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Water Supply in the Ozarks Isn't Endless

Many people don’t realize that water supply around the globe, and in the Ozarks, has its limits. Although water covers the majority of the earth, fresh water isn’t nearly as plentiful. KSMU’s Ryan Welch has this report on water usage here in the Ozarks.

Gail Melgren is the Executive Director of the Tri-State Water Resource Coalition. She says there are three main factors that create stress on the natural water supply. Population growth, drought cycles, and population density create challenges on the water supply here in southwest Missouri.

“At this point, what we need to be looking towards, I think, are a couple of things. One is we need to use our groundwater in a sustainable, smart way. And two, we need to have reliable, quality water in surface water sources that will take us through periods of drought and will meet the needs of our ever-increasing population,” said Melgren.

Melgren says she thinks since water is so cheap, that has led to it being wasted more and more.

“We all tend to value that which costs us more, whether it’s more of our time or more of our money. Well, in America, we’ve developed this infrastructure where water is dirt cheap,” said Melgren.

Loring Bullard is the Executive Director of the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks and he agrees with Melgren.

“Water is cheap. I was doing a calculation, actually, yesterday, that shows that water in Springfield is cheaper than dirt,” said Bullard.

Bullard and Melgren both say that people can lower their water usage in big ways by limiting the amount you let your sprinkler system run in your yard, and to buy low-flow appliances.

“Can we really afford to use our drinking water to water our plants, you know, to irrigate with? Can we really afford to use our drinking water to flush our waste down the toilet? And I think at some point, it may not be for quite some time, I think we’ll finally decide that that’s really inherently inefficient and wasteful to do that,” said Bullard.

Bullard adds that the public’s mindset about water is going to have to change.

“One thing I think we’re going to have to do in the future is think of water more as a service and less as a commodity,” said Bullard.

For those interested in learning more about water, there is a water conference Thursday and Friday at the Doubletree Hotel in Springfield. The conference will address current and future water supply, water demand, and efficient use of water in the Ozarks. The public is encouraged to attend.

For more information, you can visit our website,

For KSMU News, I’m Ryan Welch.