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A clear creek surrounded by trees on a fall day.
Fall Float Floating down Huzzah Creek in Missouri on a fall day. © Kristy Stoyer/TNC

Stories in Missouri

Collaborating to Improve Water Quality in Missouri

Claire Carstensen headshot photo.
Claire Anderson Missouri Trustee © Courtesy of Claire Anderson

We are fortunate to live in a state rich in water resources—with more than 110,000 miles of rivers and streams.

As a trustee of The Nature Conservancy in Missouri, I am proud of the science and on-the-ground effort to make our rivers and streams healthier. From rural strategies to urban opportunities, TNC is working across the state to ensure we are reducing harmful nutrients and expanding how we work with communities to benefit both people and nature.

And, as an employee of Enterprise Holdings, I am proud that we have helped fund these programs for the rivers and the communities that depend on them.

                                                   - Claire Carstensen, Missouri Trustee

TNC is working in rural and urban communities to protect our water resources.

Water is the most important resource on the planet. Every living thing depends upon it. In the coming years—with a changing climate—Missouri is expected to see hotter, drier summers and wetter springs and winters.

This combination could impact communities’ clean drinking water and increase the struggle of Missouri farmers to produce quality crops in times of drought or heavy rain. 

Aerial view of a winding river on a sunny day.
Missouri River The Missouri River is considered the “Center of Life” for the Great Plains. It has served as a main artery for exploration, food, trade and transportation for thousands of years. Today more than one-fourth of all the agricultural land in the U.S. is found in the Missouri River basin. © Route 3 Films

Effectively protecting our water resources requires deep collaboration and a diverse set of voices and partners at the table.

Adam McLane Missouri State Director

Thanks in part to generous funding from Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation, The Nature Conservancy is implementing on-the-ground conservation projects across Missouri—from our rural agricultural fields to our growing urban cities—to increase water quality and protect community health.

“Where water comes from, where it goes and how it gets there is complex,” says Adam McLane, Missouri State Director. “Effectively protecting our water resources requires deep collaboration and a diverse set of voices and partners at the table.”

How Farming Can Play a Role

Farms make up nearly two-thirds of Missouri’s total land acreage, which means our agricultural partners can help play a big role in protecting our water. “An increased focus on soil health, fertilizer application and use of vegetative buffers along waterways can have a dramatic impact on the health of our shared water resources,” says McLane.

In collaboration with partners, a 4R initiative for Missouri was recently launched. This program works with agricultural retailers to verify individualized plans for farmers to identify the right place, right time, right rate and right source of nutrient application to maximize crop production.

These plans will promote and improve soil quality. Healthy soils help hold in water during drought, and decrease the amount of harmful nutrient runoff during times of heavy rain. 

Rows of green crops.
Missouri Farm Field 4R nutrient management promotes crop growth, improves soil health and water quality by implementing proper nutrient management practices. © Route 3 Films

“Our goal is to verify 250,000 acres statewide through 4R nutrient management plans by 2025,” says McLane. “This will make a significant impact to the quality of our rivers and the communities that rely on them here in Missouri and all the way to the Gulf.”

A Focus on Green Infrastructure in Cities

In addition to agricultural needs, our cities place an incredible demand on our water resources and hold a lot of potential to help protect them.

Over the years, a loss of green space in cities has been proved to have negative impacts on people’s physical and mental health, in addition to destroying habitat for plants and animals and increasing the pressure on sewer systems. “In cities, it’s not about people or nature,” says McLane. “It’s about people and nature, and how they benefit—and need—each other.” 

A small group of women planting a tree in an urban garden.
Volunteers Lending a Hand Project Oasis will provide a community garden, reduce stormwater flooding, create employment opportunities, and serve as a demonstration site for other local communities.

Incorporating green infrastructure, which is designed to reduce and treat stormwater at its source, is a resilient way to manage heavy rain events while also providing benefits to the community.

A large sign listing multiple partners of the project.
A Collaborative Effort Multiple partners in the St. Louis region have helped support Project Oasis and the team at Jubilee Community Church. © Jubilee Community Church

In St. Louis, TNC has collaborated with a variety of partners and anchor institutions to bring resilience and equity through place-based community projects.

Project Oasis at Jubilee Community Church is a great example of how a project can incorporate green infrastructure while also providing positive impacts to the community and benefits to nature. 

“We recognized multiple problems and wanted to come up with a solution that would address them,” said Andy Krumsieg, pastor of Jubilee Community Church. “Stormwater is a big issue in the city of St. Louis. We wanted to reduce the pressure on the sewer system and capture rainwater as a resource to reuse on our urban farm.” 

The first step of Project Oasis was the installation of a 150,000-gallon underground cistern that collects rainwater from the church’s roof, which then irrigates the half-acre urban orchard and farm that were recently planted behind the church.

Green underground cistern tubes being layed out in a grid.
Underground Cistern A 150,000-gallon underground cistern was installed to collects rainwater from the church’s roof and irrigate the urban farm.
An aerial view of construction site with green cistern tubes being installed on an open lot.
Green Infrastructure A larger view of the Project Oasis site shows the underground cistern under construction. © Jubilee Community Church
Underground Cistern A 150,000-gallon underground cistern was installed to collects rainwater from the church’s roof and irrigate the urban farm.
Green Infrastructure A larger view of the Project Oasis site shows the underground cistern under construction. © Jubilee Community Church

The produce that is grown on the urban farm will be used by the church and made available for community members to harvest. Additionally, they will sell the produce to local restaurants. 

“Proceeds from the sales will be used to help employ two or three people from the community during the growing season,” Pastor Andy said. “We will also be planting wildflowers throughout the farm, which will provide food for pollinators.”

A man and a women stand in a growing garden.
Providing Fresh Produce Donna Washington, farm manager (left), and Pastor Andy (right) stand in Project Oasis' urban farm. The produce that is grown on the farm will be used by the church and made available for community members to harvest. Additionally, they will sell the produce to local restaurants. © Kristy Stoyer/TNC

“Jubilee Community Church and the team they assembled to bring a vision to life, benefiting both people and nature, is an amazing model,” says McLane. 

Once-vacant lots now house a massive underground cistern that captures all the runoff from the church’s roof, before it hits the stressed stormwater system. 

Reconnecting Floodplains

Rock Port, Missouri, located a little more than 100 miles north of Kansas City, is a small farming community on the Missouri River. After withstanding decades of repetitive floods, leaders of the local levee district knew they had to make a change after the flood of 2019 once again devastated their community.

Construction of a large-scale levee setback began in the summer of 2020—reconnecting and restoring more than 1,000 acres of floodplain and providing more room for the river during times of high water.

Building for the Future Hear from the partners about how they come together for this large-scale levee setback on the Missouri River.

With smart planning, science-based solutions and a collaborative approach, we can protect Missouri’s water resources so they can continue to provide for us today and for generations to come.