LaToya Cantrell, the mayor of New Orleans, has authorized the declaration of an emergency due to a saltwater incursion into the Mississippi River that authorities fear may have an effect on the region’s water supply.
“We will continue to work with our partners locally and state-wide as we closely monitor this situation,” Cantrell wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
According to officials, weather predictions show that river volume will reach historic lows during the next few weeks. As a result, Louisiana’s upstream region is being invaded by saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico.
“Plaquemines Parish has been affected by this issue since June. Drought conditions have only gotten worse since that time, which means additional communities along the Mississippi River could be impacted,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement Friday.
According to local officials, the drinking water supply for people and businesses from Empire to Venice in southeast Louisiana is being impacted by intrusive seawater at the Boothville Water Treatment Plant water intake in Plaquemines Parish.
In July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built an underwater barrier sill to create a man-made basin that would assist in slowing the entry of saltwater.
Earlier this week, the elevation of the sill was overtopped by the seawater incursion upriver.
According to Edwards, additional work will shortly start in an effort to further postpone the increase in saltwater incursion.
To further postpone the seawater intrusion by an anticipated 10 to 15 days, officials will start enlarging the current sill the following week.
The river’s water level is predicted to decrease more, and there won’t be much rain to improve the situation. Officials at the local, state, and federal levels are figuring out what can be done to safeguard water systems and water intake sites.
“Unfortunately, without any relief from the dry weather we are starting to see the saltwater intrusion creep further up the river despite efforts to mitigate the problems by the Army Corps of Engineers,” Edwards said.
“Most importantly, this is not a time to panic or listen to misinformation,” he added. “We have been through this situation before in 1988, and we are monitoring this situation very closely and applying the lessons learned. It is extremely important for the public to stay informed and only rely on credible sources for updates during this event.”