In 2004, McKnight hired Headwaters Group Philanthropic Services, LLC, (Headwaters) to research and assess water quality issues on the Mississippi River. In an iterative process that included a literature review and confidential interviews with 19 state and federal agencies and 24 nonprofits (Appendix A), Headwaters:
- Assessed water quality tracking data that could possibly be used as a tool for measuring progress in water quality efforts.
- Identified successful strategies for improving water quality or its precursor conditions.
- Identified systemic challenges to improving water quality on the mainstem of the River.
- Highlighted inter- and intra-state inconsistencies in the application of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and associated regulations.
The results of these efforts are summarized in the following findings: 1. Water quality tracking data cannot adequately measure progress. 2. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) fails to address interstate inconsistencies and shortcomings. 3. CWA focus misses critical pollutant sources and remedies. 4. Lack of coordinated, strategic water quality focus by Mississippi River institutions.