Geography Awareness of the Mississippi River

From a student in Intro to GIS

Though Geography Awareness Week 2008 has officially passed, it is never too late to promote awareness for the Mississippi River System, especially when GIS can play a vital role in its maintenance and management.
The Mississippi River System is more complex and expansive than most people realize. Water at the port of New Orleans could come from as far north as Minnesota, as far west as Montana, and as far east as Western Pennsylvania. When in perfect working order, it services the vast majority of American land, and is vital to its economy and trade.

GIS can help monitor the river system due to its unpredictability. The Mississippi rarely maintains a consistent path: in fact, if left to its own devices, it would most likely miss New Orleans and render the city worthless as a port. While levees help keep New Orleans’ economy fertile by steering it through the Big Easy (and give the locals a poor excuse for topography), they tend to exacerbate area flooding because of the artificially high water levels created by the man-made hills. Thus, GIS can work on the Mississippi by checking its current course (i.e., making sure that its path is not overly anomalous) and by verifying the safety of its water levels. Of course, it could also check if it is too wide, for if it is, it would probably signify a flood or a levee breach.

In GEOG 201, we have already seen GIS at work in the Mississippi River System: one of our assignments looked at mines in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish. It is our duty to make sure our use of GIS is not merely a pedagogical exercise, but a way to educate students of world problems by using today’s industry standard tools and software.

Works Cited
Drainage. 5 Jan. 2006. Teaching with Hurricane Katrina: The Physiography, Climate, Storm and Impact. 5 Jan. 2006. Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College, Montana State University. 25 Nov. 2008 .

Steif, Colin. “The Jefferson-Mississippi-Missouri River System.” 17 Nov. 2008. The New York Times Company. 25 Nov. 2008 .

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