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Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative

Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative

Known as “America’s River,” the Mississippi River is North America’s largest river, flowing over 2,300 miles through America’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico. It is the centerpiece of the second largest watershed in the world. The watershed not only provides drinking water, food, industry, and recreation for millions of people, it also hosts a globally significant migratory flyway and home for over 325 bird species.

Through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), NRCS and partners work with producers and landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, restore wetlands, enhance wildlife habitat and sustain agricultural profitability in the Mississippi River basin. 

NRCS has identified the Mississippi River basin as a top priority due to water quality concerns, primarily related to the effects of nutrient loading on the health of local water bodies and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico.

How Does MRBI Work?

The 13-state initiative builds on the cooperative work of NRCS and its conservation partners in the basin, and offers agricultural producers in priority watersheds the opportunity for voluntary technical and financial assistance.

How Does MRBI Benefit Producers?

Through MRBI, NRCS helps producers with voluntary conservation practices that conserve America’s natural resources in high-priority watersheds while ensuring economic viability of cropland and rangeland.  

Conservation practices installed by producers will serve to avoid, control and trap nutrient runoff, prevent erosion and provide essential wildlife habitat. These practices benefit the natural resources of the Mississippi Basin and enhance agricultural profitability through reduced input and enhanced soil health, which results in higher soil organic matter, increased infiltration and water-holding capacity and nutrient cycling.

How Does MRBI Benefit the Public?

More than 50 cities and 18 million people rely on the Mississippi River for their daily water supply. The Mississippi River is the main stem of a network of inland navigable waterways 12,350 miles in length.

NRCS is committed to working cooperatively with agricultural producers, partner organizations and state and local agencies to improve water quality and the quality of life for the tens of millions of people who live in and rely on the Mississippi River Basin.

Partnership Opportunities

Partners will play a crucial role in encouraging and supporting producer participation. Partners’ involvement will be instrumental in a variety of ways, including:

  • Providing information and conducting education and outreach activities.
  • Forming agreements to provide staffing for technical assistance and education activities.
  • Joining the State Technical Committee to provide input for focus areas and watershed selection.
  • Targeting their organization’s programs toward the Initiative’s watersheds.
  • Assisting with monitoring, evaluation, and assessment.

Other opportunities to partner with NRCS include the Regional Conservation Partnership Program,  a new program created by the 2014 Farm Bill to further emphasize the focus on building effective partnerships and obtaining meaningful results for key natural resource concerns. One of RCPP’s critical conservation areas includes the Mississippi River Basin, directing additional funding to this region.


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2016 mrbi high priority area map - fullsize

Click to see fullsized version (JPG, 5MB)

  For more information:

Scott Edwards, Acting MRBI Coordinator, (202) 690-2196


  State-specific sites: