For more than a decade, Derek Hoeferlin has studied the Mekong, ­Mississippi and Rhine (above) river basins, with a particular focus on multi-scaled, water-based infrastructural transformation. The three basins — detailed in Hoeferlin’s upcoming book Way Beyond Bigness: The Need for Watershed Architecture — reflect three different hydrological scales in three different states of management and development.

“It’s not about just letting everything go back to nature; it’s about finding ways to lace these different contexts, interest groups and ecologies together.”

Derek Hoeferlin

Back on the Meramec, new levees and big-box construction are further constraining the river of Hoeferlin’s youth. Storms the Meramec could once have absorbed now push it to flood stage and beyond. Nevertheless, Hoeferlin finds a hopeful counter-trend in the adjacent growth of nearby conservation areas such as Castlewood Park, Lone Elk Park and Washington University’s Tyson Research Center — which, though not located in the Meramec floodplain, are part of its larger watershed.