Mobile Bay comprises most of the Alabama coast and is one of the largest freshwater discharges in the United States, draining water from 65% of Alabama’s landmass and parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia. Mobile Bay subsequently discharges into the adjacent waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico and into the eastern Mississippi Sound.
History of human activity in the Mobile Bay-eastern Mississippi Sound system
Population growth along the Mississippi–Alabama coast is among the highest in the United States, with four of the top fastest-growing cities in Alabama located adjacent to Mobile Bay and eight within the Mobile Bay watershed. Discharge from the Mobile-Tensaw river system and adjacent tributaries on Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound convey nutrients and contaminants from rural and urban land uses such as agriculture, residential developments, industries, and associated impervious surfaces. In recent years, more than 33,000 acres of the Mobile Bay-eastern Mississippi Sound system in Alabama have been restricted to shellfish harvest due to microbial contamination, including the few hundred acres adjacent to Fowl River Bay that represent 80% of the current total oyster (Crassostrea virginica) farming capacity in the state and nearly $2M in revenue to local coastal economies. Public awareness of water quality concerns and how to address them are an important issue to stakeholders living and working in this system.