Everyone on the Capital Area Groundwater Conservation Commission is in agreement about one thing at least—something needs to be done to slow the intrusion of salt water into the Southern Hills Aquifer.
The devil is in the details of just how to do it, and do it affordably.
The aquifer is the primary source for drinking water in Baton Rouge, but is under constant threat from salt water south of an underground fault line along Interstate 10. While the aquifer stretches from Pointe Coupee to Washington Parish, the saltwater intrusion problem is exclusive to Baton Rouge because of the concentration of users and the city’s proximity to the saltwater-freshwater fault.
The aquifer’s four biggest consumers—Entergy, ExxonMobil, Georgia Pacific and Baton Rouge Water Company—comprise about 85% of the total usage.
Since 2018, The Water Institute of the Gulf has worked with CAGWCC to develop an affordable 50-year sustainable solution for the problem. While phase one of the three-phase contract was completed in June, the remaining $485,000 in the commission’s budget falls far short of the $1.6 million needed for phase two, during which various solutions will be evaluated.
That’s something the commission will need to hammer out, says John Hashagen, a member of CAGWCC’s technical committee.