By Mary Velan
A new campaign has recently launched and is designed to unite organizations across 31 states interested in improving the Mississippi River and the more than 250 rivers flowing into it. America’s Watershed Initiative brings together a variety of stakeholders focused on raising the grades of America’s Watershed. Partners include:
- Academic institutions
- Civic organizations
The initiative will drive new projects and policies to improve the quality of America’s Watershed and the lives of those directly affected by it.
America’s Watershed Initiative is a collaborative project seeking solutions for several challenges facing the Mississippi watershed system by integrating issues, partners and ideas. The initiative aims to build and implement a vision based on teamwork and mutually beneficial outcomes for long-term sustainability. The issues impacting the watershed system span across multiple regions and influence several industries including:
- Water quality
- Floodplain management
The initiative hopes to create broad leadership to support effective resolutions now and in the future. In addition, projected outcomes include:
- Building recognition among regional and national leaders about the importance of the watershed and the need for integrated management
- Establishing a public-private entity to connect existing institutions and stakeholders to harness the best science to manage the watershed with a shared vision
- Developing and reporting on measures that indicate progress toward achieving the sustainable management and system-wide health of the watershed
- Elevating local and regional projects that demonstrate effective collaboration and integrated strategies to achieve system-level objectives
The initiative is also seeking to network with river commissions, establish the watershed as a hub for sharing knowledge and create best practices related to the management of large rivers and watersheds.
The Report Card
One aspect of the initiative is the Report Card which measures six broad goals for the Mississippi watershed:
- Flood Control & Risk Reduction
- Water Supply
The Report Card will be used to gauge who well watershed managers are meeting each of the goals and where there is room for improvement. The card will use real-time data and research to determine quality standards that must be met in the region, and benchmark progress as initiatives start to achieve objectives.
Why It Matters
America’s Watershed is the fourth largest watershed in the world and includes thousands of miles of rivers supporting millions of people in the region. The rivers in America’s Watershed provide drinking water, economic opportunities and recreation for millions of Americans. The water in the region is used to produce agricultural products worth more than $50 billion annually, and is attributed to generating energy including nearly 25 percent of the nation’s hydropower.
Furthermore, America’s Watershed is home to an extensive transportation network responsible for the movement of millions of tons of goods that generate billions in economic development. The system’s rivers and coastlines are also home to unique wildlife and recreational opportunities for local communities.