How Much Water Does The Mississippi River Move

The Mississippi River: A Massive Waterway

The Mississippi River is one of the world’s most powerful and influential waterways. Spanning more than 2,300 miles on its longest course, the Mississippi has a winding way through 10 states of the US. Flowing downstream, it is estimated to move 594 million acre-feet of water each year. This makes it the sixth biggest river in the world in terms of the amount of water it carries. Some of the cities along its banks, such as New Orleans and Minneapolis-St. Paul, grew to become population centers thanks to its importance as a major transportation corridor.

To understand the sheer magnitude of the amount of water the Mississippi River can move, it is helpful to look at the figures in different ways. To put this in perspective, a single acre-foot of water is enough to cover an acre of land (roughly the size of a football field) with one foot of water. In other words, the Mississippi moves the equivalent of 148,000 football fields of water every year, or about ten Amazon Basins.

As a powerful force of nature, the Mississippi River has shaped the environment around it significantly. Large-scale flood control projects, such as dams and levees, have been constructed to help protect agricultural and industrial areas from excessive flooding caused by the river. The US Army Corps of Engineers has utilized a variety of techniques over the years to help manage the river’s flow, including rerouting part of the river to bypass critical areas. The river is also an important habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife, and its tributaries provide essential spawning grounds for many species.

The influence of the Mississippi’s current can be seen in the surrounding regions, as it carries sediment and pollutants downstream. Many of the pollutants that enter the river via tributaries are eventually deposited in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to massive “dead zones” in the ocean. Water quality is also affected by the presence of agricultural and industrial runoff, leading to nutrient overloads and algal blooms. The water hyacinth, a particularly robust invasive species, was introduced to the river in the late 19th century and has since spread across the entire basin, resulting in decreased fish populations and biodiversity.

Humans and the Mississippi

Of course, humans have had an impact on the river as well. The introduction of invasive species, along with pollution from industrial activities, has posed a serious threat to native species. The construction of the many dams along the Mississippi is also a source of controversy, as the reservoirs created by these dams can interfere with the river’s natural flow, resulting in changes to the natural habitats that many species rely on for survival. As a result, there has been a push for improved water management policies designed to reduce the negative impacts of human activities on the river.

The navigation and hydropower potential of the Mississippi has been tapped as well, with several large-scale projects taking place in recent years. The two most notable of these are the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi River Commission and the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Inland Waterway System, which provide essential resources and services for managing the river’s flows. The Commission and the Waterway System both play important roles in helping to ensure that the river is managed responsibly.

Impacts of Climate Change

Climate change has had significant impacts on the Mississippi River as well, leading to increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events. This is especially true during springtime, when the melting of ice and snow in the northern parts of the river’s basin leads to increased river flows and flood risks. In some cases, this can result in larger-than-normal flooding events, leading to serious economic and environmental consequences. In addition, changing temperatures, precipitation patterns, and evapotranspiration have all had impacts on the amount of water the Mississippi River can carry, leading to reduced water levels in certain parts of the basin.

In response to these changes, the US Army Corps of Engineers has implemented a number of measures designed to protect against flooding and to maintain the river’s water quality. These measures include flood mitigation projects, such as levees and dams, as well as better water management practices, such as improved land use practices in the surrounding areas. In addition, the US Army Corps of Engineers has worked with local stakeholders to develop a number of collaborative initiatives, such as the Comprehensive Mississippi River Management Plan, that aim to protect the river and its tributaries.

Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts have been implemented in the Mississippi River Basin in recent years as well. The Mississippi River Campaign, for example, is a joint effort between the US Army Corps of Engineers and local stakeholders aimed at restoring and preserving the river’s ecosystem. This program focuses on improving water quality, restoring native species and habitats, and reducing pollution. The goal is to protect and restore the river for the benefit of all who depend on it.

In addition, the Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the river. Through education, advocacy, and direct action, the organization works to ensure that the Mississippi River Basin remains healthy and vibrant. FMR works with local stakeholders to understand the unique issues that affect each region along the river, and works to empower local communities to protect and preserve the river.

Adapting to Change

As the impacts of climate change worsen and more extreme weather events occur, communities along the Mississippi River will need to continue to adapt. Working with the US Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies, local communities can develop plans and strategies to prepare for and respond to changes in the river’s water levels and flows. In addition, more proactive measures, such as watershed conservation and restoration, can help to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the river.

A comprehensive strategy for the Mississippi River Basin is also needed. This should include conservation efforts that focus on protecting and restoring key habitats and species, as well as better water management practices that help ensure that the river’s flows remain healthy. In addition, local communities should incorporate climate resilience into their planning processes, such as developing strategies to help protect vulnerable areas from flooding and other risks.

Conservation for The Future

The importance of conserving and protecting the Mississippi River is clear. Not only is it essential for providing clean water and acting as a transportation corridor, but it is also a vital ecosystem, home to hundreds of species of plants and animals. For this reason, it is essential to continue to work towards preserving this vital resource and the communities that depend on it. Through strategic conservation efforts and better water management practices, we can ensure that the Mississippi River remains healthy and vibrant for generations to come.

The Economic Impact

The Mississippi River is an economically important resource for both the United States and the world. As a major transportation corridor, the river supports trade and commerce throughout the region, allowing goods and materials to be moved more efficiently. In addition, it provides essential materials and resources, such as water, sand, and gravel, to a variety of industries. The river has also been crucial in providing hydropower and irrigation to many agricultural operations. For these reasons, it is essential to continue to work towards preserving and protecting this important resource.


The Mississippi River is a massive and powerful force of nature, and its importance to the entire United States cannot be overstated. Its breadth and scope touch virtually every aspect of life, from transportation and commerce to agriculture and conservation. Preservation of this important natural resource is essential for not only the United States, but for the world as a whole. With proper planning and management, the Mississippi River can continue to provide a wealth of resources and economic benefits for generations to come.

Raymond Strasser is a passion-driven writer and researcher, dedicated to educating readers on the topic of world rivers. With a background in Geography and Environmental Studies, Raymond provides insightful pieces which explore the impact and importance that rivers have around the world.

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