Drought And The Mississippi

American drought and the mighty Mississippi. Running low. We’re looking at climate change, commerce and the fight over water on the Big Muddy.

This Nov. 28, 2012 photo provided by The United States Coast Guard shows man-made dikes along the shoreline of the Mississippi River South of St. Louis. (AP/Coast Guard)

This Nov. 28, 2012 photo provided by The United States Coast Guard shows man-made dikes along the shoreline of the Mississippi River South of St. Louis. (AP/Coast Guard)

The mighty Mississippi knows floods and the mighty Mississippi knows drought.

Right now, it’s deep in drought country.  2012 was the hottest year on record in the US.  So dry crops shriveled in the fields.  Worst drought in 80 years.  Not good news for the Mississippi River.

South of St. Louis, it’s so shallow now that barges can barely travel.  A world of grain, coal, iron, gravel, looking for a way to move.  And big tensions over the water that remains, and where it needs to flow.

This hour, On Point:  we’re looking at drought, climate, commerce – and the shrunken Mississippi.

-Tom Ashbrook


Gerald Galloway, professor of engineering at the University of Maryland, focuses on water resources policy and management.

Martin Lipinski, director of the Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute  and professor of civil engineering  at the University of Memphis.

Craig Philip, CEO of Ingram Barge Company

Justin Schoof, professor and chair of Geography and Environmental Science at Southern Illinois University.

From Tom’s Reading List

Bloomberg News “Barge operators on the Mississippi River say the worst drought in 80 years may put at risk gains from emergency dredging and rock removal aimed at keeping the nation’s busiest waterway open at least for this month.”

Discovery News “A new year has started, but last year’s drought is still afflicting the United States. The latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows nearly 73 percent of the contiguous U.S. is still in drought. Rain has slaked the thirst of parts of the Northeast and Southeast, but dry conditions expanded in other regions.”

USA Today “The commercial shipping industry has warned since November that if low water makes moving cargo too dangerous, a 200-mile stretch of the Mississippi between St. Louis and Cairo, Ill., would be effectively closed. If that happens, says Debra Colbert of the Waterways Council, which represents shippers and ports, billions of dollars’ worth of goods and thousands of jobs would be affected, rattling the entire U.S. economy.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Nov 26, 2015
This photo taken July 31, 2012 shows a "tiny" house April Anson built in Portland, Ore. For the past couple of months, 33-year-old Anson and her friends have been planning, measuring, sawing and hammering their way toward completion of what might look like a child’s playhouse. (AP)

Tiny houses, micro-apartments. They’re hot. Americans are downsizing.

Nov 26, 2015
Jewel performs in the On Point Studio on Tuesday, September 22, 2015. (Liz Gillis / WBUR)

Singer-songwriter Jewel asked “who will save your soul”? Now she’s talking about saving her own. We’ll talk to Jewel.

Nov 25, 2015
Three of baker Renee McLeoud's delicious pies, on display in the WBUR studios. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Bring your appetite! We’re gathering around the radio table with three chefs and new Thanksgiving recipes.

Nov 25, 2015
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Pulitzer Prize winning Iowa writer Marilynne Robinson, arrives to the State Library of Iowa in the Ola Babcock Miller Building, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

On the day before Thanksgiving, we talk with Marilynne Robinson – one of America’s greatest authors, thinkers, moralists — about fear and hope in a hard, frightening time.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Fresh Ideas For Your Thanksgiving: Recipes
Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015

Did our Thanksgiving 2016 episode make you hungry? Good news — we’ve got recipes right here.

More »
Karl Rove Still Won’t Get Involved In The 2016 G.O.P. Primary
Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015

Karl Rove may say he’s not endorsing or getting involved in the 2016 G.O.P. presidential primary, but that won’t stop from offering advice on how to beat Republican front runner Donald Trump.

More »
Roger Cohen And Barry Posen On ISIS
Monday, Nov 23, 2015

A brief, but illustrative exchange between Barry Posen and Roger Cohen during our conversation on ISIS today.

More »