Importance of the Mississippi River Basin for investigating agricultural–chemical contamination of the hydrologic cycle

Science of the Total Environment



This special issue is devoted to recent and ongoing research relating to the fate and transport of agricultural chemicals in the Mississippi River Basin by the US Geological Survey Toxic Substances Hydrology (Toxics) Program. The Mississippi River Basin drains approximately 3 200 000 km2 representing 41% of the United States. This is the largest river in the United States and the third largest in the world. The Mississippi River discharges an average of 19 920 m3/s of water into the Gulf of Mexico. The river is an extensively used resource, supplying drinking water to 70 cities in the United States.

The Mississippi River Basin has undergone dramatic land use and cultural changes over the last 150 years. Approximately 70 million people now live within the basin, representing approximately 27% of the nation's population. This basin has also become one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world in terms of both crops and livestock grown. Approximately 65% of the nation's harvested cropland is grown in this basin, with more than 100 000 metric tons (t) of pesticides and approximately 6 500 000 t of commercial nitrogen fertilizers applied to cropland within the basin annually. The drainage of more than 20 000 000 ha within the basin has been enhanced by means of tile lines and ditches to lower the water table to make the cropland more productive. While removing the water from the soil as intended, this practice also leads to more rapid transport of contaminants to the river, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore, the extensive chemical use in the Mississippi River Basin has led to the transport of pesticides and nitrate into the region’s streams, aquifers, and atmosphere. An estimated 1 000 000 t of nitrate-N is transported from the Mississippi River Basin into the Gulf of Mexico annually. The peak annual load of herbicides to the Gulf of Mexico has been documented at 1920 t. The fundamental goal of the papers presented in this volume is to provide a scientific basis for decisions necessary to promote sound and efficient agricultural practices and protect the quality of the nation's water resources.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Importance of the Mississippi River Basin for investigating agricultural–chemical contamination of the hydrologic cycle
Series title Science of the Total Environment
DOI 10.1016/S0048-9697(99)00530-6
Volume 248
Issue 2-3
Year Published 2000
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Iowa Water Science Center, Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 2 p.
First page 71
Last page 72
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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