Pilot project to support equitable climate resilience along the upper Mississippi River

Photo of Flooding of the Mississippi River shown in Davenport, Iowa.

Flooding of the Mississippi River shown in Davenport, Iowa. (Image credit: Getty Images)

NOAA and its partners are launching a new pilot project to study flooding on the Mississippi River and how to better protect the most vulnerable communities.

The pilot project, “Building Knowledge to Support Equitable Climate Resilience,” which includes a $150,000 NOAA investment in FY22 and in-kind services from partners at the Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology through the University of Alabama, the University of Minnesota, and the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association, has two objectives:

  • Better understanding the flow patterns of the upper Mississippi River to provide data on how the river will likely respond to changing climate conditions. This data is crucial for communities to plan for both flood and low flow conditions. 
  • Engaging vulnerable communities to enhance their climate resilience. Customized community engagement strategies for key sets of stakeholders allows NOAA and partners to collaboratively build long-term, respectful partnerships and relationships with underserved communities. Overall, his work is intended to improve the understanding, interpretation and use of these forecasts and hydrological data products and services to improve preparedness and resilience.

“Equity and resilience are core drivers of the work that happens every day at the Commerce Department,” said Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves. “Bringing together NOAA’s climate science expertise and the local needs of upper Mississippi River communities will ultimately help our most vulnerable populations be more ready and resilient to climate threats.”

“This project demonstrates how NOAA puts equity into action by working with communities from start to finish to provide meaningful insight into climate risks,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “Ensuring that vulnerable communities are better equipped to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and climate change is a critical part of building a Climate-Ready Nation.”

Photo of the Mississippi River flooThe Mississippi River floods the city of St. Louis.ds the city of St. Louis.
The Mississippi River floods the city of St. Louis. (iStock)

The pilot project was developed in response to feedback received during a 2021 climate and equity roundtable focused on flooding and resilience in the Mississippi River Basin, one of eight roundtables hosted by NOAA across the country with underserved and vulnerable communities and bridge organizations to better understand the issues they face in regards to climate change. 

“Often, communities know what they need to be resilient — what they need is our help getting there,” said Vankita Brown, NOAA senior advisor for equity. “NOAA is proud to strengthen these meaningful connections with communities along the Mississippi River, and develop climate products that benefit all users.”

“The NOAA Climate and Equity Roundtable provided valuable insight into the unique and shared challenges of communities in responding to, and preparing for natural disasters along the Mississippi River,” said Kirsten Wallace, executive director of the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association. “The Roundtable also created a helpful forum for connecting various individuals and entities working separately but towards the same common goals of improving climate resilience and social equity.” 

This pilot builds on NOAA’s commitment to sustained engagement with underserved communities, and is part of an investment in seven pilot projects in the coming years. Each regional pilot will respond directly to feedback received from partners during climate and equity roundtable discussions that were conducted in 2021. Pilots will take a unique, place-based approach to helping vulnerable communities better understand, prepare for, and respond to climate change. 

Learn more about upcoming pilot project announcements and NOAA’s ongoing environmental justice efforts. 


Media contact

Scott Smullen, scott.smullen@noaa.gov