Autumn leaves in the city can contribute to poor water quality

Photo of Fayetteville, AR by Joe Wittkop (2014)

As we flip the calendar from September to October, we start to think about the beautiful autumn colors of the Ozarks. However, autumn leaves can actually contribute nutrients to our local waterways. This blog by Stephen A. Hubbs, professional engineer from Kentucky with the water quality and health council explains the connection between increased nutrients in our water and the autumn leaves which fall from our trees. Access the complete article here.

Today, a major concern is that leaf litter (i.e., organic debris) spikes stormwater systems and watersheds with nutrients during and after rainfall, especially when it gathers along street curbs. Excess phosphorus and nitrogen often lead to major water quality problems for municipalities, a process called eutrophication,1 and harmful algal blooms (HABs). The sources of nitrogen and phosphorus are many and varied, but leaves that fall on streets and into catch-basins during autumn can add to the nutrient problem in urban streams and lakes—particularly in subsequent summer months that also support conditions for HABs.

The connection between fallen leaves and excess nutrient loading may appear intuitive, but the impact on urban water quality, including release of organic compounds, is not fully understood. A U.S. Geological Survey researcher named William Selbig reported on research conducted during the months of April through November, 2013 to 2015, in Madison, Wisconsin.3 He noted that “While the sources of nutrients to urban stormwater are many, the primary contributor is often organic detritus, especially in areas with dense overhead tree canopy … making source control through leaf removal one of the few treatment options available to environmental managers when reducing the amount of dissolved nutrients in stormwater runoff.”

So What Can I Do?

Think regionally (area streams and lakes) and act locally (your front yard). There are several things you can do this fall to reduce the effect of leaves on urban water quality:

  • Consider mulching in-place with your lawn mower, especially if your yard is relatively flat, and those nutrients will soak into your lawn.4 And it’s probably easier than raking!
  • Gather leaves and other “yard waste” into a compost pile for use next spring to fertilize flower beds and vegetable gardens.
  • If you know when leaves will be collected for your community, wait to rake them close to the street until just before collection time.
  • If you have curbside leaf collection, rake leaves near the edge of the street (keep about three feet of lawn between the curb and the pile) but not into the street. The soil under the leaves will adsorb some of the nutrients when it rains.
  • Keep leaves off driveways, sidewalks and other impermeable surfaces.
  • Keep the streets and catch-basins free of leaves … they usually lead straight to a stream!

Let’s Talk Trash…in our water!

It is often said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I don’t know that we necessarily expect different results by conducting stream and watershed cleanups over and over because we expect to find trash and we become happy or even concerned if we go back to a known location over time and see less trash. It leaves us wondering, “where did the trash go, now?” So maybe this endless cycle of cleanups means we are more insane for not expecting different results!!

But, one thing is becoming more clear, our trash is following our water cycle! There have even been recent reports of microplastics being identified in rain water, indicating plastics are possibly falling out of the atmosphere during rainfall.

So, despite our best efforts to clean up at least some of our streams and watersheds, we continue to find more trash, meaning the cleanups are just part of the cycle and not directly addressing the trash problem. Meanwhile, the trash and plastic problems in the oceans persist and grow.

Sydney Harris, ORISE at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, United States, Toward a standard trash assessment method https://cedar.wwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2767&context=ssec

Trash in waterbodies is not assessed and regulated in most states. However, over 200 individual water body reaches in 7 states including Alaska, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, and New York have been listed as impaired for trash, debris or floatables since 1996. But, most states or localities have little accounting for how much trash is being accumulated in streams or the efforts underway and costs to clean up trash out of streams.

Escaped Trash Assessment Protocol

A new effort is underway to standardize how we conduct cleanups and account for the trash that is found through the Escaped Trash Assessment Protocol. The Escaped Trash Assessment Protocol was created by the Trash Free Waters Program (TFW) of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). A pilot project, featured in the May 2019 EPA Newsletter The Flow…of Trash Free Waters, is currently underway on Three Mile Creek in downtown Mobile, Alabama using the Litter Gitter system and the Escaped Trash Assessment Protocol to collect data about the trash found in the creek and provide feedback on the protocol.

DRAFT Escaped Trash Assessment Protocol (ETAP)

The protocol follows a 4-step process:

Step 1: Site Selection – In this step you will select a site and identify specific boundaries for your cleanup and study.

Step 2: Site characterization and cleanup – In this step you will identify your landuses, existing trash condition, existing preventative measures for trash management, and distance to waterbody. You will conduct a cleanup and catalogue the trash using the datacard.

Step 3: Data Entry and Analysis – In this step you will enter and analyze your data to better understand and describe the trash, conditions, and metrics from your cleanup.

Step 4: Adaptive Management – Propose adaptive management strategies to address localized trash problems.

