Microplastics in our water

by: Angela Danovi, Arkansas Projects Manager

Ozarks Water Watch

Mouth of the Los Angeles River, Long Beach, California. Photo source: ©© Bill McDonald, Algalita Foundation / Heal The Bay

Recently while surfing social media, I came across an article naming the Tennessee River one of the most (micro) plastic polluted rivers in the world. The article caught my attention because I spent about 14 years living alongside the Tennessee River in Knoxville, TN. Also, the Tennessee River, its watershed, its banks, and some its tributaries often served as my classroom where I learned about hydrology, aquatic macroinvertebrates, soil science, land-use practices, and water chemistry. Researchers identified about 18,000 microplastic particles per cubic meter of water found in samples. It surprised me that I studied, lived by, and recreated on a river highly contaminated with a pollutant and was completely unaware of its condition.

Two questions came up in my mind after reading the article. First, what is the condition of other rivers in the United States concerning microplastics, I hypothesize there’s nothing particularly unique about the Tennessee River that should make it more susceptible to plastic pollution than other rivers in the United States. Second, are non-scientists aware that plastic becoming a problem in waterways?

Defining Microplastics:

Plastic pollution can be found in many different shapes and sizes. Microplastic is defined as plastic that is under 5 millimeters in length. This is something about the size of a sesame seed or smaller. Some microplastics are so small they can only be identified under a microscope. Some microplastics are developed in manufacturing and production processes (think microbeads formerly found in shower gels). Other microplastic results from the breakdown of larger plastic pieces. However, unlike organic materials, which will slowly decompose, plastic does not decompose. It only breaks down into increasingly smaller pieces.

One plastic microfibre viewed under a dissecting microscope

Where are we finding microplastics?

Most research on the occurrence of microplastics has happened only within the last five to ten years. Until very recently, microplastic research focused on salt water and oceanic systems. In 2016, researchers in Chicago studied local streams to determine if there was an increase in microplastics downstream of wastewater treatment plants. The researchers found higher concentrations of microplastics downstream of the wastewater treatment plants, with an average of 1,338,757 pieces of plastic per day, compared to upstream samples on 8 out of 10 streams. In one case they found up to 4,732,709 pieces of plastic downstream of a wastewater treatment plant!

In other research, U.S. Geological Survey and State University of New York Fredonia scientists sampled rivers flowing into the Great Lakes3 to find out which kinds of microplastics are most commonly found in rivers. The USGS scientists found that fibers composed an average of 71% of the total number of microplastics particles found in samples of river water. You can learn more about the USGS work about microplastics in water here.

Why are plastics in water a problem?

All of the plastics in our water are breaking down into increasingly smaller pieces. Microplastics are being absorbed into phytoplankton, being eaten by macroinvertebrates and fish, and being consumed by humans. Plastic consumption by animals and fish can obstruct digestion, cause injury, and may affect other biological functions. Plastics can also attract and hold on to contaminants such as metals, toxic compounds, and chemicals, which can then be absorbed by phytoplankton or eaten by macroinvertebrates and fish. Microplastics have also been found in our food and beverage products

What can we do to prevent plastics from getting in our waterways?

In considering water quality, the website Earth Day Network recommends everyone focus on three things: prevention limiting the amount of plastic that reaches any body of water; innovation finding new ways to remove plastic that is already in our waterways and water supply; and activism making citizens part of the solution by building a culture in which people actively think about and participate in reducing plastic consumption and contamination.

They also recommend some specific actions to reduce our own contribution to the problem of microplastic contamination of drinking water and to limit the risk of plastic related health issues:

  1. Prevent the creation of microplastics by choosing products with non-plastic packaging. If disposing of plastic, do so properly, being careful not to toss plastic products near waterways, beaches or in open spaces.
  2. Pick up trash -especially plastics- whenever you see it, especially in ponds, streams, rivers, and beaches whenever possible.
  3. Participate in organized clean-up activities as much as you can. Local cleanups are conducted by us and our partners with the Beaver Watershed Alliance, Illinois River Watershed Partnership, and Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, among others.
  4. Do not use products containing microbeads. Choose products that have natural exfoliators instead.
  5. Consider changing the way you wash your clothing to reduce the number of microfibers that are released:
    • Wash synthetic clothes less frequently;
    • Use front loading washing machines as they produce fewer fibers than top loading washing machines;
    • Consider using a fiber filter whenever you wash synthetic clothes;
    • Consider switching to liquid laundry soap. Powder soaps loosen more microfibers;
    • There are also bags and other devices you can use in your washing machine to collect the fibers;
    • Do not wash lint from your dryer down the drain. Dispose of it in the trash.
    • Consider purchasing items made of natural fibers, when possible.
  6. Avoid consuming bottled water, which is also a way to reduce your consumption of single-use
  7. Look for a filter that you can use at home that can eliminate all microfibers and other microplastics from your drinking water.

Flood Management and Water Quality Funding Study for the City of Fayetteville

by: Angela Danovi, Ozarks Water Watch Arkansas Project Coordinator

Earlier this month the City of Fayetteville presented several community informational sessions on a study currently underway for a new plan to mange stormwater, flooding, and drainage problems. I attended the session on January 9, 2018. Twenty million dollars is the current estimated cost presented that is needed to address stormwater, drainage, and flooding problems within the city of Fayetteville. Currently, there is only about $200,000 allocated to stormwater management. The city is currently exploring the option of a stormwater utility fee to raise the funds needed to address the growing, worsening, and increasingly more expensive problems associated with runoff, drainage, and flooding in Fayetteville.

