Mississippi River Mayors for Clean Water

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Mississippi River in St. Louis, MO | American Rivers

I can remember visiting my grandmother in Memphis and going to Mud Island on the Mississippi River to wade through the concrete, scaled model of the Mississippi River Basin, seeing how all of the different tributaries and states connected. An impressive model given that the river drains 40% of the country – and suffers from correspondingly big pollution problems.

Last week Mayors from up and down the Mississippi River got together in St. Louis to talk about how to make the River healthier for all of the communities that depend on it.  At the first meeting of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, 41 Mayors from communities including Memphis, Tennessee, St. Cloud, Minnesota, and Davenport, Iowa started working together to address river issues such as clean drinking water and flooding.

As part of the gathering, I had the chance to discuss the opportunities to use green infrastructure, such as rain gardens, green roofs, and permeable pavement, in cities and towns as a way to cost-effectively reduce water pollution and flooding while also improving energy efficiency and green space.

Already, some river cities are taking this to heart. St. Louis is using green infrastructure as part of its plan to reduce combined sewer overflows and new grant for La Crosse, Wisconsin will help integrate green infrastructure into their flood planning. A great example is from the Twin Cities where the local watershed district saved $1 million by using green infrastructure instead of a more traditional flood control plan to reduce flooding and clean up Lake Como in St. Paul.

There are many more opportunities to use green infrastructure in the Mississippi River Basin and across the country as part of a sustainable strategy to manage water and improve the livability of our communities. American Rivers will continue this dialogue as part of an upcoming White House Conference on Green Infrastructure to examine how to continue making these approaches even more common as we work towards healthier rivers.