The 2020 Mississippi River “Watershed Report Card” has award the Mississippi Watershed (America’s Watershed”) an overall C- grade, warning that urgent action is needed as watershed health and water security remain at risk.
The school-style Report Card, produced by the America’s Watershed Initiative (AWI), marks progress toward restoring the health and condition of the Mississippi River Watershed and its basins. AWI is a collaborative organisation working with hundreds of business, government, academic, and civic organizations to find solutions for the challenges of managing the Mississippi River and the more than 250 rivers that flow into it. The entire watershed covers more than 41 Percent of the continental United States and 31 states (hence “America’s Watershed”).
The C- grade – a modest improvement over the D+ earned in AWI’s 2015 report card – represents the productivity of the watershed with regards to economic activity and environmental resilience.
The 2020 Report Card describes progress toward achieving goals established in the 2015 report card, highlights some of the important work that partners across the watershed are doing to make positive change, and documents the work and investment that remains. Modest improvements are noted in the following indices: hunting and fishing licenses, floodplain population, and infrastructure maintenance and condition.
The watershed remains, however, threatened by more frequent and extreme flooding, aging infrastructure, chemical pollution, nutrient runoff, and continued urbanization and agricultural intensification.
The river’s water quality is rated as very poor, with concerns for the nation’s drinking water supply, resulting in the grade for water supply and ecosystems dropping to a D compared to 2015.
Flood control and risk reduction remains an urgent area of concern, with the grade of D unchanged since 2015.
The frequent flooding, degraded water quality and aging infrastructure will require $2 Billion USD in annual funding for multiple years to remedy, according to the the report.
“The Mississippi River Watershed, which shapes thousands of communities and powers the nation, faces pressing challenges, with significant implications for the health and safety of all Americans, as well as our economy,” said Kimberly Lutz, Executive Director of AWI. “As the United States looks to recover and rebuild our economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, the health and resilience of this critical natural resource – through investments in infrastructure, research, education and flood and water management – must be part of the solution”.