It's reported that if the steady decline in Mississippi water levels continues for just one more month, the river will be closed to most navigation. The Mississippi carries some 60% of America's agricultural exports and a great many other commodities also.
An official closure is unlikely, but the river could become
too shallow next month for most commercial vessels to transit a
busy section from St. Louis to Cairo, Illinois.
Water levels on that stretch are forecast to drop to nine
feet or less by early December as drought conservation measures
will reduce the flow of water from the Missouri River and its
reservoir system into the Mississippi.
And the impacts of America's ongoing drought are being felt across the Heartland.
In Decatur, Illinois, agribusiness giant Archers Daniels Midland is evaluating whether water scarcity may cause it to pack up and leave.
At the height of this year's drought, decision-makers at the
agribusiness giant Archers Daniels Midland kept an uneasy eye on the
reservoir down the hill from their headquarters.
At one point, the water level fell to within 2
inches of the point where the company was in danger of being told for
the first time ever that it couldn't draw as much as it wanted. The
company uses millions of gallons of water a day to turn corn and
soybeans into everything from ethanol and cattle feed to cocoa and a
sweetener used in soft drinks and many other foods.
Rain eventually lifted Lake Decatur's level again.
But the close call left ADM convinced that, like many Midwestern
companies and the towns where they operate, it could no longer take an
unrestricted water supply for granted, especially if drought becomes a
more regular occurrence due to climate change or competition ramps up
among water users.
...With half of Minnesota, the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," still in deep
drought, the Department of Natural Resources told 50 water users,
including several major ones, to stop drawing from rivers and streams in
They included a paper plant owned by Sappi North
America and a ceiling panel factory owned by USG Corp. The companies
declined to comment, but DNR officials said they expressed concern about
the future of their businesses.