The city has asked for residents and businesses in Fayetteville to participate to participate in a Stormwater Survey available here.

The city has contracted with Jacobs Engineering to conduct a “Study for Flood Management and Water Quality Funding”. This study aimed to identify three things:

  1. What’s the current stormwater program, infrastructure, and cost?
  2. What do the residents and city planners want out of their stormwater management program?
  3. And, what are some ways that improved management activities and infrastructure might be funded?

It may help people understand the study by having some common information and background about stormwater and why the city has identified the need for this study and the need to identify future funding for stormwater, drainage, and flooding. A background informational flyer is available here. The presentation made to Fayetteville residents is available here.

Fayetteville’s Watersheds

Fayetteville lies in major 2 watersheds, the Illinois River Watershed and the White River or Beaver Lake Watershed. The divide between the 2 runs along Mount Sequoyah and the downtown area. Rainwater falling within the city of Fayetteville will eventually enter either the Illinois River or Beaver Lake.

What is Stormwater?

Stormwater is generated from rain and snowmelt events that flow over land or impervious surfaces, such as paved streets, parking lots, and rooftops, and does not soak into the ground. The runoff can pick up pollutants like trash, chemicals, oils, and dirt/sediment that can harm our rivers, streams, and lakes. The city of Fayetteville is responsible for managing its own storm water.

Why is the City Concerned about Stormwater?

Fayetteville faces a growing backlog of drainage and stormwater management issues that can cause flooding of streets, structures, and the property of those who live here. Although customers can identify where the worst issues are, the City does not currently have the financial resources or legal access to fix them all. Recent storms have generated hundreds of service requests for the City, on top of stormwater management activities and water quality projects that are mandated, but not funded, by the CleanWater Act. The City is responsible for operating and maintaining the public portion of Fayetteville’s municipal stormwater system. For example, approximately 65 percent of its roads and rights of way, 57 percent of the drainage pipes, and 43 percent of its outfalls are public.

Flood Service Requests, April 2017 in the City of Fayetteville

With the city’s growing population, there was a recognitionfor an increasing need to identify sustainable options for funding stormwater management.

What is spent on Stormwater?

The City currently spends approximately $1.3 million annually on stormwater activities. This includes compliance with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality stormwater permit requirements,maintenance and repair of the public drainage system, as well as water quality and flood management activities. The City’s 2018 Drainage Improvement Plan estimates that more than $15 million is needed to protect public safety by addressing our most urgent backlog of stormwater maintenance and capital projects. More funds are needed to identify issues that have not yet been documented.

The purpose of the study is to present options for sustainable funding for stormwater management, to reduce flooding, and protect water quality. The study has three phases:

What is the Proposed Solution?

The City is proposing to develop an “Early Action Plan” to address the most significant stormwater projects, to be presented to voters in early 2019 as part of a bond program. To determine the best way to fund the remaining needs going forward, the City is conducting this Study for Flood Management & Water Quality Funding to evaluate a range of options.

What will the Study Do?

  1. Review the City’s existing stormwater system and program.
  2. Collect input from the City Council, staff, and City residents regarding the current state, and the necessary/desired future state of the City’s stormwater programs.
  3. Assess the advantages and disadvantages of various means of funding the program, including ongoing intermittent bond referendums, additional General Fund or Capital Improvement Program resources, and/or a dedicated stormwater fee.

How does a Stormwater Fee for Service Work?

  1. Fees must be directly related to the services provided
  2. The amount of the fee is associated with the amount of impervious surface on a piece of property.
  3. A credit system can be put in place for property owners to reduce their fee by taking actions to reduce runoff and allowing rainwater to soak in or be retained on their property.
  4. Fees collected must be accounted for separately and can only be spent for the purposes of managing stormwater, drainage, and flooding within the city limits of Fayetteville.

Are other cities paying a stormwater fee?

Yes, there are currently two communities in Arkansas with stormwater fees:

  1. Hot Springs, AR has a flat rate of $4.25/month for residential and a tiered rate for commercial based on the square footage of impervious surface.
  2. Bryant, AR has a monthly flat fee of $3/month for residential properties and $6/month for commercial and industrial accounts.
  3. Jacobs Engineering pulled data from 119 communities in Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, and Oklahoma with stormwater fees and found an average cost of $3.83/month per property.
Graph prepared by Jacobs Engineering for the City of Fayetteville showing a range of stormwater fees in 119 communities in Texas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Oklahoma

What should I do next?

Complete the Stormwater Survey available here.

Access the presentations and more information about the Study for Flood Management and Water Quality Funding at https://speakup.fayetteville-ar.gov/study

Celebrating our partnership with Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists

by: Angela Danovi, Ozarks Water Watch Regional Project Manager

As 2018 draws to a close, I want to take a moment to recognize our partnership with the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists and to let you know about an upcoming opportunity for you to become a master Naturalist.  

Over the last several years, I have been privileged to work with and get to know many members of the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists.  Their support, skills, and donation of their volunteer time have been critical to the success and accomplishments of our programs.  Here are just some of the examples of how master naturalists have supported me and the Ozarks Water Watch programs:

Master Naturalist Volunteer Fair

Tom Edmiston spoke before nearly 100 master naturalists during the volunteer opportunity showcase in February promoting our StreamSmart program.  During that event, I filled all available volunteer sites for the 2018 Beaver Lake monitoring and recruited over 20 people to check out stream monitoring to help fulfill our volunteer needs and to help master naturalists members meet their annual volunteer hours.

