Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Climate Change Bill Comes Due

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 October.

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.

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