As Drought Drops Water Level in the Mississippi, Shipwrecks Surface and Worries Rise
After years of drought-driven water shortages and increasingly serious drought conditions, Mississippi and Louisiana will face more severe water shortages this fall and winter. In Louisiana, the state can expect to see record-setting high temperatures this November. For Mississippi, the state’s water supply will continue to be threatened as drought conditions continue through most of the winter, leading to increased water shortages and the potential for widespread rationing.
From October 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019, the U.S. Drought Monitor has seen an increase in the intensity of drought conditions across the Lower Mississippi River Basin across the western half of Mississippi (Figure 1). The southernmost region of the lower river basin, the Lower Mississippi River Basin (LMRB), is experiencing the most widespread drought conditions across the Lower Mississippi River Basin, with drought conditions persisting at levels not seen in at least a number of years (Figure 2). The latest Drought Monitor report for the LMRB shows that extreme drought conditions continue to persist across all 13 regions in the Lower Mississippi River Basin.
The drought conditions identified by the Drought Monitor are indicative of what some experts believe will occur over the coming months and years in the event that drought conditions continue to persist (Figure 3).
In the LMRB, the drought conditions reported are a combination of areas experiencing low precipitation and drought conditions, both of which will be exacerbated by expected dry conditions in southern portions of the LMRB (e.g., Stennis, St. Francis, and Madison counties). Over the last two years, the Lower Mississippi River Basin was in the process of entering another dry spell (see, e.g., National Hurricane Season Tracker, NOAA).
As the drought conditions persist this fall and winter, river levels will drop, causing water shortages in the LMRB. There are no indications that this is over yet, as the Drought Monitor has reported that the region has more than double its average amount of water since the beginning of the year, even after a number of significant releases by the Army Corps of Engineers during the first half of the year (see, e.g., U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2018 U.S. Drought Monitor Report, 2018 U.S. Drought Monitor Report, and J.