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Science and the Environment

Waterways Given B Rating by Nonprofit Ozarks Water Watch

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Ozarks Water Watch

The 2016-17 Status of the Watershed Report is now available, summarizing the water quality in the upper White River Basin.

The study shows how the numerous monitoring sites in the region compare to one another and is intended to show where the highest and lowest relative water quality is.

David Casaletto is president and executive director of Ozarks Water Watch, a nonprofit water quality organization that conducted the study. He says measuring the water itself is the best indicator of the health of Missouri and Arkansas’ various lakes, rivers and streams. This year, Casaletto grades the watershed a B.

The EPA states waters must be “fishable/swimmable” in accordance with the CWA guidelines, or Clean Water Act. This includes “the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and recreation in and on the water”. More information can be found here.

Ronna Haxby, projects director at Ozarks Water Watch, runs the Stream Volunteer Monitoring in Missouri. She explained that gathering the data is a year-long, multi-faceted project and wouldn’t be possible without the help of many organizations and volunteers.

Water user stats for the Ozarks were not immediately available, but Casaletto told KSMU he suspected it “was in the millions.” That’s thanks in part to Branson’s tourists enjoying Table Rock Lake, and both the James River and Kings River users.

“A majority of everyone - in some way or other- uses the streams, the lakes, the rivers for recreation: swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, fishing,” Casaletto says.

Officials say all users are responsible for the contributions they make to the overall health of the Ozarks’ waters. Haxby notes citizens can help mitigate the amount of urban storm water runoff, phosphorus fertilizer on homeowner lawns and parking lot trash.

She asks water users to contain trash in their boats and to ensure they are in good condition before setting out on the water. Pet owners can help by picking up pet waste, while homeowners should have their septic systems checked and possibly pumped every 3-5 years.

Ozarks Water Watch, in conjunction with the James River Basin Partnership, offers a $50 rebate to help with the cost of septic pump out. Low income individuals may qualify for assistance to replace failing septic systems through a remediation program that uses Department of Natural Resources grant money. 

“We are really blessed to be in the Ozarks regions with beautiful waters but we do have some issues we need homeowners to be aware of,” says Haxby.

Some problems can be easily addressed, such as too much phosphorus fertilizer on individual homeowner lawns.

Casaletto says, “When you apply fertilizer to your lawn, make sure you get a soil test in advance so you apply the correct amount of fertilizer. If you over apply, that will wash right into the waterways, the lakes and streams. The grass is not going to grow any better if you double it.”

The extra phosphorus runs right in local waterways, he says, which creates high nutrients and encourages algae growth. 

Casaletto revealed rain water gardens are one of the best ways to fight the storm water issue and slow down water run-off. The deep-rooted plants growing in depressions where water from impervious surfaces can reach keeps the waterways free of pollutants.

He also acknowledged the efforts of Kimberling City for using pervious pavement in new construction to assist in fighting storm water running into Table Rock Lake.  

“LID or low impact development includes pervious pavement,” he says. “Parking lots (can be) made out of material that allows the water to go down through the lot, and then (is) stored in gravel underneath the pavement. The water sits and gradually soaks into the ground.”

Casaletto points out the cost of LID in new construction is often less than using traditional methods of building.

More information can be found at OzarksWaterWatch.org  and www.jamesriverbasin.com.