top of page

Water Security Threats to the Missouri River Basin from the Dakota Access Pipeline Oil Infrastructure Development

In September 2016 the water security situation of the Missouri River came to my attention from calls of the Indigenous People in North America, specifically at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, in social media as water protectors against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). I responded by organizing a team of volunteers to begin preliminary research into the water security of the Missouri River Basin and threats to that river system's people and ecosystems because of the proposed development of this oil infrastructure. I brought my team's work to the Tribes with our initial assessment in October and since then continue with research to provide more data to the Tribes and work in collaboration.

Our preliminary analysis found that DAPL is a potential threat to the basin's water security and a direct threat to the human security of at-risk Native American population in the Missouri River Basin (14% of the nation's total indigenous minority population). These threats stem from the placement of the infrastructure across countless waterways and wetlands, including 8 major tributaries and the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, as well as political and legal loopholes around Indian Treaties, natural resources management, public engagement, and environmental security that allow for corporate entitlement. The DAPL has been assessed only in small sections, by a number of different government bodies who are uncoordinated, and no macro-assessment has been conducted about the cumulative impacts of the overall project, as this is not required by law. If the corporate interests behind DAPL are evading best practices in assessing human and environmental impacts of this project to begin with, we can question how these same interests will respond if their project causes harm and injury (already happening at Standing Rock) to human welfare and environmental wellbeing.

This development project, known locally as DAPL, is a development project to carry oil in a pipeline 1172 miles from the Bakken hydrofracking operations in western North Dakota across a landscape that includes culturally significant and sacred historic Indigenous Land, public lands, the Missouri River, and the Mississippi River, to another pipeline in Illinois. Construction of this pipeline has sparked significant resistance among Indigenous Peoples across North America to stand as water protectors. Due to consistent leaks and negligence in a largely unregulated and poorly monitored industry, this Indigenous-led movement says no more pipelines crossing sacred historically and culturally important lands and resources.

Our project is focused on the water security for humans and ecosystems in the Missouri River Basin threats from DAPL, as stated above. We are attempting to assess the system from a macro-scale, something that was not done by our Federal Government, nor the DAPL corporate bodies. We are creating a series of maps, models, reports, and infographics that are scientifically-based analyses of potential environmental and social impacts. Our team is addressing the risk to the Indigenous Community specifically, and the Basin in general, as we see the Native American population as the center of this human security issue. We are geographers, cartographers, natural resources scientists, lawyers, student researchers from Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, and the United States. 


Please see the below links to our maps and related spatial analysis, events database and related timeline, scientific interdisciplinary report, fast fact sheets, and other useful information.


Map Gallery of Missouri River Basin visualizations


One page fast fact sheets

Water Security Report and related scientific paper

Please reload

The Team

List of team members and their roles

Events Database and Timeline

Collection of news & social media events about Standing Rock's water conflict over time.

News articles, social media posts, and radio broadcasts about the work this team is doing together and independently.

Please reload

bottom of page