Master Naturalist Volunteer Day at Ozarks Water Watch in Rogers

In March, Tom Edmiston, along with a team of 20 others, visited my office at the Center for Nonprofits to help prepare supplies for the 2018 monitoring season.  In one afternoon, they completed over one month’s worth of work and helped to get our supplies ready for our volunteer monitoring teams.

Master Naturalist StreamSmart Teams

This year we had three new master naturalists teams join StreamSmart, adopting existing sites in need of new teams.  I know when a master naturalist team adopts a site, they do so with purpose and I can count on them to follow through with their commitments, as well as provide important feedback and support to help improve the quality of our volunteer monitoring program.  

Master Naturalists Lake Teams

Tom and Christie Waggoner along with three other volunteer teams covered four out of seven (57%) of our sites on Beaver Lake during the 2018 summer monitoring season.  The Waggoners were previously honored for their service to our lake monitoring program. Julie Lanshe was our volunteer of the year for 2018.  

Master Naturalists Rain Barrel Workshop

In late summer, Ken Leonard with the master naturalists reached out to me to ask if I would be willing to host a rain barrel making workshop with the master naturalists.  Through our partnership with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, an organization that has written the manual and perfected leading rain barrel workshops, I brought together the two organizations for a worskshop. In October, approximately 15 master naturalists made rain barrels to take home and place on their property to capture rain water for later use.  The workshop was held at Lake Weddington and I made a rain barrel for use in the new native garden being installed at Lake Weddington by the master naturalists.  It was a fun, interactive, and informative day while serving as another effort by master naturalists to protect water quality in Northwest Arkansas.

You can become a Master Naturalist!

Master Naturalists in Training 2018 class from Eureka Springs complete their field stream training

December is the time of year that the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists recruit new members for the spring class.  Each year, I have the privelege of teaching a portion of the stream, water, and watersheds training to the new classes.  Our class is consistently rated as one of the most well-liked among the Master Naturalists in training.  We always get at least one or two new StreamSmart teams from the incoming class.  So, I want to encourage you or your friends to consider the master naturalist training.  When you finish, you will have the equivalent experience of a first year college environmental science class.  

Access the 2019 application for the  Master Naturalist classes here

2019 Benton County Class Schedule

2019 Washington County Class Schedule

2019 Eureka Springs Class Schedule

Master Naturalists in Training 2018 class from Benton County complete their field stream training

I hope you will consider joining the master naturalists.  It is a wonderful opportunity for you to learn, grow, make friends, and help the organizations, like us, who are doing environmental science, education, outreach, and research to protect our natural resources.

If you have questions or would like more information about the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists, please contact nwamncontact@mn4arkansas.org

Sustainability Exhibit & Tiny House on Display in Little Rock

by: Angela Danovi,

Ozarks Water Watch, Arkansas Regional Projects Manager

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the White House Green Building Exhibit on Sustainability in Little Rock at the Clinton Presidential Library.  I was excited to visit because the exhibit features a tiny house.  Tiny houses are part of an architectural and social movement that advocates living simply in small homes.  This tiny house was built with some of the latest applications of sustainability and green technology.  While many people may not desire to reduce their living space down below 500 square feet, adopting some sustainable approaches to building and living can protect our land, air, and water where we live, work, and play.

All About the Tiny House!

White House Green Building; An Exhibit on Sustainability Clinton Presidential Library. Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/WJCLibrary/photos/a.468786430970/10156312620975971/?type=3&theater

Lower Energy and Sustainable Resources in the House

House size: This tiny house is 240 square feet.  Currently there is not a standard size to define a “tiny house,” but it is generally considered to be a house that is 500 square feet of smaller.  The larger your home, the more land that it occupies, increasing runoff of rainwater, increasing building resources, and increasing heating and cooling resources.  Living in a smaller home results in an overall lower environmental footprint and can save you money on energy costs, furnishing costs, and possibly on property taxes!

Bamboo Flooring: Bamboo Flooring is one of the most sustainable flooring options available.  While technically a grass, the 5-7 year growth cycle means it can be produced faster than hardwoods.

Engineered Wood: Known as composite wood or manufactured board, engineered wood is manufactured by binding the strands, particles, fibers, veneers, or boards of wood together.  This is a sustainable option because it can be produced from small trees, and makes use of the entire tree.  The panels also eliminate the need of using any other standard underlayment material.

Tiny house construction and the Clinton Presidential Library. Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/WJCLibrary/photos/a.468786430970/10156199662830971/?type=3&theater

Bamboo flooring and Engineered Wood used in the tiny house on display at the Clinton Presidential Center – Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/WJCLibrary/photos/a.468786430970/10156217801330971/?type=3&theater

Bamboo flooring and Engineered Wood used in the tiny house on display at the Clinton Presidential Center – Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/WJCLibrary/photos/a.468786430970/10156217801345971/?type=3&theater

Recycled Denim Insulation: Recycled denim is a natural cotton fiber and is made from scraps of blue jeans.  Recycled denim diverts this textile from the landfill, is energy efficient, and meets the criteria for lower level formaldehyde emission and contains no volatile organic compounds, keeping the air in your home clean.

 

Sustainable Roofs:

Radiant Barrier: Consisting of highly reflective material, radiant barriers reduce your home’s heat gain and cooling costs.  Oriented strand board (OSB) roof decking was used on this home.  OSB reflects up to 97% of the sun’s radiant heat from entering the building.

