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Industrial water use threatens Louisiana capital’s drinking water

Unchecked water use by companies like Exxon risks saltwater intrusion and undrinkable tap water

By Sara Sneath


Flowers seem to live longer in vases filled with Baton Rouge water, according to Dominique Rogers, 36, a florist in Louisiana’s capital city with 14 years of experience.

The city pulls its water deep underground from the Southern Hills aquifer, which requires little to no treatment to drink, unlike other Louisiana communities such as New Orleans, which draws its water from the Mississippi River and requires heavy treatment.


But the pristine water source for the predominantly Black city of Baton Rouge is facing a serious and worsening threat from over pumping: saltwater intrusion. Much of it can be attributed to unchecked water use by the industrial sector, including by the oil and chemicals corporation Exxon, the toilet paper producer Georgia-Pacific and the power company Entergy. Without intervention, the currently clean water source for more than 500,000 people in six parishes could become undrinkable for residents, according to a Louisiana legislative auditor report. It could also be detrimental to Rogers’ livelihood. Floodlight's latest is in partnership with The Lens, the Louisiana Illuminator and the Guardian.