.

However with little precipitation within the forecast, officers at the moment are swiftly making ready for if and when the salt water will attain the state’s most populous metropolis — New Orleans.


Sometimes, the mighty stream of the Mississippi River — which stretches from northern Minnesota, by means of the middle of the continental United States and out to the Gulf of Mexico — is sufficient to maintain mass quantities of salt water from intruding too far upstream. However sizzling and dry circumstances throughout the nation this summer time, triggering excessive drought, have affected the Mississippi. Officers anticipate the river quantity to achieve historic lows within the coming weeks.

Matt Roe, a spokesperson for the U.S. Military Corps of Engineers in New Orleans, stated on Monday that when the stream of the river will get this weak, “it doesn’t have the mass and velocity wanted to push the salt water again down across the mouth of the river.”


Many communities in south Louisiana depend on the Mississippi’s recent water, with their water consumption therapy amenities situated alongside the river.

Unimpeded salt water continues to creep upriver and threatens municipal consuming water. That makes it unsafe to drink — particularly for folks with kidney illness, hypertension, folks on a low-sodium food regimen, infants and pregnant girls.

Whereas a lot of the state nonetheless has recent water flowing out of taps, water advisories have been issued in components of Plaquemines Parish since June. Edwards warns that different parishes might quickly be affected by the salt water, together with Orleans, St. Bernard and Jefferson. Though that possible gained’t occur till mid-to-late October.

Throughout a information convention on Friday, Edwards urged Louisianans to not panic or rush to purchase bottled water. As a substitute, residents will likely be notified upfront if salt water will have an effect on their space.


Officers are addressing the problem in a number of methods, together with heightening an current sill, an underwater levee used to dam or sluggish the stream of salt water. Officers say the sill augmentation — which had been used throughout related conditions, in 1988, 2012 and final 12 months — will delay salt water’s development by about 10 to fifteen days.

“We’re being proactive. We’re making use of greatest practices and classes realized from the previous,” Edwards stated.

As well as, thousands and thousands of gallons of recent water are being taken by barges to therapy amenities in impacted areas.

Edwards additionally plans to request an emergency declaration from the federal authorities to get extra businesses to deal with the problem and authorize the state “to take emergency protecting measures with some stage of reimbursement accessible.”

However what is required most proper now could be rain. And never simply in Louisiana, however additional north to strengthen the river’s stream,


The Mississippi is among the world’s most vital industrial waterways, and the Port of South Louisiana is vital for grain shipments, dealing with about 60% of U.S. grain exports.

Officers say they’re doing what they will in the course of the sill augmentation to maintain the channel open to ships and barges.

Nonetheless, visitors alongside the Mississippi is already slower than standard because of the drought, which has left the river so low that barge corporations are lowering their hundreds.

Moreover, state departments are monitoring the results this might have on agriculture — particularly citrus nurseries, which rely closely on irrigation and are extra delicate to salt water than a mature tree within the floor.

However with this possible being a long-duration occasion, the total results of the saltwater intrusion have but to be felt.

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