Is the Mississippi River in a Drought Right Now?

© Milen Mkv/Shutterstock.com

Written by Jeremiah Wright

Updated: December 21, 2022

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According to statistics, the water levels of the Mississippi River have been at their lowest in the last ten years. This is bad news, given that North America’s second-longest river is the main potable water supplier to more than 20 million people.

Many of the United States is going through a drought right now, with multiple areas experiencing D4 levels of severity – namely, exceptional drought. Besides an increased fire danger, damage to vegetation, and low streamflow, this type also comes with increased restrictions on fire starting and the cutting off of irrigation water allotments.

How Much of the US Is in a Drought Right Now?

Roughly 68% of the territory of the United States is experiencing abnormally dry conditions.

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Roughly 68% of the territory of the United States is experiencing abnormally dry conditions (D0 level) or worse. More specifically, approximately 50% of the surface is moderately dry or worse, 28% severely dry or worse, 12% extremely dry or worse, and 2.4% exceptionally dry.

The worst part is that drought is likely to persist in 32% of the U.S. Only 7.5% of the country can look forward to improvement! In comparison, drought is likely to develop further in roughly 9% of the territories and become even more dangerous.

What Does a Drought Affect Mainly?

Before talking specifically about the Mississippi River, it is essential to understand that drought can affect many sectors of a developed economy – such as the United States. Agriculture and wildfire management aren’t the only things that suffer when the land goes dry, and water levels go down.

  • Agriculture – roughly 375 million acres of crops and 34 million beef cattle are currently going through various conditions of drought in the US;
  • Ecosystems – roughly 130 million acres of forest and 289 million acres of prairies are experiencing severe drought or worse at the moment. There are also 25 ongoing large wildfires throughout the US;
  • Hazard planning & preparedness – roughly 452,000 people in the US live within 10 miles of an ongoing large wildfire for the time being;
  • Manufacturing – roughly 411,514 acres of flax and 16.6 million acres of cotton are currently going through drought;
  • Recreation and tourism – roughly 36 national parks, 360 ski resorts, and 1,970 reservoirs are going through a moderate drought or worse at the moment. At the same time, 12% of all streams in the US report a flow 10% lower than their usual average;
  • Wildfire management – there are 25 ongoing large wildfires currently, with more than 19,000 acres currently being affected.

Keep in mind that the information showcased above changes constantly. The values presented are as of the writing of this article.

As you can see, an entire nation can be affected by drought. Even if you live in a safe area, your usual trips might not be accessible – or, in worst scenarios, common products might not be readily available anymore during a drought (or their price might increase).

Is the Mississippi River in a Drought Right Now?

Mississippi river delta

The Mississippi River is currently experiencing drought and slowly running out of water.

©EyeTravel/Shutterstock.com

Yes, the Mississippi River is currently experiencing drought and slowly running out of water. Some parts of the river see record-low water levels, worrying the 20 million people that have drinking water thanks to the Mississippi.

The overall drought status of the entire United States has a negative effect on the Mississippi River. In some areas, the river’s water levels are at their lowest over a 30-year period. At the same time, photographers now have the chance to take close-up shots of dried-up riverbed parts of the river – the earth is now literally cracked in places where once the river would flow.

Roughly 80% of the country is currently abnormally dry, and some areas that are exceptionally dry host basins that flow into the Mississippi. There are also the basins that flow into the river that must be considered. These also turn dry, causing the historical drought we’re now witnessing.

How Are the States That the River Runs Through Doing?

The Mississippi River runs through ten states – let’s look at their drought status.

  • Minnesota – 48% of the state is experiencing moderate drought, while approximately 16% is severely dry and 5% extremely dry;
  • Wisconsin – 11.61% of the state is experiencing moderate drought, while approximately 2% is severely dry;
  • Iowa – 73% of the state is experiencing moderate drought, while approximately 30% is severely dry, 12% is extremely dry, and 0.57% exceptionally dry;
  • Illinois – 36% of the state is experiencing moderate drought, while approximately 7% is severely dry and 1.2% extremely dry;
  • Missouri – 51% of the state is experiencing moderate drought, while approximately 17% is severely dry and 3% is extremely dry;
  • Kentucky – 88% of the state is experiencing moderate drought, while approximately 44% is severely dry;
  • Tennessee – 86% of the state is experiencing moderate drought, while approximately 5% is severely dry;
  • Arkansas – 88% of the state is experiencing moderate drought, while approximately 40% is severely dry;
  • Mississippi – 30% of the state is experiencing moderate drought, while approximately 3% is severely dry;
  • Louisiana – 67.82% of the state is experiencing moderate drought, while approximately 6.70% is severely dry.

The ten states the Mississippi River runs through are stable compared to some other U.S. states. Kansas, for example, is 35% covered in exceptional drought, with several counties experiencing 100% levels of D4 drought.

However, the fact that the river is going through an actual historic drought must be addressed. While lack of rain has led to lower water levels in the past, this is the worst the river is experiencing in the past couple of years, according to Andrew Joyner (state of Tennessee climatologist).

What Is the Main Drought Reason Throughout The US?

Utah Lake

The main drought reason throughout the United States is believed to be global warming.

©Bella Bender/Shutterstock.com

The main drought reason throughout the United States is believed to be global warming, essentially climate change effects that are now more noticeable than ever. California’s drought, for example, with 41% of its surface being extremely dry, is attributed to the rising temperatures caused by climate change.

Currently, California is going through its driest 22-year period in the last 1,200 years.

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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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