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Salt water intrusion along Mississippi River threatens drinking water



mississippi river
Magnolia677, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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The Mississippi River, often referred to as ‘Big Muddy,’ faces a rising saltwater intrusion threat from the Gulf of Mexico, jeopardizing drinking water in various Louisiana parishes and potentially New Orleans. In response to the impending crisis, President Biden has declared an emergency for Louisiana, releasing federal resources to combat the saltwater advance.

Local authorities are prepping for potential water shortages, assuring communities of adequate bottled water supplies and urging them not to panic-buy.

Understanding the Saltwater Surge

The Mississippi River naturally has a saltwater layer from the Gulf underneath its freshwater. The river’s current typically thrusts this saltwater back towards the river’s mouth. However, decreased rainfall this summer has slowed the river’s flow, enabling the salt to move upstream.

With climate change causing more frequent low levels in the Mississippi, this issue of saltwater intrusion may become a recurring challenge.

Mitigation Measures

The US Army Corps of Engineers is stepping up efforts to curb the saltwater’s progression. They’re enhancing an existing underwater barrier to hold back the saltwater. In addition, there are plans in motion to transfer freshwater from upstream sections of the river to affected areas.

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