New reports allege that Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards intends to seek federal help to deal with an emergency impacting his state’s drinking water, according to The Associated Press.
Saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico is moving north into the Mississippi River, the source of drinking water for many communities, including New Orleans. The emergency has, so far, defied efforts to halt the advance of saltwater.
In a typical year, the flow of the river keeps saltwater out of the riverbed and away from the homes of citizens. However, this year’s light rain has reduced the river’s flow, meaning that saltwater is spreading north, back up the riverbed.
Edwards believes the situation could worsen in the coming weeks, with historic river lows expected by the end of this month.
“I can tell you in the next couple of days we will be requesting an emergency declaration from the federal government as well for the purpose of getting more federal agencies involved to the extent that can be helpful,” Edwards said Friday, according to Fox News.
Edwards said an emergency declaration would allow the state “to take emergency protective measures with some level of reimbursement available from the federal government should that federal emergency declaration be granted.”
However, the problem may not be solvable with only government assistance. Col. Cullen Jones of the Army Corps of Engineers said the real answer to the problem is for 10 inches of rain to pour into the Mississippi Valley, which would give the river enough fresh water to push back the saltwater, according to The Guardian.
The Guardian also noted that the Mississippi River’s mouth is below sea level, and that saltwater has been moving upstream beneath a level of fresh water. Jones said that, although an underwater barrier was built to hold back the saltwater, it has pushed past the barrier.
Weather forecasts indicate that saltwater will remain a danger for some time, which would be between a few weeks and a few months. While the Corps of Engineers will seek to deliver 15 million gallons of fresh water to the state’s southern areas, all the communities that are faced with the prospect of having saltwater enter their water intakes by Oct. 24 use 36 million gallons of water per day.
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