The Mississippi Freshwater Assessment: A New Tool for Supporting Decision Making for Mississippi’s Freshwater Resources

Author(s): Piazza, B.

TNC is in the early phases a project to compile, analyze, and present scientific information to improve conservation and protection of Mississippi’s freshwater resources. This comprehensive statewide freshwater assessment is a scientifically sound evaluation of watershed and landscape integrity (i.e., land use and cover, floodplain connectivity, channelization), water quality, surface flow, groundwater trends, and biological health (i.e., trends in species diversity indicators,) of all of the state’s watersheds. The data resource and analysis tool will provide a powerful, online mapper with decision-support capability to facilitate the development of freshwater science and conservation objectives and prioritize freshwater conservation statewide. It will be freely available and useful for any stakeholder, including policy- and decision-makers, environmental resource managers, local watershed conservation groups, and the general public, and will allow both technical and lay audiences to evaluate the effects of current and future water use and watershed development proposals. This assessment will provide the capability to draw attention to the status of Mississippi’s watersheds, develop agency, NGO, and industry partnerships, and provide quickly accessible facts and figures to support science-based and sound policy outcomes about water. This presentation will describe the framework, components, and capabilities of the assessment system, and will investigate an example of a similar system built for Louisiana. When complete, our Mississippi Freshwater Assessment will integrate with Louisiana’s system as well as TNC’s Gulf of Mexico Resilience decision support tool (maps.coastalresilience.org) to move toward the ultimate goal of providing a common approach and framework for supporting decision making and management of freshwater and coastal resources across the northern Gulf of Mexico.

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