Water Quality

fisherwomanOver 18 million people depend on the Mississippi River for drinking water. According to the Clean Water Act, America’s waters are supposed to be “fishable and swimmable,” but those activities are simply unsafe in about half of the streams and rivers in the Mississippi River watershed.


Aging sewage systems, rapid growth of suburban development and lost wetlands all contribute to the failed capture of pollutants before they reach the River. Many cities along the River have combined sewer systems that treat both sanitary sewage and storm water. Heavy rains can flood these systems, flushing raw sewage, bacteria and other pathogens directly into the River, along with debris, oil and grease from city streets, road salt and other pollutants. The costs of cleaning up excessively polluted water are usually incurred by local communities and taxpayers. Communities depend on the Mississippi River for drinking water treat and purify the water for human uses, but nothing is done for the fish and wildlife that depend on the River.

What is the solution? 

The first step is to become River Citizen, that way the campaign can keep you up to date on current issues and opportunities for collective action. Individuals can safeguard the River, the people and wildlife that depend upon its waters, by using less fertilizer on our lawns, plant native grasses and support sustainable agriculture practices.

The Friends for the Mississippi River has excellent hands on information on how to implement gardening and landscaping practices that contribute to good water quality.

River Citizens can also push for the  enforcement of  Clean Water Act laws that reduce fertilizer and pesticides that pollute the River. Make use of your vote and voice to encourage elected officials to support updating water infrastructure.

For more information on the Clean Water Act, visit the US EPA Laws and Regulations. For more information on water quality in the Mississippi River, download a free PDF from the National Academies National Research Council.

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