It has rained--a lot--throughout most of the Mississippi River basin this spring. In St. Paul, the Mississippi was in flood stage for 42 days, a record. At the other end of the river, in Louisiana, the Morganza Spillway will be opened to drain excessive floodwaters for only the third time ever. The river is high in New Orleans, causing concerns about what might happen if a tropical storm comes soon.
The title of this post comes from what a former colleague said and he and I dashed through a summer thunderstorm some years ago. The downpour was, indeed, “future Mississippi River,” as was the nearly 2 inches of rain that fell in the Twin Cities on Memorial Day. Coincidentally, a two inch rainfall is what most of our regional stormwater systems are designed to handle. More than that, which happened in 2014 and 2016, and we are treated to the spectacle of rushing water bursting through manhole covers in the streets.
Twin Cities flooding from record-setting Memorial Day rain, via WCCO.
There is, of course, a connection between the “mundane water” that flows through our neighborhoods after a rain and “monumental waters” like the Mississippi River and Minnesota’s much-loved lakes. If we pay attention only to the monumental waters, and don’t manage the numberless tributaries of those waters, we aren’t doing a very good job managing our relationship to water.
After all, each roof in the Twin Cities (and elsewhere in the basin) is a “headwaters” of the Mississippi, right? How well do you manage your tributary stream?