Water Flow on the Mississippi

The Mississippi River is one of the longest rivers in the world. It starts way north in Minnesota and flows all the way down to New Orleans, Louisiana, before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.

How much water actually flows down the Mississippi River each second? When the Mississippi River is flowing normally (without extra flood waters) it moves 1.6 million gallons of water every second.

It's difficult to imagine how much water this is. But here's an experiment you can do in your own home to see how much water flows down the Mississippi River each second.

Turn on the faucets in your shower very slowly. Now turn up the water slowly until you get to the point where the water is flowing at 100 gallons per second. Then get one of your parents (or an older brother or sister) to turn the faucets even more, until the shower is pouring out 50,000 gallons per second.

(For safety sake, it's best to open the front door of your house at this point. After all, the Mississippi River needs someplace to go or else it will fill up your living room in no time at all.)

Then after you've had a chance to watch this slow flow of water, turn the faucets up all the way until you get 1.6 million gallons per second coming out of your shower.

(Stand back a bit before turning the faucets up all the way. You don't want to be accidentally swept away by the Mississippi River.)

When you've seen enough of the Mississippi River flowing out of your shower you can turn off the faucets and mop up any spilled water with towels as large as a football field. Be careful to wring out the towels over a sink, or otherwise you could have a new Great Lake in your living room.

So that's how you can imagine how much water flows down the Mississippi River each second.

Phil Shapiro

Copyright 1998

(This essay may be freely redistributed and reprinted for any nonprofit educational purpose. Use by a for-profit company requires permission from the author, who can be reached at: pshapiro@his.com)

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