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Science and the Environment

James River Basin Partnership Fighting 'Nonpoint Source Pollution'; Hosting Cleanup of Finley River


The James River Basin Partnership is hosting its annual river cleanup Saturday, October 5 on the Finley River. The Partnership is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting Ozarks’ rivers...and it says it can't do that alone. KSMU’s Julie Greene has more.

[Nat Sound: James River]

That’s the sound of the James River, flowing over rocks and stones in Rivercut Parkway in southwest Springfield. The 130 mile-long James River runs throughout the southern part of Missouri, and it’s also the main focus of the James River Basin Partnership.

The mission of the James River Basin Partnership is to preserve the water quality in springs, streams, rivers and lakes of the James River Basin. The organization began in 1997 when concerned citizens noticed the James River had turned green from algae. Now, the biggest problem facing the river is nonpoint source pollution.

Unlike industrial or sewage pollution, nonpoint source pollution comes from a variety of sources.  It usually occurs when rainfall or snowmelt pick up pollutants on the ground like agricultural waste and trash and carry them into nearby waterways.

One of the ways the James River Basin Partnership has cut back on nonpoint source pollution is by establishing 100 foot-wide buffer strips, which filter and retain storm water and allow trees and grasses to grow naturally. To date, the James River Basin Partnership has successfully established over 12 miles of these buffer strips.

For the past 10 years, Joe Pitts has been the Executive Director of the James River Basin Partnership. 

“When you look at water quality in a basin the size of the James River, no agencies or cities or county governments are extensive enough to impact the problem. And so the James River Basin Partnership is the buffer between, or the connector between, what the regulators want done, what the cities want done, and what people say. Bottom line: if we weren’t doing it, then who would,” Pitts said.

Another challenge the organization faces, Pitts says, is capturing people’s attention.

“We have a very limited resource. We have a renewable resource, but it is possible for us to use it to the point where it’s no longer available or abuse it to the point where it’s no longer available to us.  And that’s a major thing people need to be aware of. In reality, the only way our water resources are going to be protected and restored for the future is if the citizens that use that watershed inculcate that into their culture," Pitts said.

In addition to getting involved with the Partnership, Pitts suggests that citizens make small changes--like carrying a container when they walk their pets or washing their cars on grass so the soap doesn’t fall into the storm drain.

The Partnership's annual river clean-up is Saturday, October 5 on the Finley River. It begins with a riverside pancake breakfast at 10:00. Check-in lasts until noon, and then there's a four-mile cleanup float trip starting at the Old Mill in Ozark. Registration is required. You can learn more by going to

For KSMU News, I’m Julie Greene.