Climate change means communities along the Mississippi River are experiencing longer and higher floods in springtime, flash flooding from heavy rains, as well as prolonged droughts. Now cities along the river are turning to each other for solutions.

Cities and towns across the Mississippi River basin have always needed to weather the environmental disasters associated with living along a river.

The past few years have brought wild fluctuations between flooding and drought, bringing more stress to the communities nestled along the Mississippi’s 2,350 miles.

In the last five years alone, they’ve seen springtime flooding, flash flooding, significant drought and low river levels, with opposite ends of this spectrum sometimes occurring in the same calendar year.

“When these rivers have disasters, the disaster doesn’t stay in the river,” said Colin Wellenkamp, executive director of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative. “It damages a lot of businesses, homes, sidewalks and streets; even broadband conduit and all kinds of utilities, mains and water return systems.”

The cost of those damages can run into the millions, if not billions.

One potential solution Wellenkamp encourages the 105 individual communities in his organization to consider is to work with, rather than against, the river.

“Just about all of them have some sort of inlet into the Mississippi River that they’re built around,” he said. “Some of them are big and some of them are really small. But all of them need attention.”

It’s not a new idea, and many cities are already investing in nature-based solutions, such as removing pavement, building marshes, and making room for the river to flow. Now, St. Louis is looking to learn from Missouri’s neighbors in Dubuque, Iowa, on what the city can do with its River Des Peres.

Read the full article about climate flood risk by Eric Schmid at npr.