The Mississippi River is one unified ecosystem. What happens downriver affects what happens upriver, and vice versa. What happens on a microbiology scale affects what happens in larger species, and again, vice versa. The whole system is like a hanging mobile, carefully balanced. What we add the tiniest bit of weight to one element, all of the others must shift to accommodate this change. While we have pinpointed 7 issues to accompany our 7 sites, these issues are interdependent. Each has an impact on the entire river system.

1. Water Quality in our Watershed (see Itasca Environmental Issues)

For most of us who live along the Mississippi River, the water in our homes comes from the river. Of course this water is cleaned up before it comes out of the tap. When we make our ice cubes, drink our coffee and make frozen orange juice, we ourselves become walking Mississippi rivers! Learn more about the quality of our drinking water. Also, do you know what a watershed is? Or how much land the Mississippi River watershed covers?

2. Re-awakening the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico (see Minneapolis/St. Paul Environmental Issues)

As the Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico, the pollution it carries is creating a dead zone in the Gulf that is growing each year. This dead zone of water cannot support aquatic life because the algae caused by our fertilizers are using up the oxygen. With cooperation from the communities that live in the Mississippi’s watershed, we can remove our chemical input from the river, and let the Gulf heal.

3. Wildlife, Habitat and Species Preservation (see Quad Cities Environmental Issues)

The Mississippi River and its floodplains are home to a diverse population of living things. For example, it is the most important flyway in the middle of the country since sixty percent of all North American birds use the river basin as their migratory route. Although many indigenous species have lost their “homes,” we can work together to encourage habitat regeneration

4. Two Pollutions: run-off and discharges (see St. Louis Environmental Issues)

Years ago, people used to think nothing of swimming in the Mississippi River, but now there are warning signs to steer clear of the polluted water. The water has been polluted by chemicals running off residential yards and farmland, and also by companies discharging their industrial wastes into the river – for free!

5. Who Owns the Riverfront? Ownership and property issues along the banks (see Memphis Environmental Issues)

What do we want to see along our riverfront property? Who should be allowed access to the riverfront? Who can decide these issues?

6. Flood Control (see New Orleans Environmental Issues)

It is a fact of life that rivers sometimes run dry and sometimes they flood. Flooding, the floodplains, sedimentation, and the levee system interact with each other. Interestingly, the methods we use to solve problems also create problems.

7. Coastal Wetland Restoration (see Venice/Fort Jackson/Plaquemines Parish Environmental Issues)

Because the delta has been denied its natural estuarial action over the years, we are losing coastal wetlands at this rate: the size of a football field every 35 minutes! There is a solution to this issue, and you can help!


One River Mississippi

















ECOLOGY: Seven Environmental Issues
June 24