Mississippi Water Resources Inventory & Projections for Economic Development

Author(s): Linhoss, A.; Balwebber, J.; Pote, J.

Mississippi’s water resources are an important part of the state’s economy, environment, and quality of life. Water is an essential commodity and the importance of water to Mississippi’s economy is clear given the number of economic sectors that rely on the resource (e.g. agriculture, industry, energy, and public supply). However, the economic value of water is in many ways immeasurable because (1) it provides life whose economic value is incalculable, (2) there many external factors that are often not accounted for in the market value of water (e.g. pollution and environmental impacts), (3) users often self-supply and do not pay a market value for the resource, and (4) water is a complex resource whose value depends on volume, timing, reliability, and quality. The objective of this research is to assess the value of Mississippi’s water resources within an integrative environmental and economic development framework. Mississippi is blessed with rich water resources. The state has the second highest rate of annual rainfall in the continental U.S. and major ground water aquifers underlie 83% of the state. River flow through Mississippi is dominated by the Mississippi River which discharges an average of 723,000 cubic feet per second. When combined, the rest of the rivers in Mississippi discharge approximately 60,000 cubic feet per second, which is only 7% of the flow in the Mississippi River. Eight dams in the state (0.2%) have the primary purpose of water supply and Mississippi has the least number of reservoirs with the purpose of water supply, relative to neighboring states. Mississippi’s water use is dominated by groundwater and agriculture. 32% of Mississippi’s water withdrawal permits are from surface water and the remaining 68% are from ground water. Irrigation for agriculture is the primary groundwater beneficial use category and industry is the primary surface water beneficial use category. Mississippi’s high dependence on groundwater runs opposite the trend for most of the comparison states and Mississippi withdraws the least amount of groundwater relative to neighboring states. As Mississippi moves forward through economic and community development it is important to recognize the environmental and economic values of water. This research provides a broad perspective for assessing water use in Mississippi as well as understanding the vulnerable aspects of our water resources.

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