Benefits of a standardized method

The benefits of having and following a standard protocol are numerous to watershed management.

  • The methods can be implemented across all environments.
  • Results can be compared across states and watersheds.
  • Watershed organizations can use the data to prioritize areas for adaptive management or to implement BMPs rather than endlessly expending resources on conducting cleanups.
  • Data can be visualized and explained to the public and other stakeholders.
  • Long-term data can be collected and analyzed in a methodical way to determine trends of a specific area over time.
  • Upstream and Downstream data can be used to identify inputs of trash or to analyze effectiveness of implemented BMPs.
Sydney Harris, ORISE at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, United States, Toward a standard trash assessment method https://cedar.wwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2767&context=ssec

To learn more about efforts to reduce trash, visit Trash-Free Waters at https://www.epa.gov/trash-free-waters

Protecting Monarchs Protects Water Quality

We often think and talk about environmental work in distinct sections, such as protecting water quality, improving habitat for certain species, removing invasives, or planting natives. Those who work or volunteer in the environmental sector understand all components of environmental work intersect and working in one area can affect another part of the environment. However, the greater public doesn’t always consider those connections.

The Monarch Joint Venture Project explored the important connections and mutual benefits gained between native plants, monarch habitat, and water quality protection in a recent article:

You may be asking yourself, how can monarch conservation help improve water quality and reduce the likelihood of flooding events? The answer is that any monarch planting, large or small, helps reconnect and restore some of the natural functions that our landscape historically provided. Because of this, the habitat you plant to help monarchs can make a positive impact on the water quality in your watershed. Whether you are a gardener, land manager, farmer, city planner, or another type of land or water steward, your pollinator habitat project can make a difference.

Unlike turf grass, native plants that make up monarch and pollinator habitat like milkweed, wildflowers, and bunch grasses, have deep root systems that can reach several feet into the ground. These roots not only provide soil stability and prevent erosion, they also form channels in the soil that help rainfall soak in and replenish our groundwater supply. Moreover, some plants act as sponges for heavy metals and other pollutants, and can prevent them from getting into our streams, rivers, and lakes by soaking them up into their tissues with the water and removing them from the soil. Native plant buffers along roadsides, streams, and agricultural fields, residential or corporate rain-gardens, and any other type of landscaping can be planted with native milkweed, wildflowers, and grasses. These plants provide food and shelter for many wildlife species, including monarchs, while also helping to slow the flow of runoff and prevent contaminants from reaching our waterways.

Planting habitat for monarchs actively reduces the amount of runoff and pollution in our waterways by disrupting the flow of runoff and providing additional places for water to go in the ground. It also requires fewer inputs than other ecosystems, like crops, lawns, or ornamental landscaping. Native flowers and grasses existed long before European settlement alongside the other flora and fauna, and are well adapted to regional soil and moisture conditions.

Diagram showing how native grasses and plants (including monarch habitat) develop deep root systems compared to conventional turf grass (seen at the far left of the diagram)

Be Careful choosing your milkweed!

The drive to promote monarchs and their habitat has largely been in response to the nearly 90% decline in the monarch populations since the mid-1990s. One main message was to plant any and all milkweed. Unfortunately, there have been some unintended and unexpected consequences from the implementing that message. As the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission explained:

The species of milkweed most commonly available to plant in the United States is tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), which is not native to North America. It turns out that tropical milkweed doesn’t die back in the winter like native milkweed does, creating new winter breeding sites, keeping monarchs from migrating farther south. Although that might not sound like such a bad thing, it poses a great threat to monarchs – it hosts a parasite called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE). Monarch caterpillars ingest the parasite while feeding on milkweed and then emerge from their chrysalises covered in OE spores. Infected monarchs are weakened by OE and don’t live as long, and an OE-infected monarch that tries to migrate will probably die before it reaches the overwintering sites in Mexico.

A study reported by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. concluded that monarchs who stayed in the southern United States for the winter were five to nine times more likely to be infected with OE than migrating butterflies.

Plant Native Milkweed!

Plant only native varieties of milkweed. In Arkansas, that includes curly milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis), tall green milkweed (Asclepias hirtella), purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens), butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), white milkweed (Asclepias variegata), horsetail milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), and spider milkweed (Asclepias viridis).

If you have already planted non-native milkweed, experts advise that you cut the tropical milkweed back every few weeks during the winter. And, of course, plant more native milkweed. You can learn more about planting native plants on the native gardening webpage of the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission.

Largest Class of New Volunteers Trained for StreamSmart

by: Angela Danovi, Ozarks Water Watch StreamSmart Coordinator

One Saturday of classroom and field training concluded with 27 new volunteers, the largest class on record, ready to monitor streams in the Beaver Lake Watershed. The training class was held for new volunteers interested in forming teams with the Ozarks Water Watch StreamSmart Volunteer Monitoring Program.

