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The Mississippi River Basin spans nearly half of the continental United States. Millions of people rely on the river system for drinking water, commerce and recreation. It’s a major economic driver and an important ecological habitat for countless species. But the basin is changing.

For hundreds of years, humans have managed their relationship with the great river — from indigenous communities relocating as the river changed course, to the Army Corps’ aggressive engineering of the river to prevent flooding over the past 100 years. Those levees and floodwalls have protected millions of people and billions of dollars worth of property. 

Now the basin faces new challenges — climate change is bringing more extreme weather patterns, with the river and its tributaries frequently swinging between flooding and drought, straining infrastructure and flooding communities. Extreme heat and smoke-filled skies are threatening public health. Key species are being affected by these extremes, threatening ecological collapse.

It’s a crucial moment for the watershed. Reporters with the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk, a regional collaborative, are telling the story — from low water impacts on shipping, extreme weather impacting farmers, engineering for climate change, and planting more climate-resilient crops. We are dedicated to illustrating how climate change is changing the basin, and how humans and other species are adapting to the new normal. 

read the stories in this series