Metal Roof: Metal roofs are an excellent sustainable roofing option.  They are great insulators and allow for a cleaner and safer collection of rainwater from the roof.

Solar Panels: Much of the electrical needs of the house are provided by the sun.  Solar panels can reduce your energy costs and even allow you to have surplus energy for your home.

Lower Water Usage and Cleaner Water

Tankless Water Heater: This tiny house features a Rinnia tankless hot water heater, which supplies an unlimited amount of hot water on demand rather than holding hundreds of gallons of water in a tank and heating the same water continuously.  A tankless water heater also takes up less space, freeing space in your home or reducing areas that require heating and cooling.

Low flow shower heads: A shower head manufactured before 1993 uses as much as 8 gallons of water per minute.  A modern low-flow shower head can use as little as 1.4 gallons per minute, with the most common using 2 gallons per minute.  Modern technology of low flow shower heads produce enough pressure to feel like a higher volume of water.

Low water use toilet: Before 1994, toilets used at least 3.5 gallons of water per flush.  In 1994, new legislation was enacted reducing toilet flushes to 1.6 gallons.  Today, some water efficient toilets found through the WaterSense program can use 1 gallon of water or less per flush.  Some toilets are also adaptable to flushing more or less water as needed.

Model toilet in the tiny house. The two buttons allow for different volumes of water to flush as needed.

Rain Barrel: A rain barrel captures water for use at a later time.  Capturing water reduces runoff and provides a short-term supply of water for needs such as gardening or other uses which do not require potable water.   The metal roof on this tiny house will deliver cleaner water than traditional petroleum-based roofing shingles. It is highly encouraged to use food-grade barrels, especially if you are using the water for edible gardens.

Outdoor rain barrel capturing some roof runoff from the tiny house.

 

Actions you can take to improve sustainability:

  • Check your faucets and pipes under your sink.  A small drip can result in a lot of wasted water.  One drip per second from a leaky faucet can waste up to 5 gallons of water per day!
  • Install ceiling fans and turn them on in the summer and raise your air conditioning up a few degrees.  The ceiling fan will move air and help to cool you.
  • When you replace your appliances, select new ones that are Energy Star appliances.  Energy Star appliances must meet or exceed specific energy efficiency requirements.
  • Choose WaterSense household appliances.  Similar to Energy Star appliances, WaterSense appliances meet specifications for water efficiency and performance.  You will save water and money will making a positive contribution towards sustainability in your home.
  • Perform an energy audit of your home.  The Arkansas Energy Office can help you weatherize your home to improve energy efficiency.

 

Volunteers honored for service in Northwest Arkansas

By: Angela Danovi

Ozarks Water Watch Regional Projects Manager

Over 30 volunteers gathered in Fayetteville last month to be honored for their service in Ozarks Water Watch’s volunteer monitoring programs in the Beaver Lake Watershed.  Each September, the volunteer appreciation dinner brings together volunteers and their families who participate in lake monitoring and stream monitoring in the watershed.  In 2018, volunteers contributed more than 800 hours of service valuing more than $18,000 to monitoring and protecting water quality.

 

Special Recognitions

Lake Monitoring Volunteer of the Year – David Waldrup.

David began volunteering with the Beaver Lake Monitoring Program in its first year, in 2014.   He just completed his 5th year of monitoring Beaver Lake at our most upstream site.  David has provided continuity and professional service for five years, helping us to maintain stability as we launched our lake monitoring program.  He has been one of the first people to reach out at the beginning of the season and does a great job following through with his volunteer commitment.  I am grateful to work with him and grateful for the service has consistently provided over the last 5 lake monitoring seasons.

StreamSmart Team of the Year – White River Near St. Paul

Tom Edmiston

Lisa Edmiston

Care Butler

Patty Severino

Charlotte Harper

This team has been monitoring the White River near St. Paul, our most upstream site on the White River, since August 2015.  They have persevered through team member turnover, long drives to the site, challenging site conditions, and more.  Team leader, Tom Edmiston has been committed to consistently and accurately monitoring the site since the team began.  The efforts from monitoring this site have demonstrated that the White River has excellent water quality at its headwaters.

Volunteer of the Year – Julie Lanshe

Julie is a master naturalist and has become known as a go-to person to get things done!  She began monitoring several years ago with the small StreamSmart team monitoring War Eagle at the Mill and Glade Creek.  This was a big help to the team and to our program because it meant the site would have enough personnel to cover monitoring throughout the year.  This year, Julie volunteered to add lake monitoring on Beaver Lake to her list of volunteer responsibilities.  She and her husband adopted a lake site which had fallen off the list for a couple of years and helped us get updated data, which will be included in future monitoring reports.  In addition, to volunteer monitoring, Julie helped to assemble kits and provided assistance when needed to both our stream and lake monitoring programs.  I am grateful for her commitment and leadership.

Partner of the Year – Crop Soil and Environmental Sciences Club at the University of Arkansas

In 2017 we connected with the Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences Club at the University of Arkansas to see if there was interest in the club adopting Mullins Creek, which runs on campus near Bud Walton Arena.  The club president, Alyssa Ferri, expressed interest and immediately got back in touch with me about having the team begin water quality monitoring on Mullins Creek.  In April, a group of 15 students stayed after classes on a Friday to learn about water quality monitoring through Stream Smart.  In May, more than 10 students met on a Saturday morning, conducted a cleanup of Mullins Creek on campus and then completed their first monitoring event. This November, they will be presenting their monitoring results from StreamSmart at their professional conference. In August of this year the club joined in partnership with the largest water quality educational event in Northwest Arkansas and held an educational booth at Secchi Day on Beaver Lake.  Our partners are an integral and important resource for carrying out our work.  I’m thankful for and proud of the Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Club at the University of Arkansas for joining with us to provide their students an opportunity to monitor Mullins creek and to support the on-going volunteer and professional efforts to protect water quality.

