Last week’s blog took a look at nutrient pollution, eutrophication, and dead zones in the US and elsewhere. The Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico are both experiencing larger-than-usual dead zones, although the problem in both places—as well as in other coastal areas—is ongoing.
A big contributor of nutrients is runoff from agricultural lands. And although we’ve worked for centuries to build levees and contain the river, we’ve also recognized the consequences of containing it. The high water levels, floods, and levee breaches—accidental and deliberate—along the Mississippi in recent months captured public attention, generated a certain amount of outrage, and may eventually have an effect on the policies and practices used to manage the river and its floodplains.
This article from The Nature Conservancy, for instance, describes in very basic terms what’s causing the problems and what’s being done (in this case, the organization is working to restore about a million acres of the Mississippi River’s floodplains). Reconnecting the river and its tributaries with their floodplains will help filter out some of the nutrients that are now reaching the Gulf, as well as mitigating flood-related problems.
How effective do you think articles like this one are in educating casual observers—those whose jobs are not bound up with the management of the river and whose homes and livelihoods are not in immediate danger from it? And what role do you see private projects like this one, or public-private partnerships, ultimately playing in the overall river management effort?