Low-water levels resulting from severe drought conditions in the US Midwest have potential for significant national economic consequences.
The low-water levels resulting from severe drought conditions in the Midwest are a stark contrast to the historic flooding of 2011 but share the same potential for significant economic consequences, said Tom Allegretti, President & CEO of American Waterways Operators, a 350-member trade association representing the nations tugboat, towboat and barge industry.
The implications of the drought conditions and low-water levels are a one-two punch for the economy, impacting both the agricultural community and one of the major modes of transporting agricultural and other essential products, Allegretti said. The nations waterways truly move the building blocks of what we as consumers use every day.
Allegretti also stated that AWO staff and members have been working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers through the River Industry Executive Task Force (RIETF) to assess the impact of the low water and find ways to keep commerce moving safely.
Allegretti noted that every one-inch loss of water decreases the carrying capacity of a single barge by 17 tons of cargo. Losing one foot of draft results in a loss of 204 tons of cargo capacity per barge. When you consider that a typical tow on the Upper Mississippi or Ohio Rivers has 15 barges, a one-foot loss of draft will decrease the capacity of that tow by 3,000 tons, Allegretti stated.
The tows on the lower Mississippi River are larger, consisting of 30-45 barges, resulting in decreased capacity of over 9,000 tons, Allegretti continued. This would be the equivalent of adding 130 tractor-trailer trucks to the highways or 570 rail cars on the rail system for just one large tow.
AWO members understand that this is a severe, ongoing situation, Allegretti said. We are committed to working with our customers and with government officials to help ensure the safe movement of the nations critical cargo as conditions allow.