The Lay of the Water Over Mississippi Lands

The Lay of the Water Over Mississippi Lands

By Cathy Keddy

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) public lecture series, Biodiversity and Vital Connections for Fauna, Flora, and People, continues April 21 with the seventh presentation, “The Lay of the Water Over Mississippi Lands.” You do not need to be an expert to enjoy these lectures—just bring your curiosity or appreciation for the environment and wild nature.

Larkin and Keddy photo (1024x768)

















How often do you give a thought to a glass of water? Well, if you live in Lanark, the answer may be quite often, however for most of us the answer is likely to be, rarely if ever. Most of us take this essential resource for granted—the water that comprises 70% of our body mass, expecting always to have an unending supply to do everything we wish. We even have the luxury of using water fit for drinking to flush our toilets! On average we use 300 l of water each day! Compare this to the water ‘footprint’ of the average citizen of Mozambique (4 l/d), Cambodia (15 l/d), England (149 l/d), Japan (374 l/d) or the US (575 l/d).

Here in the Mississippi Valley, why do we have such a plentiful supply of good, clean water? The answer lies in the lay of the water over and under the lands of the Mississippi watershed. Watershed . . . catchment area . . .drainage basin . . . whatever term we use, water, the essential element of all life in our area enters the Mississippi River Valley we call home, spends time in it, and then leaves.

From its headwaters above Upper Mazinaw Lake till it reaches the Ottawa River, the Mississippi River, over 200 km in length, is associated with over 250 lakes and countless wetlands. With 19 constructed dams (average of one every 10 km!), its flow is governed largely by human desires. Covering an area roughly 3765 km2 (3/4 the size of PEI) the lands of the watershed include large forests, small tracts of agricultural land, limited industry, and the many small towns and villages we know so well. The surface geology ranges from a thin veneer of till over Precambrian rock in the northwest (great for groundwater infiltration), to thick Champlain Sea clays near the outlet (great for surface runoff in a storm event).

At MVFN’s upcoming presentation, speaker Patricia Larkin will explore water diversity and tell us about the lay of our water and how land cover, surficial geology and flow influence its quality and quantity for our use and the health of our natural environment. Larkin is an award-winning environmental educator who delivered the successful MVFN-sponsored Engaging Grade 8’s in Source Water Protection program in local schools in 2009. Larkin currently is a member of the Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Committee and recent winner of a Tri-Valley Conservation Award for her work in protecting local waterways and fostering an understanding of water as a resource.

Learn the lay of your water, and develop an appreciation for it. Wet behind the ears about water? Then bring your hard, heavy, fresh, and stagnant water questions to this presentation “The Lay of the Water Over Mississippi Lands,” Thursday April 21, 7:30pm., Almonte United Church Hall, Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.


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