Thanks to everyone who has volunteered with us over these last 6 years!  Your work has made a difference!  I look forward to an even bigger volunteer appreciation dinner in September 2019!

Toxic algal blooms found across the country – What you need to know

by: Angela Danovi, Arkansas Regional Project Manager, Ozarks Water Watch

Over the past several weeks and past few months, there seems to be an explosion of stories concerning toxic algal blooms degrading lakes across the country. In 2017, 169 Algal blooms in 40 states were headlined in the U.S.  In 1999, the upper James River arm of Table Rock Lake suffered a major algal bloom (photo below).

It is unknown if the bloom was toxic blue-green algae, but if swift measures had not been put in place, it is likely we would be experiencing blue-green outbreaks today. In response, water quality groups in Missouri, such as Table Rock Lake Water Quality (now merged with Ozarks Water Watch), came together with the Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Clean Water Commission to place phosphorous limits of 0.5 ppm on wastewater treatment plants located within the Table Rock Lake watershed. Since then, there have been no major algal blooms on Table Rock Lake.

Algal blooms can blanket vast expanses of a lake with what looks like thick, sickly green split-pea soup. Blooms are normally triggered by nutrient pollution from agriculture sources, septic systems, sub-standard sewage treatment plants and stormwater runoff, and are exacerbated by warming temperatures and intense rains.

Algal blooms can generally be thought of in two categories: harmful algal blooms or nuisance algal blooms.  Nuisance algal blooms or algae outbreaks may be used to describe macroalgae, which are large visible free floating, or microalgae which require a microscope to see but in mass are highly visible.  Cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cyanoHABs) in inland waters severally impact human health, pets, wildlife, aquatic ecosystems, and the economy.  Toxic blue-green algae is technically not algae, but photosynthetic single-celled organisms called cyanobacteria. The toxin produced in blue-green algae is called microcystin.

Slide presented by the Arkansas Harmful Algal Bloom (HABs) Workgroup – December 5, 2017 (https://bbrac.arkansas.gov/pdfs/201701205-arkansas-harmful-algal-bloom-(habs)-workgroup.pdf)

In a December 2017 presentation to the Arkansas Harmful Algal Bloom workgroup, several points of information were presented about HABs:

  • HABs are becoming more frequent and predictable, especially in nutrient enriched water bodies.
  • 2.5 million acres (nationally) of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds have poor water quality due to nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.
  • Some algal blooms can produce toxic compounds (cyanotoxins) at levels of concern for human health and the environment
  • When HABs are present near drinking water intakes, cyanotoxins can enter the drinking water utility’s supply, putting the local population at risk.
  • Toxins from HABs are also harmful and can cause death to pets and livestock
  • HABs also can pose a risk for swimming and other recreational activities on or in the water
  • EPA estimates between 30 and 48 million people use drinking water from lakes and reservoirs that may be vulnerable to cyanotoxin contamination.
  • HAB occurrences have diverse and far reaching economic impacts, not just drinking water, but also on tourism and recreation, real estate values, commercial fishing, and recreational businesses.
  • Nutrient enrichment and the resulting HABs are one of our most widespread, costly, and challenging environmental problems today.

Due to the increasing occurrences of harmful algal blooms, several action steps have been taken in Arkansas to study and better understand the issue, document algae blooms of concern,  and to develop proactive steps to protect water quality and the people who use the water.  In 2015, the Arkansas HABs working group was formed and includes members from state agencies, drinking water utilities, university research groups, and other interested stakeholders. The working group aims to: develop a plan for statewide assessment of risks to public health from cyanotoxins; provide guidance on water sampling, testing, and protocols for toxins; and recommend strategies to reduce and prevent future HABs.

 

In May of this year, Beaver Water District deployed new monitoring equipment in Hickory Flats Cove on the War Eagle arm of Beaver Lake as part of a research program to help determine causes of algae blooms and sources of nutrients in Beaver Lake.  The location was selected because of the high algae concentrations that are measured in the cove each year.

Vertical profile sampler on Beaver Lake deployed by Beaver Water District in 2018. https://www.bwdh2o.org/blog/2018/05/may-21-2018-beaver-water-district-deploys-monitoring-equipment-on-beaver-lake/

 

How you can help protect our waters against Algae Blooms

Snapshot of the ADEQ Harmful Algae Bloom Complaint Form

ADEQ has also launched online complaint forms for Harmful Algae Blooms and Nuisance Algae Blooms.  Through the complaint form, anyone can submit multiple photos, provide location information, and site descriptions if you observe an algal bloom in Arkansas.  Even if you are unsure of what type of algal bloom you are seeing, take photos, and submit a complaint so that it can be further investigated.

Click here to submit a nuisance algae complaint https://www.adeq.state.ar.us/complaints/forms/nuisance_algae_complaint.aspx

Click here to submit a harmful algae bloom complaint   https://www.adeq.state.ar.us/complaints/forms/harmful_algae_complaint.aspx

 

Fortunately, for the most part, the Ozarks area has been spared toxic algal blooms. Just a few years ago, Table Rock Lake experienced the clearest water in decades (photo above). Financial support from governmental agencies, businesses, and the public to organizations like Ozarks Water Watch are vital not only to help us continue to function, but to ensure our staff and resources are around for years to come to provide education, outreach, and projects that better our community by keeping our Ozarks waters clean, clear, and safe.

