Water flowing through the Mississippi River

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources serves as Missouri’s lead representative on the Mississippi River/ Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force. The task force, established in late 1997, includes members from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), four additional federal agencies, 12 states bordering the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and the National Tribal Water Council on behalf of tribes. This group collaborates to research the causes and effects of eutrophication in the Gulf of Mexico. Eutrophication occurs when a body of water becomes overly enriched with nutrients. The group also coordinates activities to reduce the size, severity and duration of the hypoxia zone and lessen the effects of hypoxia, which are outlined in the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan.

On Nov. 15, 2021, the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, went into effect. This act authorized EPA to make $60 million in funding available for federal cooperative agreements over five years (2022 - 2026) for activities under the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan. Of this fund, $12 million is to be made available each year and provided to the 12 states serving on the task force. These funds will support the states as they undertake high-impact actions to accelerate reducing excess nutrient losses from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya River Basin to the Gulf of Mexico. Funded projects are intended to support actions described in respective state nutrient reduction strategies. On Dec. 13, 2022, EPA awarded Missouri $965,000 to kick off its projects.

The department’s Water Protection Program, as the steward of the Missouri Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, will implement five separate projects under the Gulf Hypoxia Program to achieve actions defined in Missouri’s nutrient strategy. Each project is described below and represents the department’s diverse approach to furthering the goals of Missouri’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, bringing together adaptive approaches to reduce nutrient pollution from point and nonpoint sources. The overarching goal of these projects and Missouri's Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy is to improve local water quality and reduce statewide nutrient pollution that ends up in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. 

​Project 1: Nutrient Reduction Progress Tracking Dashboard 

This tool will track and display progress and performance metrics of multiple Missouri Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy initiatives. Tracking monitoring data and performance metrics side by side through this dashboard will enable our state-level water quality programs to: 

  • Better identify and prioritize target watersheds.
  • Understand the performance of existing nutrient reduction strategy goals and initiatives.
  • Enable better-informed decisions when planning and implementing nutrient reduction activities in the state.

The dashboard will be publicly available once complete. Other task force states and conservation partners will have full access to the information displayed on the dashboard, which may be useful in their own planning and conservation implementation initiatives.

Project 2: Expansion of Missouri’s Ambient Nutrient Monitoring 

This expanded monitoring effort will add continuous nitrate and flow monitors to four U.S. Geological Survey water quality monitoring stations. The four stations were selected to better capture water quality conditions of key sub-sections of the Missouri, Mississippi and Grand rivers. These stations will monitor nitrate, temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and pH levels. Data will be used to better quantify Missouri’s total nutrient loads and help in identifying priority watersheds for targeted conservation efforts.

Project 3: Missouri Municipal Wastewater Nutrient Optimization Pilot

This pilot project will implement and evaluate voluntary strategies at six participating municipal wastewater facilities. These efforts are pursued to optimize operational and maintenance practices in order to reduce nutrient loads without requiring large capital expenses. Strategies proven or disproven for success through this pilot project will be communicated across the statewide and regional municipal wastewater community, for voluntary implementation across the state and region.

Project 4: Gulf Hypoxia Outreach and Education

A new public education exhibit will be developed to expand public awareness about Gulf of Mexico hypoxia and collective actions that can be taken by all individuals to assist in reducing nutrient pollution to the Mississippi River and other Missouri waters.   It will also provide actions the public can take to help reduce their nutrient pollutant footprint. This new exhibit will showcase nutrient concerns from domestic wastewater, urban stormwater and agricultural stormwater. The department invites point source and nonpoint source stakeholders to collaborate and co-sponsor this outreach project. Email us at cleanwater@dnr.mo.gov. We would love to hear from you!

Project 5: Refining Nutrient Reduction Models with Subsurface Nutrient Transport Measurement 

Lincoln University will receive grant funding for a targeted research project that will create a better understanding of hydrologic flow paths and more refined nutrient tracking models. Thanks to this research, management practices will be better assigned to specific land use situations, which ultimately will lead to more accelerated nutrient loss reductions. Results from this effort will also be incorporated into watershed stewardship workshops designed to help beginning, limited-resource, minority and underserved farmers learn about best management practices for nutrient loss reduction.