Mississippi River Restoration


The Mississippi River is arguably America’s most iconic waterway. From having served as the border to the west while the country was being settled to Huckleberry Finn, the Mississippi is steeped in the country’s cultural, environmental and geographical history. The river’s watershed is the fourth largest in the world, reaching from the Allegheny Mountains in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west. Some or all of 31 states and two Canadian provinces are in the watershed.

The River is a major source for fresh drinking water for millions of Americans. According to a January 2000 study published by the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee close to 15 million people rely on the river and its tributaries in the Upper Mississippi River alone. In addition to the millions of people living within the watershed, the river is also home to at least 260 species of fish, 326 species of birds use this river as their migratory flyway and many other animals call the waterway home.

Each summer, however, a “Dead Zone” roughly the size of the state of Massachusetts forms in the Gulf of Mexico at the river’s south end. The zone is caused by fertilizers and chemicals flowing downstream from farm crops in the Upper Midwest. Accumulating all along the journey south, the chemicals cause ocean plants to overmultiply and decay, which starves the Gulf’s waters of oxygen and kills fish, shrimp, and other sea life.


Download the NCEL Fact Sheet with key points and links to legislation here

The Collaborative is a collection of environmental organizations and legal centers from states bordering the Mississippi River. Their website offers links to groups working on specific issues, as well as detailed issue pages that provide an overview of issues such as nutrient pollution and dead zones. The full website can be viewed here

This website provides an extensive overview of the River that includes the overall length, information about the watershed and information on commerce in the area. The page can be accessed here

This report zeros in on the Midwest and offers a first step toward defining the range of potential economic consequences to this particular region if we continue on our current greenhouse gas emissions pathway. Interactive graphics and detailed research is included by region. The report is available here


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