While water quality remains a priority concern for the UMRCC, the most pressing issues have changed over time.
For example, great strides have been made in reducing point source pollution since the 1972 Clean Water Act. However, non-point source pollution is still a major concern and includes the delivery of excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment, often from agricultural landscapes.
Sediment in the water reduces water clarity and negatively impacts the growth of desirable aquatic vegetation. Excess nutrients in the river can cause dense plant growth and promote harmful algal blooms, which may deplete oxygen in the water and produce toxins that pose a health risk to people and animals. With excess nutrients available in the water, warmer water temperatures with climate change promote even more frequent and severe algal blooms.
Another non-point source of pollution is chloride, used in de-icing and water softener salts is making the river saltier and is a major concern for the biota of the river. Additional emerging threats include widely used, long-lasting chemicals that break down very slowly in the environment, pharmaceuticals, and new types of insecticides harmful to aquatic life. Biologists of the UMRCC continue to work together to identify concerns and advocate for actions that protect the water quality of the Upper Mississippi River.