 

More Information:

Arkansas Harmful Algal Bloom (HABs) Workgroup, December 5, 2017 –https://bbrac.arkansas.gov/pdfs/201701205-arkansas-harmful-algal-bloom-(habs)-workgroup.pdf

Lakes Presenting Risk for Exposure to Harmful Algal Toxinshttps://www.epa.gov/nutrient-policy-data/lakes-presenting-risk-exposure-harmful-algal-toxins

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. National Ocean Service – Harmful Algal Blooms: Simple Plants With Toxic Implications

Blue-green Algae and Beaver Lake Factsheet by Beaver Water Districthttps://www.bwdh2o.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/blue-green-algae-and-beaver-lake.pdf

 

Fall Lake Turnover is Coming!

By: Angela Danovi

Arkansas Projects Manager, Ozarks Water Watch

During my time here in Northwest Arkansas, I have learned people are intrigued, mystified, or down right confused by the concept of lake turnover.  It seems if people experience a change in the taste or smell of the water at the tap, they say “well the lake must be turning over.”  If the fish stop biting one Saturday, they blame it on lake turnover.  Some people think the lake turns over twice a year, while others think the lake turns over four times a year.  One person even believed the lake turned over every night. Another person believed the US Army Corps of Engineers pushed a button to make the lake turn over.

One thing is clear, there are a lot of misconceptions out there about lake turnover.  Since we are approaching September, when lake turnover typically happens, I thought this would be a good time, in advance of the event, to try to clear up some misconceptions about lake turnover.

What is lake turnover?

Lake Turnover  is the mixing of lake water when air temperature and winds cool water at the surface causing it to become denser, sinking to the bottom of the lake, pushing water up from the bottom.

Think of “lake turnover” more as mixing of water, rather than flipping the lake over.

Graphic of fall lake turnover provided courtesy of Beaver Water District and adapted from Figure 44.10 in “Ecology and the Biosphere” (Candela Learning).

When does lake turnover happen?  

Lake Turnover typically happens in the fall, towards the end of September.

What causes lake turnover to happen?

Lake turnover happens around late September, as a result of changing temperatures at the surface of the lake, where the water is the warmest.  Over the summer months, as water at the surface warms, the surface water becomes less dense than water at the bottom of the lake.  The colder denser water will stay at the bottom, while the warmer and less dense water will float on top.  This division of water in the lake is referred to as thermal stratification and refers to a change in the temperature at different depths in the lake, and is associated with the change in water’s density with temperature.

Lake Stratification (11)

Thermal Stratification in a lake

Lakes are stratified into three separate sections:

Ⅰ. Epilimnion – Warm water and lower density, floats at the top during the summer

Ⅱ. Thermocline – Rapid Warm To Cold Transition with Depth

Ⅲ. Hypolimnion – Cold water and higher density, sits at the bottom during the summer

The scales are used to associate each section of the stratification to their corresponding depths and temperatures. The arrow is used to show the movement of wind over the surface of the water which initiates the turnover in the epilimnion and the hypolimnion.

Water is densest and heaviest at 4oC or approximately 39oF.

In the fall, as winds increase and temperatures cool, water will become denser sinking to the bottom of the lake and pushing up water that was sitting at the bottom.

If you still have questions about thermal stratification or don’t believe me, below is a great video from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Limnology that demonstrates thermal stratification in the lab and proves the water density concepts I discussed above!

How often does Beaver Lake turn over?

Beaver Lake turns over once a year, around late September when the water cools and begins sinking to the bottom of the lake, pushing water up from the bottom.  During other times of the year, the lake is either mixing uniformly or is in thermal stratification.  Lakes and reservoirs that stratify and mix once a year are “Monomictic.”

 

 

Beaver Lake Reservoir Characteristics

Beaver Lake Reservoir Characteristics. Graphic provided courtesy of Beaver Water District

I hope this blog has helped answer your questions about “lake turnover” on Beaver Lake and all of our reservoirs in the Upper White River Basin.

Stream Monitoring Volunteers Needed

It’s July and that means it is time to start organizing new volunteers to join our streamsmart volunteer monitoring.

If you have previously completed StreamSmart training, are a current or former master naturalist, an outdoor enthusiast, or somebody that wants to get involved in environmental activities, then becoming a StreamSmart Volunteer is for you!  Our annual training is coming up on Saturday, July 14 and you can register to attend for free, here

However, some of you may already be ready to get out in the field and are looking for a site to help monitor.  This year we have developed an online registration process to monitor a site.  Below are the sites where we need volunteers.  Each site has a map and a photo of the site, along with a site registration form.  Take a look at these sites and when you find one where you want to work, just fill out the volunteer form and we’ll contact you about helping with upcoming monitoring.

