Current Status of Interstate Water Supply Diversion from the Lower Mississippi River

Thomas P. Van Biersel, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, 617 N 3rd St, Baton Rouge, LA 70802, Baton Rouge, LA, thomas.vanbiersel@la.gov

The Mississippi River is the fifth largest river in the world by volume. The State of Texas is the 12th largest economy in the world, and has experienced the greatest population increase of any state of the Union in the past 10 years. It has been recently forecasted that the population of Texas, currently 26.6 million (2014), will swell to 54.4 million by 2050.
After the droughts of the 1950s and 1960s, the Texas Water Development Board released the 1968 “Texas Water Plan,” which addresses short term, and projected long term, water demands. To compensate for predicted shortfalls in the existing resources, the Texas Water Development Board proposed a system of canals to distribute water from the wetter areas of east Texas to the drier western portion of the state. The diversion of excess Mississippi River water across Louisiana into the proposed canal network was also evaluated. The proposed project was reviewed at the Federal level, and deemed not economical at the time.

The record-breaking Mississippi River flood of 2011 coincided with a record-breaking drought across eastern Louisiana and the whole of Texas. These two events rekindled the interest of the public, and that of investors, to reevaluate the feasibility of interstate transfer of Mississippi River water west.

In the last two years, the Louisiana DNR has been approached by private parties interested in transferring water from the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers to east Texas and to the metropolitan areas of Houston and Dallas. More recently, a private venture has submitted an application to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission to transfer water from the Mississippi River through southern Arkansas, and into East Texas.

Keywords: Mississippi River, diversion, Texas, Arkansas

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