Drying Mississippi River

U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

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As the second-largest river in North America (after the Missouri), the Mississippi River is one of the nation's most important bodies of water. Not only is it a source of drinking water for millions of people, the Mississippi is also a key component of a $12.6 billion shipping industry and more than 35,000 jobs. That leaves us with one 2,300 mile-long problem: Widespread drought in the Midwest has caused the river to recede to record lows.

As a giant hub for shipping, the Mississippi supports a huge amount of boat-based commerce, including heavy cargo ships and vessels transporting everything from oil and fertilizer to soybeans and corn. After record-breaking drought, the water has become so low that barges are getting stuck in both sand and mud. To adapt, freighters have begun carrying reduced cargo loads, causing a serious blow to the shipping industry.

Gallery: Human Remains, Ancient Ruins, and More Revealed By Climate Change and Drought

Water vessels turning into sand toys isn't the only development resulting from the receding water levels, though. The low waters have also uncovered human remains and a 200-year-old shipwreck. If a lack of rain continues, there's no telling what else the receding waters might reveal, or what kind of havoc it will wreak on one of the country's key industries. 

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