The Mississippi River runs past the city of New Orleans in 2011. Saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico is threatening to impact the drinking water supply in the New Orleans area, prompting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to barge 36 million gallons of freshwater into the Mississippi River daily. File Photo by A.J. Sisco/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico is threatening to impact the drinking water supply in the New Orleans area, prompting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to barge 36 million gallons of freshwater into the Mississippi River daily.
The saltwater intrusion has been caused by another hot and dry summer creating drought conditions in the Midwest and through the southern United States.
The flow of the Mississippi River is usually strong enough to keep the saltwater in the Gulf of Mexico at bay, according to CNN. As the river's flow has slowed, water levels have dropped, allowing saltwater to seep north toward drinking water systems in Louisiana.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement that the intrusion has continued despite mitigation efforts.
"Unfortunately, without any relief from the dry weather we are starting to see the saltwater intrusion creep further up the river despite efforts to mitigate the problems by the Army Corps of Engineers," Edwards said.
He said the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness team is working with local, state and federal partners to determine what additional support will be needed and what steps can be taken to protect water systems and water intake points.
"We have been through this situation before in 1988, and we are monitoring this situation very closely and applying the lessons learned," Edwards said. "It is extremely important for the public to stay informed and only rely on credible sources for updates during this event."
The USACE built an artificial basin in July to slow the saltwater flow. The intrusion "overtopped" the barrier sill earlier this week, according to the governor's office.
The USACE will next add a 25-foot tall, 1,500-foot wide levee to the existing basin in an attempt to again slow the flow. Construction is expected to begin next week.
The Mississippi River volume is projected to fall to historic lows in coming weeks, ABC News reported.