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.”

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