Gov. John Bel Edwards stresses water restoration in visit to Shreveport

Scott Ferrell
Shreveport Times

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who said Shreveport bore the brunt of this week's winter storms in the state, met with local leaders on Saturday to discuss the storm and its aftermath.

Edwards met with Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins, Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator, Ocshner LSU Health CEO Chuck Daigle, CHRISTUS Shreveport-Bossier CEO Dr. Steen Trawick, Willis-Knighton CAO Brian Crawford, legislators and other local leaders.

"I can tell you there was a lot of agreement in that room about what the biggest challenge and the biggest need is,'' Edwards said. "It all revolves around water and accessing it immediately for dialysis patients and healthcare, but also increasingly for bottled water for people at home.''

Both Shreveport and Bossier City have dealt with water problems all week. Both cities are under boil advisories and both cities have dealt with low water pressure issues.

Water became a critical issue earlier in the week at local hospitals. Water is used for everything from cleaning equipment and linens to heating and administering healthcare.

Edward said water is crucial in dialysis. He said there is a need for 500 gallons of water per dialysis patient.

"For the last several days, our No. 1 priority has been delivering water,'' Edwards said. "Both potable water and non-potable water. Bulk water and water in bottles, to the affected regions of our state.''

The state has been sending water to the Shreveport-Bossier City area since the middle of last week. Edwards said 500,000 bottles of water have been sent to the area and two-thirds of all missions were to Shreveport-Bossier He said with improving weather conditions, the state can engage more private vendors to bring water to the area.

He said he expects the water situation in Shreveport-Bossier City to improve relatively rapidly.

"We're going to be able to source water and get it where it needs to be, with the No. 1 priority being dialysis,'' he said. "What we have is people who need dialysis three times a week and get that at an out-patient dialysis clinic. But if they're closed, they're coming to hospitals and to emergency rooms. We need to be able to take care of other emergency patients, but they're challenged with water here as well.''

While the local water systems ultimately fall to local governments, Edwards pushed for repairs.

"We have to make repairs to the water systems so that we can get the water distribution system back up and running,'' Edwards said. "Get the pressure the way we need it to be and hopefully lift those boil advisories.''

The process does not figure to be an easy one.

"The challenge we're going to have going forward is infrastructure, primarily how it deals with water,'' he said.  "As pipes thaw, that is when you find out how many breaks there are. The more breaks there are, the more work that has to be done to restore water pressure. Until water pressure is restored, you can't turn off boil advisories. Until water pressure is restored, it poses tremendous challenges, especially for our healthcare facilities.''

The weather also caused challenges in COVID-19 vaccinations. Edwards said he expects both last week's allotment of dosages and the coming week's allotment to arrive next week.

"For the next seven to 10 days, we're going to work extremely hard with all of our partners to double up and get people vaccinated,'' he said. "And get back into a normal rhythm of vaccinations.''