Mississippi River Drought Officially Hits Record Lows Sparking Serious Supply Chain Concerns

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: Willard

The Mississippi River recently hit a new record low for its water levels, creating several problems that could impact the supply chain. The National Weather Service Memphis Office recently released projections that the river will drop to 11.1 feet below sea level.

This will be a record low and potentially create significant problems for the shipping industry. The industry uses the waterway heavily for trade.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly transportation report concluded that southbound shipments dropped by more than 20% due to challenges with navigating the river’s terrain.

The river has dropped so low that Charles Peek posted a clip showing people walking across the dried riverbed. Peek also said people have driven across areas that would typically remain underwater.

The USDA has also said that this will have consequences on shipments of produce. People will have a harder time finding items such as corn, soybeans, and wheat as well as oil.

“While the public and media generally understand that our economy depends upon viable international ocean shipping, trucking, and rail transportation, the essential role of our inland waterways is often overlooked,” said Peter Friedman. He is the executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition.

He added, “Our members depend upon adequate water levels in the Mississippi River system, to reach domestic and international export markets. The low water disruption of the supply chain will be felt not only by our U.S. producers of food, farm, and fiber but also by U.S. and international consumers as well.”

Mississippi River drought affects water access in California

Moroever, retail has also seen its fair share of problems due to this supply chain crisis that began late last year and continued in 2022. The lack of supply and heavily-trafficked ports have spiked inflation.

The hot, arid summer of this year has also led to a lack of rain, meaning the river lacks the necessary water to replenish itself. In addition, the drought has hit water supplies across the nation, even causing wells in California to dry up.

Over 1,200 wells in the state have gone bone dry, an increase of 50% over the previous year. While the river’s segment in Memphis has suffered the lowest water levels, there are also drought issues in other places. Locations such as Cairo, Illinois, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana are feeling the effects of the drought.

While low water levels are expected at this time of year, current levels have exceeded previous levels. The current water levels have officially beat out the 10.7 feet below sea level recorded in Memphis in July 1988. Experts also warn that the levels will continue to drop over the next few weeks.

The Platte River and the Missouri River, which feed into the Mississippi River, have also endured severe drought.