Historically Low Mississippi River Water Levels Mean More Barge Congestion

Last year’s historic U.S. drought was devastating to America’s farms.  It also brought down the water levels in America’s river, which has created probably for river-based trade.

Currently, the EIA is forecast levels to rise in the near-term, but then fall back to its lows.  And that could mean more trouble for trade.

From the EIA:

As a result of last year’s drought, stretches of the Upper Mississippi River have approached record lows. These low water levels have jeopardized commercial barge traffic shipping agricultural and energy commodities on the river. Recent rock blasting and dredging by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and rainfall in the near-term forecast are expected to provide some relief. Key energy commodities transported via Mississippi River barges are coal and, increasingly, crude oil and distillate fuel oil.

Large stretches of the Upper Mississippi have seen low water levels, although for the most part the Lower Mississippi River Basin (after the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, near the Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky borders) has remained at normal water levels. When levels start to drop below certain points, barge traffic is slowed because of congestion in the narrower portion of the river that remains navigable.

Here’s a chart from the EIA showing current levels and projected levels:

water levels

[credit provider=”EIA” url=”http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=9771″]