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Biden's National Emergency Declaration Prompts New Orleans Residents to Prepare for Saltwater Intrusion

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New Orleans Residents Prepare for Saltwater Intrusion Following Biden's National Emergency Declaration

Threat to Water Infrastructure and Concerns for Residents

President Joe Biden's declaration of a federal emergency for saltwater intrusion in the Mississippi River has left New Orleans residents on high alert. A lack of rainfall has caused a decrease in fresh water levels, allowing denser saltwater to rise upstream over the past two months. The intrusion poses a significant threat to the city's water infrastructure, raising concerns about access to potable water for residents, particularly those in poorer neighborhoods, hospitals, dialysis centers, hotels, and local businesses.

Response Strategies and Infrastructure Challenges

New Orleans City Councilmembers, officials from the Sewage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO), and the Department of Homeland Security are discussing response strategies to mitigate the saltwater infiltration. Proposed methods include importing freshwater via barges to dilute the water supply and building the underwater sill higher to delay the saltwater's progress. Another proposal involves constructing a pipeline to deliver fresh water from further up the river to affected areas downstream. However, the estimated cost of the pipeline, ranging from $100 to $250 million, and the timeline for completion remain uncertain.

Lessons from the Past and the Need for a Contingency Plan

While saltwater intrusion in New Orleans is not unprecedented, the current situation appears more severe than previous instances. In 1988, a similar intrusion lasted only a few days before rainfall restored the river to normal conditions. However, recent years have seen saltwater drifting higher upstream, prompting questions about the city's defensive approach and the necessity of a contingency plan. Climate change and the increasing frequency and intensity of climate-driven events further emphasize the need for proactive measures.

Preparing for the Future and Addressing Climate Change

Experts and residents alike are calling for a shift from a reactive to a proactive approach. Stephen Murphy, director of Tulane University's Disaster Management Program, emphasizes the importance of planning for future incidents rather than continuously responding to crises. With forecasts of low precipitation and changing climate patterns, it becomes crucial to address the impact of climate change on water resources. As New Orleans faces the challenges posed by saltwater intrusion, residents, experts, and officials are considering long-term strategies to ensure the city's resilience in the face of future threats.

Implications of Saltwater Intrusion for New Business Formation in New Orleans

Impact of Saltwater Intrusion on New Businesses

The declaration of a federal emergency due to saltwater intrusion in the Mississippi River has far-reaching implications for the business landscape in New Orleans. The threat to the city's water infrastructure could pose significant challenges for new businesses, particularly those in sectors reliant on water supply. Access to potable water is a fundamental requirement for many businesses, and the current situation could deter potential entrepreneurs from establishing new ventures in the city.

Infrastructure Challenges and Business Uncertainty

The proposed response strategies to mitigate the saltwater infiltration, while necessary, could lead to increased uncertainty for new businesses. The potential costs associated with these strategies, such as the construction of a pipeline, could result in increased taxes or levies for local businesses. This could further strain new businesses that are already grappling with the challenges of establishment and growth.

Lessons from the Past: A Call for Proactive Measures

The current saltwater intrusion situation underscores the importance of proactive measures in business planning. New businesses need to consider the potential impacts of climate change and similar environmental events on their operations. The increasing frequency and intensity of climate-driven events necessitate that businesses incorporate contingency plans into their business models.

Future-Proofing New Businesses

As New Orleans grapples with the challenges posed by saltwater intrusion, it's imperative for new businesses to consider long-term strategies to ensure resilience. This could involve investing in water-efficient technologies or exploring business models less reliant on water resources. By doing so, new businesses can position themselves to better navigate future environmental threats and contribute to the city's overall resilience.
Story First Published at: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/09/28/biden-national-emergency-new-orleans-saltwater-intrusion.html
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