StreamSmart is a volunteer water quality monitoring program run by 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.

During the morning training, participants completed classroom training where they received their training manuals, met professional staff from the Arkansas Water Resources Center, and learned about the monitoring procedures. During lunch, they had an opportunity to sign up for one or more of the 7 sites available for new volunteers to monitor.

In the afternoon, everyone joined together at Clear Creek between Fayetteville and Springdale to practice the protocol and enjoy the cool water.

Over the next few weeks the volunteers will get an opportunity to visit their sites, get to know their teammates, and make a plan for their upcoming first monitoring event in August, which will begin our 8th year of volunteer stream monitoring in the Beaver Lake Watershed!

We are looking forward to working with this new group of volunteers and continuing to collect high quality data about our water quality in the Beaver Lake Watershed.

StreamSmart Volunteer Training Set for June 29

We need volunteers!

Do you remember kicking around in streams, picking up rocks, or catching “crawdads” as a kid? Do you enjoy being outside in Ozark streams or are you interested in learning more about Ozark streams? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you would be a great candidate for attending our annual StreamSmart volunteer training coming up on June 29!

Register for StreamSmart volunteer training here.

StreamSmart is our volunteer monitoring program where volunteers conduct water quality monitoring in the Beaver Lake Watershed. Each year we hold a training workshop for people interested in volunteering in the StreamSmart program. This year’s training, scheduled for June 29, will be held at the Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Center in Fayetteville!

StreamSmart training is a great opportunity for those who are interested in volunteer water quality monitoring in the Beaver Lake Watershed to get trained, meet other volunteers, and learn more about volunteer monitoring opportunities! Attending training does not require previous water quality monitoring experience or future volunteer commitment. But, we hope our training will inspire you to join a volunteer monitoring team!

Training is a day-long experience. Check in will begin at 8:30am with training starting at 9:00am. The morning will be in the classroom learning basics about watersheds and learning the stream monitoring protocols for collecting water samples, conducting habitat assessments, and conducting macroinvertebrate surveys. We will provide a free lunch to all attendees. In the afternoon we will drive to a nearby stream and put our training protocol into practice!

Trainees will finish the day ready to lead or serve on our volunteer monitoring StreamSmart teams!

Register for StreamSmart volunteer training here.

New teams are needed at the following four sites:

  • Site 104 – White River at St. Paul
  • Site 205 – Hock Creek (located approximately 5 miles east of Wesley or 10 miles southwest of Huntsville)
  • Site 206 – Spout Spring Branch (located in Walker Park in Fayetteville)
  • Site 210 – Town Branch (located near the White River Ball Fields in Fayetteville)

Additional team members are needed for an existing team monitoring on the West Fork at:

  • Site 101 – Baptist Ford Bridge (located near Greenland)
  • Site 102 – Brentwood Park

For questions or more information contact the StreamSmart coordinator, Angela Danovi, at 479-295-7717 or email adanovi@ozarkswaterwatch.org

Rogers Arkansas Students Complete Water Quality & Ecology Field Trip

by: Angela Danovi, Regional Projects Manager, Ozarks Water Watch

Rogers’ Elmwood Raiders 7th-graders took their ecology lessons to the field on Wednesday, May 22. Over 280 students visited Lake Atalanta Park, located in the Beaver Lake Watershed. Throughout the day students were testing water clarity, conducting soil and water chemistry testing, measuring stream flow and many other exciting hands-on learning experiences! This was the second year for the Elmwood Ecology field trip, expanding to twelve stations this year and giving students an opportunity to learn from professionals and trained volunteers from the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists what it is like to conduct environmental field science in their own back yard.

Elmwood Students conduct a macroinvertebrate survey at Lake Atalanta Park. (Photo Credit: Jason Ivester, Communications Multimedia Specialist, Rogers Public Schools)

The Elmwood Ecology Field Trip was concieved by Angela Danovi, Regional Projects Manager for Ozarks Water Watch and Elmwood Middle School Science Teacher, Jane Mohr. “This field trip is exciting for our students because they can gain hands-on experience outside of the classroom, reinforcing the work we are teaching them in class,” said Mohr. The expansion of the field trip was in-part supported by a small grant to Angela Danovi as non-formal environmental educator from the Arkansas Environmental Education Association. The grant supported the purchase of student soil and water testing kits, allowing the students to practice field science by conducting student-directed scientific tests and collecting environmental data in their local park. Next year’s 7th grade students will use the data to practice graphing and other math skills and to learn about normal variability found in routine environmental science.

