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Science and the Environment

Water Quality in Upper White River Basin Receives C+

Ozarks Water Watch via Facebook

Ozarks Water Watch says the Upper White River Basin’s water quality is good but still in need of improvement. The organization released a report this week after sampling over 500 sites in the watershed last year. KSMU’s Anna Thomas has the story.

David Casaletto, executive director of Ozarks Water Watch, explains that the results were not meant to be scientific but to find the problem areas in the region.

“We’ve kind of figured well, if you average all the water quality it’s probably about a C+, maybe a B-. That’s the average, but a lot of areas are As, they’re really good water quality, and then you have some areas that either we’re working on or, like I said, there’s a few areas going downhill,” Casaletto said. 

The water quality was rated highest to lowest relative to the other bodies of water in the watershed, rather than comparing to a national average or standard.

“Low doesn’t mean the water quality is unsafe or there’s a huge problem there. It just means that’s the lower third of the samples in our watershed, and that’s probably the areas you should start looking at first,” Casaletto said.

Areas can be determined low for a variety of reasons, like excessive nutrients or bacteria. One of the main parameters during the tests was the level of nitrogen in the water.

“A couple sites, specifically Yocum Creek and Warrigal Creek, that were showing an increase, pretty dramatic increase, in nitrogen. So we’re going to try to see what is causing that increase,” Casaletto said.

In contrast, Arkansas also had waters with the highest decline of nitrogen, putting it at the top of the scale.

Casaletto says the majority of the lower third is concentrated in urban areas like Springfield, Fayetteville, and Rogers.

“Being concentrated with that many people, that many cars, that many impervious surface parking lots, roofs, you’re going to see a decline in water quality just due to urban influences,” Casaletto said.

Earlier this year, Ozarks Water Watch released a survey that showed more than 80% of responders believe the water quality was good or very good.

“Because you can use our waters for almost all intended purposes, I think they tend to think the water is a little better quality than maybe it actually is in most places,” Casaletto said.

Casaletto says the next step is to raise awareness about the water quality report. The organization has put together a Google map that represents high and low water qualities with green, yellow, and red areas.

Click here to view the report and interactive map.

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