A new report card evaluating the overall health of the Mississippi River basin gives the watershed a D+ based on assessments in a number of areas ranging from fl ood control to ecosystem health.
The watershed is one of America’s largest, stretching across 31 states and covering more than 41% of the continental U.S.
The report card—released on Oct. 14 in St. Louis by America’s Watershed Initiative, an effort by public- and private-sector leaders, including Caterpillar—was established to highlight to policymakers some of the challenges the basin is facing.
America’s Watershed worked with more than 1,000 government, business and science leaders and stakeholders to rank six areas: abundance of clean water, marine transportation, flood control and risk reduction, the economy, recreation and ecosystem health.
Some of the lowest grades went to the condition of marine transportation infrastructure and maintenance. “Our aging water infrastructure desperately weakens America’s capability to reliably and efficiently move and export food and goods,” said Stephen Gambrell, director of the Mississippi River Commission, in a statement.
“The report card is not a goal [unto] itself—it’s a tool to support a conversation among leaders who are willing to develop and implement shared solutions to the water-management challenges facing our states and nation,” says Michael Reuter, director of the Nature Conservancy’s North American water program.
Harry “Jordy” Jordahl, director of the initiative, says the report-card results point to actions that could ensure the watershed’s sustainability and health. Some of the measures include new private-sector and federal funding of state and local projects as well as more collaboration among stakeholders to target those investments.