The groundwater relied upon by nearly two-thirds of Louisianans is in danger of becoming critically scarce, according to an analysis of USGS data by the Investigative Reporting Workshop and WWNO/WRKF, NPR reports. Decades of overuse by agriculture and other industries with minimal oversight from entities often marred with conflicts of interest, combined with the anticipated impacts of heat and drought made worse by climate change, are expected to put Louisiana in a groundwater crisis reminiscent of the American West. Southern Louisiana’s groundwater also faces the additional threat of saltwater intrusion.
As aquifers are overdrawn, the potential for seawater from the Gulf of Mexico coming in to fill that void grows, Christine Kirchhoff, a national water resources management and policy researcher at the University of Connecticut, told NPR. “You might have a well that is functioning just fine now,” Kirchhoff said, “but once salt contaminates fresh water, it’s done. That’s it. You no longer have that well.” (NPR)