New Orleans is facing a saltwater issue that could spill over into other communities.
Clean drinking water is something that is easy to take for granted in the modern world. Although plenty of the world’s citizens continue to struggle for access to reliably clean water, people in the United States rarely face such a burden. Rarely is not never, however, and residents of New Orleans are suddenly facing a situation where the security of their water supply may be at risk. And as seems to be the case with so many ongoing issues that are facing the world today, Louisiana’s contaminated drinking supply is related at least in part to ongoing climate change issues.
At the heart of the issue is actually something that is happening thousands of miles away. North of Louisiana in the Midwest, there has been a lack of rainfall – meaning the Mississippi River is not carrying as much water south as in normal years. That might make it seem like a lack of water would be the ultimate problem, but that’s not really it.
The issue that is leading to much concern and worry in New Orleans and the surrounding area is the salt water that is making its way in from the Gulf of Mexico. Since there isn’t as much flow coming down the Mississippi, there isn’t the same force of water keeping the saltwater in the Gulf where it belongs. So, salty water in Louisiana’s supply can work its way up into the areas where fresh water should reign, and the drinking supply may become saltier as a result.
Not only is the water supply getting saltier, but the water system in the area doesn’t have the equipment built into the system to address such an issue. Without a way currently to bring down the salt in the water, there isn’t much that the municipalities can do about it.
Also, salty water can corrode pipes if these conditions last for very long, which is another long-term concern. Corroded pipes can then deposit lead and other contaminants into the water supply, leading to another public health concern. There are still plenty of lead-containing pipes in the water system in the area, so this is an issue that could very well come to fruition.
Obviously, salty water doesn’t taste very good when it comes out of the tap to be added to a glass. That’s actually the least of the issues, however, as Louisiana’s water can also be very dangerous to human health, and it might make it hard to perform functions like running dishwashers and laundry machines, or even taking a shower.
The particularly concerning thing about the potential for a saltwater issue in the drinking water of New Orleans is what it may mean for the future of this and other, similar cities, especially those nearby. Maintaining the same systems and functions that people have become accustomed to relying on each day may get harder as the climate changes and conditions become more and more unpredictable. Continued efforts to mitigate climate issues will be required to hold off catastrophic outcomes.