If you have any questions or need more information about volunteering or if you need information about a specific site, please contact Angela Danovi at 479-295-7717 or email adanovi@ozarkswaterwatch.org

Sites needing volunteers – SignUp Forms:

  1. Site 200-Ward Slough
  2. Site 201-Middle Fork of the White River at Harris Bridge Road
  3. Site 210-Town Branch
  4. Site 301-War Eagle at Withrow Springs State Park
  5. Site 306-Prairie Creek
  6. Sites 307/308-Holman Creek Upstream of Huntsville/Downstream of Huntsville

 

Site Descriptions

Ward Slough-Site 200: Volunteer Sign-Up

Ward Slough is located in Washington County behind Greenland City Hall off of hwy 71

Latitude/Longitude 35.997167, -94.173944

Ward Slough (Site 200)

Middle Fork of White River-Harris Bridge Road-Site 201: Volunteer Sign-up

Middle Fork of the White River is located about 8 miles southwest of Lake Sequoyah Park on hwy 51

Latitude, Longitude: 35.995833, -94.072889

Middle Fork of the White River at Harris Bridge Road (Site 201)

Town Branch-Site 210: Volunteer Sign-Up link

Town Branch is located in Fayetteville off of South Armstrong Road

Latitude/Longitude: 36.043167, -94.135861

Town Branch (Site 210)

War Eagle at Withrow Springs-Site 301: Volunteer Sign-up link

War Eagle at Withrow Springs-Site 301 is in Madison Co near Huntsville by the hwy 23 bridge at Withrow Springs State Park.  

Latitude/Longitude: 36.150000, -93.74013

War Eagle at Withrow Springs State Park (Site 301)

Prairie Creek-Site 306: Volunteer Sign-Up Link

Prairie Creek is located below Lake Atalanta Dam off Hwy 12 in Rogers.

Latitude/Longitude: 36.341222, -94.096528

Prairie Creek (site 306)

Holman Creek Upstream (Site 307) / Downstream (Site 308) of Huntsville

Holman Creek is located off of Hwy 412. The Upstream site is located on 412b about 1 mile south of 412. The downstream site is about a 5 minute drive from the upstream and is located on hwy 23 towards Withrow Springs.

Holman Creek Upstream of Huntsville (site 307) lat/long: 36.104417, -93.756750

Holman Creek Upstream of Huntsville (Site 307)

Holman Creek Downstream of Huntsville (site 308) lat/long: 36.124444, -93.734222

Holman Creek Downstream of Huntsville (Site 308)

StreamSmart Volunteer Training and Site SignUp

It’s July and that means it is time to start organizing new volunteers to join our streamsmart volunteer monitoring. Each July we host our annual StreamSmart training for people who are interested in learning about stream monitoring and want to join a StreamSmart volunteer monitoring team.

StreamSmart is a volunteer water quality monitoring program run by Ozarks Water Watch to assess baseline water quality of the streams and rivers that flow into Beaver Lake in Northwest Arkansas. Through the program, local volunteers collect water samples and complete field assessments through a standardized water quality monitoring process.

StreamSmart volunteer training is a day-long program that will provide training for new and current volunteers who want to become part of the stream volunteer monitoring in the Beaver Lake Watershed of Northwest Arkansas. Training will begin at 9am and conclude at 3:30pm. The morning session will include classroom learning of the streamsmart volunteer monitoring protocol. Attendees will receive a training manual and a free lunch. In the afternoon, we will visit a nearby stream where attendees will get to practice their new skills. Attendees will leave the training as members of a new or existing StreamSmart team and will be prepared to work independently on a team to do volunteer water quality monitoring.

StreamSmart volunteers should be high school or older. Volunteers need to feel comfortable being outside in hot and cold weather, walking outdoors across uneven terrain, entering streams, walking and standing in streams teams, and following written procedures. Volunteer teams are normally comprised of 3-5 people, but some teams have as many as 10 people on the team who are trained to collect water samples and take field measurements. Teams with more members have a greater capacity to share monitoring responsibilities among team members.

Attendees will spend the morning in the classroom learning about monitoring procedures.  In the afternoon we will head out to a nearby stream to put our classroom learning into practice.  If you are interested in attending StreamSmart training, please register using the form below or visit the StreamSmart Volunteer Training Registration link here.

FREE LUNCH AND SNACKS WILL BE PROVIDED TO ALL ATTENDEES!

StreamSmart Registration Form

Please fill out the form for each individual planning to attend training

If you cannot attend training but are interested in signing up to monitor a site, please scroll to the bottom of this post to see the sites where we currently need volunteers.

 


StreamSmart Training Details:

This year, for the first time, our volunteer training will be in Washington County at the Don Tyson Center For Agricultural Sciences located at 1371 West Altheimer Drive, Fayetteville, AR!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Check-in: 8:30am

Training Begins at 9:00am

Site team meetings at 12:00 noon

Field training begins at 1:00pm

Click Here to Register to attend the 2018 StreamSmart Training

 


Sign up to monitor a StreamSmart Site

Online signup forms are now available for volunteers to sign up for a site they want to monitor.  Click on the link below associated with the site you are interested in monitoring.  Please fill out a form for each site you are interested in monitoring.  If you are interested in more than 1 site, you will need to fill out a form for each site you are interested in.  Information collected from the forms linked below will be used to develop and coordinate a monitoring team for the respective site.

Sites needing volunteers:

  1. Site 200-Ward Slough
  2. Site 201-Middle Fork of the White River at Harris Bridge Road
  3. Site 210-Town Branch
  4. Site 301-War Eagle at Withrow Springs State Park
  5. Site 306-Prairie Creek
  6. Sites 307/308-Holman Creek Upstream of Huntsville/Downstream of Huntsville

 

StreamSmart Site Descriptions:

Each site needing volunteers is linked to its respective volunteer signup form, a google map of the site, and provides a photo of the site from ground level.

