The Mighty Mississippi to Run Dry?
August 7, 2012
What is the single greatest reason America is so wealthy? According to the analysts at Stratfor, it is because of a river.
They have to be joking, right?
What about America’s vast gold resources? What about its mountains of coal? America is the world’s third-largest oil producer—surely that is why. Then there is America’s temperate climate and fertile soils that traditionally make it the world’s breadbasket. And don’t forget America’s human capital, Yankee ingenuity, and Protestant work ethic. Surely these factors are cumulatively more important than a river.
Not according to one of America’s premier think tanks. Many countries have large natural resources and hospitable climates, but don’t even come close to having America’s wealth. What sets America apart from the rest of the world is the Mississippi River basin. It is what makes exploiting America’s resources economically possible.
But now, due to the worst drought since the 1950s, the Mississippi may be about to go dry.
In Memphis and Vicksburg, the shrinking river is obvious: slower river, exposed river banks, and more sandbars. The water is down more than 13 and 20 feet in each city respectively. The Mississippi on average is about 13 feet below normal—and a whopping 55 feet below where it was at this time last year. On some stretches, the water level is perilously low. On July 17 it was reported that a 100-mile stretch of the Platte River in Omaha, Nebraska, had dried up.