Flooding Along the Mississippi River: The Impact on the Gulf of Mexico Essay

Flooding Along the Mississippi River: The Impact on the Gulf of Mexico Essay

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This spring, record breaking floodwaters along the Mississippi River caused massive damage in nine states, totaling over $25 billion dollars in damage (Watts, 2011). In most areas the floodwaters have receded, however there is concern that even a little rain could cause more flooding due to the already saturated land. As cities and towns are beginning the restoration process, one thing caused by the flooding waters cannot be restored. Pollutants’ such as nitrogen from fertilizer, due to this area being primarily composed of farming land, is making its way toward the Gulf of Mexico. Every year pollutants traveling in the Mississippi River enter the Gulf and contribute to the Coastal Dead Zone; however, this year the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to be the largest on record (University of Michigan, 2011; NOAA, 2011).
With record breaking flood levels, floodplains are unable to properly filter pollutants, like fertilizer, from entering into streams and rivers. Along the Mississippi River most of the land is farmland, and because there are more fields in this watershed area, excess fertilizer loaded with nitrogen makes its way into rivers and streams. This happens when water travels through the watershed areas and gathers in a floodplain. When this area is flooded, the water comes up on shore, and when the waters recede, the pollutants and sediment from soil erosion flow into the river. Once the nitrogen from the fertilizer enters the river, it stimulates plant growth. When there is too much plant growth, a river can be a very unhealthy place. Plants that grow and thrive, like algae, are usually in the upper levels of the river. Because an increase in algae growth occurs with the increase of nitrogen levels, it chang...

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University of Michigan (2011, June 14). Record Gulf of Mexico 'dead zone' predicted due to Mississippi River flooding. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com-/releases/2011/06/110615091057.htm.
University of Virginia (2008, May 18). Excessive reactive nitrogen in environment alarms environmental scientists. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2008/05/080515145419.htm.
Watts, A. (2011, July 6). Widespread flood threat to continue through summer. NOAA-NWS. Retrieved from http://www.worldweatherpost.com/2011/07/06/noaa-%E2%80%93-nws- on-continuing-midwest-flood-risks/.
World Resources Institute. (2011, January 20). New web-based map tracks marine “dead zones” worldwide. Retrieved from http://www.wri.org/press/2011/01/new-web-based-map- tracks-marine-dead-zones-worldwide.

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