 

Ward Slough-Site 200: Volunteer Sign-Up

Ward Slough is located in Washington County behind Greenland City Hall off of hwy 71

Latitude/Longitude 35.997167, -94.173944

Ward Slough (Site 200)

 

Middle Fork of White River-Harris Bridge Road-Site 201: Volunteer Sign-up

Middle Fork of the White River is located about 8 miles southwest of Lake Sequoyah Park on hwy 51

Latitude, Longitude: 35.995833, -94.072889

Middle Fork of the White River at Harris Bridge Road (Site 201)

 

Town Branch-Site 210: Volunteer Sign-Up link

Town Branch is located in Fayetteville off of South Armstrong Road

Latitude/Longitude: 36.043167, -94.135861

Town Branch (Site 210)

 

War Eagle at Withrow Springs-Site 301: Volunteer Sign-up link

War Eagle at Withrow Springs-Site 301 is in Madison Co near Huntsville by the hwy 23 bridge at Withrow Springs State Park.  

Latitude/Longitude: 36.150000, -93.740139

War Eagle at Withrow Springs State Park (Site 301)

 

Prairie Creek-Site 306: Volunteer Sign-Up Link

Prairie Creek is located below Lake Atalanta Dam off Hwy 12 in Rogers.

Latitude/Longitude: 36.341222, -94.096528

Prairie Creek (site 306)

 

Holman Creek Upstream (Site 307) / Downstream (Site 308) of Huntsville

Holman Creek is located off of Hwy 412. The Upstream site is located on 412b about 1 mile south of 412. The downstream site is about a 5 minute drive from the upstream and is located on hwy 23 towards Withrow Springs.

Holman Creek Upstream of Huntsville (site 307) lat/long: 36.104417, -93.756750

Holman Creek Upstream of Huntsville (Site 307)

 Holman Creek Downstream of Huntsville (site 308) lat/long: 36.124444, -93.734222

Holman Creek Downstream of Huntsville (Site 308)

 

Over 200 Middle School Students Visit Lake Atalanta

by: Angela Danovi

May 30, 2018

It was 8:30 in the morning on May 2nd when 238 7th graders descended on the lawn near Lake Atalanta for their ecology field trip day.   Elmwood Middle 7th grade science teacher, Jane Mohr, and I had been preparing for the day for over two months.  We were excited and hopeful the students would have a fun and educational experience learning lessons in water quality and ecology.  We decided several months earlier to do a day-long field trip to provide students with several different opportunities to interact with different instructors outside of the classroom.  Our idea was for students to visit six stations throughout the day,  learning about different ecology concepts and engaging in different learning activities.  We decided to have two water activities, two activities where students could explore the park, and two opportunities for students to engage in observational ecology lessons.  To lead each of the stations, we invited several partners who were well adept at leading field trip activities and lessons in ecology and water quality.  Our partners were excited and willing to help out with the huge field trip!

Elmwood Middle 7th grade science students collected macroinvertebrates during the Lake Atalanta Ecology Field Trip

Elmwood Middle 7th grade science students collected macroinvertebrates during the Lake Atalanta Ecology Field Trip

Students got to kick up and identify macroinvertebrates with Kayla Sayre from the Beaver Watershed Alliance, measure stream discharge with me, do a geography and history scavenger hunt with Trish Ouei from the University of Arkansas Cooperative extension service, complete a runoff simulation with Casey Rector of the Illinois River Watershed Partnership, tour the low impact development features of the park with Dot Neely of Beaver Water District, and complete an ecological survey with Laurie Scott of Northwest Arkansas Community College.

Elmwood middle 7th grade science students complete an ecological survey during their ecology field trip

The water activities were favorites of most students.  At the macroinvertebrate station, students entered the creek to kick up benthic sediments and collect macroinvertebrates.  They used dichotomous key to macroinvertebrate life in the river to identify the specimen they had collected.  Once they identified their macroinvertebrates, they used the StreamSmart field data sheet to determine the water quality level.  The students found the water quality of the streams flowing to Lake Atalanta to be good water quality.

Elmwood Middle 7th grade science students collected macroinvertebrates during the Lake Atalanta Ecology Field Trip

The students visited with me to learn about stream discharge.  This was the first time I attempted to teach stream discharge to students younger than high school.  I simplified the the StreamSmart discharge procedure so they could follow the process and determine a discharge that would still be fairly accurate for the stream.  The station gave the students real world experience in using math and and taking measurements to find an answer.  For many students, and even some adults, they were shocked to learn there was not a “right answer,” but instead I was looking for an answer that made sense.  This is what I ask my volunteers to do in the field and it’s often what we do when we are doing field science.  So, it was a good opportunity for them to gain a first-hand experience in field science, while having fun in the water.

Elmwood Middle 7th grade science students measure stream discharge during the ecology field trip

Overall, it was a great day and some students declared it the best field trip they had ever done.  Plans are already underway for next year and we are looking forward to making it an even better experience, while giving students a real-world scientific experience in ecology and water quality.

Elmwood Middle Science students write up their ecological survey notes during the 2018 ecology field trip to Lake Atalanta

Elmwood Middle Teachers enjoy a moment to sit down during the 2018 ecology field trip

Thank you to everyone who made this day possible and we look forward to having another great ecology field trip with Elmwood Middle again in 2019!

Field Trip Partners

  • City of Rogers Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Elmwood Middle School in Rogers, AR
  • Ozarks Water Watch
  • Beaver Water District
  • Beaver Watershed Alliance
  • Illinois River Watershed Partnership
  • University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, Benton County
  • Northwest Arkansas Stormwater Education
  • Northwest Arkansas Community College