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Major Rivers at Record Low With AM-Drought Rdp, Bjt

July 1, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The nation’s three largest rivers set a combined low-water record in June, running 45 percent below normal for the month, the U.S. Geological Survey reported Friday.

The Mississippi, normally the nation’s largest river, slipped to third place in terms of water flow, survey figures showed.

Falling river levels, resulting from the nation’s ongoing drought, have stalled barge traffic, threatened water quality and reduced availability of water for drinking and other uses.

The June flow of the Mississippi, St. Lawrence and Columbia rivers marked a decline from May, when their flow was 37 percent below normal, the survey reported. Their total flow had been 8 percent below average in April, which is considered within the normal range.

The combined flow of the Big Three rivers averaged 481 billion gallons per day during June, the agency said.

The lowest previous combined June flow for the three, in 60 years of record keeping, was 484 billion gallons per day in 1934.

Water experts monitor the three rivers as a quick check of the nation’s surface water resources, since they drain about half of the 48 contiguous states.

For June, the nation’s largest river turned out to be the Columbia, which averaged 182 billion gallons per day at The Dalles, Ore. Even so, that was 42 percent below normal and the fourth lowest in 60 years of record keeping. In May it had been 27 percent below normal for the month.

Second place for June went to the St. Lawrence River, which averaged 162 billion gallons per day, measured at Massena, N.Y. That was 11 percent below normal but not in record-low contention. It was the first time the St. Lawrence fell below normal since July 1967.

The Mississippi, though, fell to its lowest June level ever at the Vicksburg, Miss., measuring station. It managed only 136 billion gallons per day, 4 billion below the old record from June 1934 and 61 percent below normal for the month. In May, the Mississippi had its second lowest flow for the month, trailing May of 1934.

The Geological Survey also reported that the Ohio River decreased sharply in June, averaging 17 billion gallons per day at Louisville, Ky. That was 59 percent below normal for the month and the sixth lowest ever.

And the Missouri, at Hermann, Mo., averaged 30 billion gallons per day, 46 percent below normal and the third lowest flow on record.

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