Natural infrastructure, or green infrastructure refers to natural river system elements like wetlands, marshes, swamps, and floodplains. The ground in these areas resembles a spongy texture, that allows water to be absorbed. Natural infrastructures are typically managed to ensure biodiversity, ensure quality water, and floodwater retention. Building levees, dams, homes, and businesses in a floodplain modifies the River in various ways, which can be costly due to damage the river can cause. The Mississippi River is in critical need for more room along its banks to expand, and flow naturally back into the river, especially during high water events.

The multiple benefits of natural infrastructure:

  • Reduces downstream flooding, by storing water and slowly releasing water back into the river
  • Supports habitat for a range of wildlife
  • Filters out excessive nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus from polluting our water
  • Provides recreation such as fishing, birdwatching, or simply an aesthetic view
  • Reduces costs due to flood damage of homes/businesses
  • Distributes sediment from the river
  • Improves soil health
  • Increases water supply by replenishing groundwater
  • Reduces water treatment costs by filtering out chemicals

By implementing natural infrastructure design along the Mississippi River, we can reduce several issues the River is battling. Natural infrastructure provides incredible ecosystems for water fowl, amphibians, reptiles, and fish, while also creating recreation in many forms to citizens. Allowing the river room to breathe will also alleviate pressure to levees, dams, and bridges along the Mississippi River. 1Mississippi is dedicated to expanding the use of natural infrastructure along the river. We currently have an online petition for citizens to sign in order to help raise awareness about the multiple benefits natural infrastructure provides!

Sources:  

https://www.iisd.org/blog/multiple-benefits-natural-infrastructure

http://www.cnt.org/sites/default/files/publications/CNT_Value-of-Green-Infrastructure.pdf