US Army Corps Channels Fresh Water to Combat Saltwater Intrusion in Mississippi

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To safeguard the area’s drinking water supply, the US Army Corps of Engineers has announced plans to channel 36 million gallons of fresh water daily into the lower Mississippi River near New Orleans. The intervention has been precipitated by an encroaching threat of saltwater intrusion from the Gulf of Mexico, reports officials.

This measure has been deemed necessary as water levels continue to drastically recede for the second year running, resulting from a punishing summer of intense heat, low rainfall, and extreme drought. The shrinking flow of the Mississippi River opens the door for ocean water to invade drinking water systems in Louisiana.

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Officials in New Orleans predict the city will experience the effects of the intrusive saltwater toward late October. However, they stated that this timeline could potentially change and pledged to keep the public duly informed of any such adjustments.

Anticipating the Mississippi River to match historic low levels in the coming weeks, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards illuminated the efforts of both the state and the Army Corps of Engineers. By adding 25 feet to a pre-existing underwater levee in the Mississippi River, they aim to stem the saltwater’s advance.

Accompanying these actions, millions of gallons of water are set to be shipped daily to local water facilities. This underwater levee, or sill as it’s known, operates as a dam for the denser saltwater coursing through the river’s lower levels.

Generally, sufficient rainfall upstream alleviates both drought and saltwater incursion. However, the governor conceded that current levels of precipitation along the Mississippi River will not sufficiently improve the conditions. Consequently, the dry conditions persist and the saltwater intrusion intensifies.

Highlighting the severity of the situation, the governor requested a federal emergency declaration for four parishes where citizens have been or are expected to be affected – Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard. Approving this request will compensate for response and temporary mitigation efforts and attract aid from federal organizations.

It is estimated that augmenting the sill will take roughly 24 days. Once enhanced, it should delay the saltwater intrusion by 10 to 15 days. In the interim, 15 million gallons of freshwater are to be introduced as soon as next week, ultimately necessitating 36 million gallons daily to combat the problem.

In addition, bulk delivery of bottled water has been planned for the New Orleans area. Energy is being focused on preparing and responding effectively to impacts with full support from government agencies being called upon to mobilize resources.

Clean water has already begun being given out to roughly 2,000 residents affected by the saltwater intrusion. Despite the ongoing crisis, the governor advised citizens against hoarding bottled water, confirming the lack of a country-wide shortage and ensuring businesses’ ability to deliver water as needed.

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