Impacts of saltwater intrusion on New Orleans are uncertain, but affected residents downriver continue to rely on bottled drinking water.
The City of New Orleans is no longer expected to face the immediate catastrophic impacts of saltwater intrusion forecast earlier this Fall. Still, the salinity of New Orleans tap water is expected to rise considerably, and the City does not know what this will do to the aging lead pipes that comprise its water system, or at what salinity level corrosion will occur and where. These uncertainties pose serious threats to the health of children, people who rely on tap water to operate durable medical equipment, and people with diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease.
Downriver from New Orleans, thousands of residents in Plaquemines Parish have been relying on bottled drinking water since June. After President Biden declared a Federal Emergency for the State of Louisiana in September, Plaquemines Parish was able to fund barges to transport fresh water upstream to dilute the saline water downriver. Plaquemines lifted its advisory last week but was forced to issue a spate of boil water advisories hours later.
Saltwater intrusion is a present and ongoing threat to people with disabilities in Louisiana. And as sea levels rise and rain becomes increasingly unpredictable, saltwater intrusion is guaranteed to happen again, forcing residents to rely on alternative water sources, and potentially compromising aging water systems infrastructure. Equitable and accessible emergency planning and preparedness is critical to ensuring just responses to the ripples of climate crisis.
CREEC will continue to monitor the situation on the ground and advocate for both responsible emergency planning that includes all communities and needs, as well as systemic changes that value and protect the lives of people with disabilities.