This will be the first of several posts about the importance of the Missouri River's water security. The Missouri is a transboundary river basin shared by the US and Canada, and is the longest river in North America. The Missouri is a tributary of the Mississippi River the river with the largest catchment in North America. These two rivers are the two major rivers (probably the most important rivers in the United States) that millions of people rely upon for farming, water supply, water sink, transportation, hydropower, and recreation.
If you have been following the news, mostly on social media, there is an issue of a petroleum pipeline designed to cross private and public land, taking oil from the oil fields of North Dakota's Badlands area out to the another access point in the midwest. The Dakota Access Pipeline is designed to pass under or through the Missouri River. It is also designated to pass through sovereign land of indigenous tribal people of the United States. This has created a situation that is being poorly covered by the press for some reason, but has gotten violent and also has gotten the attention of the President of the United States. I am going to try and better understand and describe why this pipeline is linked with water security concerns for stakeholders.
Pipelines are notorious for leaks.
This project threatens the Missouri River's water security. Water security is a term used in international context in academic and development circles to describe the general health of a water system for people and ecosystems - typically the term describes access, quality, and quantity for sustainable livelihoods and life. When a river's water security is called into question, the impact is far reaching to any communities living downstream. In this case, the protesting tribes state that this river is their water source. When it comes to water, there are few viable alternatives - and when surface water is contaminated with oil, ground water is not far behind. Everything is connected in the system.
Tribes across the United States, Canada, and South America have joined forces to protest the pipeline. The reasons are multiple - to include violation of sacred lands, violation of culturally important burial grounds and other spaces, and the crossing of the Missouri and threat that presents to water quality downstream users.
Over the course of the next weeks I will look into the water security of the Missouri under a pilot project in hopes of a larger study. I travel to North Dakota in October to speak with people on the ground. So far, I am going on my own and I hope to be able to collect photographs, interviews, and audio/visual recordings from the place where people have gathered. I am especially interested to speak to those who are speaking out about the river itself.
While I have conducted water security assessments on other transboundary river systems around the world, this will be the first time I will attempt a comprehensive analysis of a river here at home in North America. I plan to collaborate with other researchers to create maps and other important research products to help in visually communicating the science, as well as write about it. This is exciting.
Please stay tuned.