The new solution for saltwater creeping into the drinking supply: push it down where it won't be a threat.

The Capital Area Groundwater Commission has leased land near the Catholic Life Center on the South Acadian Thruway to build an exploratory well. After the commission agreed to the lease at a meeting this week, Chairman Barry Hugghins challenged his colleagues to come up with a timeline, cost estimate and location to build an injection well by the end of 2018.

Saltwater is creeping north across the geological fault that runs along Interstate 12. Several years ago the Baton Rouge Water Company built a scavenger well that sucks up saltwater in the 1,500-foot aquifer, decreasing contamination of the freshwater supply.

Now, the Groundwater Commission wants to dig a series of three scavenger wells parallel to the fault line in the 2,000-foot aquifer, which supplies tap water, industrial campuses and power plants.

Unlike the existing scavenger well, which redirects the ground water contaminated with salt into the Mississippi River where it's diluted, they're looking to inject the saltwater deep underground — perhaps 8,000 feet — where it can't impact the fresh water supply.

It's an environmentally-friendly, cheap and elegant solution, Hugghins said.

"The machine comes up cherries all the way across," he remarked.

Digging the infrastructure will only take a few months, but the commission will need to figure out how much the project will cost and come up with the money.

"Any number I would give you would just be a wild guess at this point. ... We haven't found anywhere else doing this. That's the reason for all the investigation," the chairman said.

Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.