In most years, the water height of the Mississippi River in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has dropped by the end of June. But 2019 wasn’t like other years. The waters stayed above flood levels for more than 210 days, longer than any flood in recorded history. The long-lasting flood kept farmers from harvesting food, disrupted barge traffic and impacted the fisheries harvests.
Increasingly, changing climate and land use practices are bringing extended periods of high water to the lower Mississippi River, which has been identified as a water-stressed basin by CEO Water Mandate’s Water Resource Coalition (WRC), of which Dow is a founding member. Using the platform of the WRC, Dow, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and other collaborators, is looking for on-the-ground opportunities to invest in nature-based solutions that will help mitigate the negative impact of flooding and advance sustainable watershed management in the Mississippi River Watershed.
Currently, Dow is working with TNC, Ecolab, the Caterpillar Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and other partners to restore more than 10,000 wetland acres in the lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Dow’s contribution focuses on the Loch Leven project, which seeks to enhance 4,500 acres of bottomland hardwood-forested wetlands, located 70 miles upriver from our Plaquemine site in Louisiana.
“We believe that we can make a bigger impact by working together. Through the WRC, Dow and its decade-long collaborator, TNC, are among like-minded companies and NGOs looking to bring watershed stakeholders together to collaborate to sustainably manage scarce freshwater that is so vital to life on this planet,” said Andre Argenton, vice president, Environment, Health and Safety, and chief sustainability officer for Dow.
The project will install water control structures to flood the interior of Loch Leven, a batture island, and reconnect the tract to the Mississippi River. This will restore hydrology to the wetlands, improve water quality through sediment and nutrient reduction, and enhance the lands for wildlife habitat – contributing to the social and economic development of local communities. The project also will provide 23.4 billion gallons of flood storage capacity, which will be particularly important for building resilience to stronger storms in the future.
Reconnecting floodplains gives rivers room to shift and grow. A wider floodplain allows a river to store more water and flow more slowly. TNC found that conserving undeveloped lands in floodplains is also a cost-effective solution, where every dollar invested returns at least $5 in savings from avoided flood damages.
The Loch Leven project also uses the Ecosystem Services Identification & Inventory Tool (ESII), a tool developed with TNC as part of Dow’s work to value nature. ESII calculates the key ecosystem service benefits of the wetlands, including flooding protection, water quality improvements and carbon sequestration. The ESII tool was developed with the TNC as part of a decade-long collaboration with Dow to value nature.
Dow’s work with watershed restoration also aligns with Dow’s 2025 Leading the Blueprint Sustainability Goal, through which the company seeks to create a community of practice around watershed stewardship efforts and inspire watershed stakeholders to forge collaborations globally to sustainably manage scarce freshwater.
“Water is central to our manufacturing process, and safe, accessible water is also essential to the health of the communities in which we operate, critical to ecosystems and integral to economic growth,” Argenton said. “We came to the realization that collaborating in new and meaningful ways with the stakeholders in our watersheds is essential to achieving the UN Sustainability Development Goal 6 for clean water.”