The Mississippi River provides drinking water for more than 18 million people. It is an important cultural, recreational, economic, and wildlife resource.
Several factors impede the health of the Mississippi River. Inadequate government oversight, lack of coordination among non-profit organizations, and lack of federal protection from agricultural runoff makes restoring the river very difficult. Agricultural runoff is the primary source of excess sediments and nutrients in the Mississippi River. Fertilizers accumulating in the Gulf of Mexico allow plants to grow to excess, starving the waters of oxygen and killing fish and wildlife. Each summer, this creates a “Dead Zone” roughly the size of Massachusetts in the Gulf.
In 2005, ELPC joined the Mississippi River Water Quality Collaborative, a diverse group of more than 20 regional and national non-profit organizations devoted to improving the health of our nation’s largest river. The Collaborative provides a special opportunity for member organizations to build off each other’s strengths. Working as a unified group with shared goals will fill knowledge gaps and extend the resources of the various groups beyond traditional boundaries.
ELPC’s work within the Collaborative includes:
- Advancing Anti-Degradation Standards – The federal Clean Water Act’s anti-degradation requirements are designed to keep clean waters clean and improve public participation in decisions involving water quality. Historically, most states have not implemented this part of the federal statute very well or have ignored it completely, but ELPC has established itself as a national leader and thinker on this set of key policies through our work championing strong anti-degradation standards throughout the region for many years.
- Promoting Better Water Quality Standards – ELPC is working to improve, upgrade and add new use designations and water quality criteria that better control nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, as well as other water pollutants.
- Implementing and Enforcing Existing Standards – ELPC reviews water pollution permits issued by state and federal agencies to evaluate whether permits reflect current law. When permits are found to be deficient, ELPC works with local allies, environmental organizations, community groups, and the polluters themselves to reach reasonable solutions that protect the environment and abide by federal clean water laws.