Elmwood students prepare to take a secchi reading on Lake Atalanta. (Photo Credit: Jason Ivester, Communications Multimedia Specialist, Rogers Public Schools)

This year’s field trip was particularly timely for students because they had the opportunity to measure the stream discharge in Prairie Creek, the stream that flows to Lake Atalanta, just days before the flooding of the Arkansas River. Students practiced using the instruments during their science class, prior to the field trip. During the field trip they were able to implement the procedure in the field and calculate discharge in cubic feet per second and then convert that number to gallons per second. During the past few days, the teachers have been sharing stream discharge updates and videos taken by the US Army Corps of Engineers on the Arkansas River, demonstrating for the students how the work they did on their field trip is used by professionals to manage our water resources.

Elmwood students collecting measurements on Prairie Creek at Lake Atalanta Park to calculate stream discharge. (Photo Credit: Jason Ivester, Communications Multimedia Specialist, Rogers Public Schools)

In addition to water quality science activities, students enjoyed programs by Alan Bland on Mammals of the Ozarks, Chris Pistole of Hobbs State Park on Food Webs, Trish Ouei of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension on the ecology and history of Lake Atalanta Park, and Dot Neely of Beaver Water District on permeability of surfaces in a watershed. Additional professional parterners included Carrie Byron of Beaver Watershed Alliance who led a stream chemistry station and Danielle Dozer of Ozark Natural Science Center who led a macroinvertebrate survey. The 2019 Elmwood field trip was a success and hopefully gave the students a positive field science experience and a sense of connectedness to our water in Beaver Lake Watershed and the Ozarks.


You’re Invited! Join our family events in Beaver Lake Watershed this spring

By: Angela Danovi, Ozarks Water Watch – Arkansas Regional Projects Coordinator

Spring is a great time to be outside with the family and to celebrate Beaver Lake Watershed. Whether you want to attend one of our two upcoming appreciation days or help to clean up part of a stream in the watershed, getting out in the watershed during one of our events is a great way to learn about the watershed and support the efforts to promote water quality among everyone who lives, works, and plays in the Beaver Lake Watershed. This spring we are excited to bring you three great events in the Beaver Lake Watershed!


Lake Atalanta Appreciation Day

Saturday, April 20

Check in at 8:30 AM – Clark Pavilion at Lake Atalanta

Located at 500 E Walnut St, Rogers, AR 72756

9:00AM – 11:00AM Cleanup Lake Atalanta Park

Join us for our official Earth Day event at the second annual Lake Atalanta Appreciation Day in Rogers! If you have not been out to Lake Atalanta lately, you need to come join us. Construction from the flood damage is completed! There is more parking available, plenty of trails to walk or bike, and lots of open space for young children to play and fly kites. We will spend the morning walking the trails, open space, and shoreline of Lake Atalanta picking up trash and cleaning up our local park. Snacks and prizes will be available!

RSVP and recieve updates on our 2nd Annual Lake Atalanta Appreciation Day Facebook event page!


West Fork Cleanup

Saturday, May 18, 2019

8:00-9:30AM Check In:

9:00AM – 11:30AM Cleanup the West Fork Watershed

11:30AM Lunch at Riverside Park in West Fork

 

Two Check In Sites Available:

  1. Walker Park in Fayetteville located near the youth baseball fields at South College and 15th street – directions available here
  2. Riverside Park in West Fork located off of main street in West Fork – directions available here

The West Fork Cleanup is one of the largest cleanups of the year. It is held annually, covers many sites in the West Fork watershed, and results in thousands of pounds of trash being removed out of the second largest subwatershed in the Beaver Lake Watershed. The West Fork Cleanup is a fun family event! There are opportunities for everyone to help! We always enjoy a picnic lunch together alongside the creek at the West Fork of the White River. Registration is NOT required. You can come the day of the event and check in at Walker Park in Fayetteville or Riverside Park in West Fork. We look forward to seeing you!


War Eagle Appreciation Day

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Recreational Float*

Environmental and Craft Fair

12:00 Noon – Free Lunch

Located at Keith Ham Pavilion at Withrow Springs State Park

*Contact Beaver Watershed Alliance to reserve a boat for the float or to get event information at info@beaverwatershedalliance.org and 479-750-8007

War Eagle Appreciation Day is a day of fun activities and appreciation of the War Eagle Creek. The day will begin with a recreational float led by experienced paddlers on War Eagle Creek. This is a fun opportunity for those who are less experienced on the river to get out in a safe environment and experience a relaxing trip down the War Eagle. At the Keith Ham Pavilion enviornmental and cultural exhibits will be set up so families can learn about water quality, Withrow Springs Park, and some of the important historical and cultural contributions of the area. Around noon, lunch will be provided with music provided by talented local muscians. Bring your lawn chair, swim suit if you want to take a dip in the creek, and water bottle and come enjoy War Eagle Appreciation Day with us. More details and information will be provided on our facebook page as we get closer to the event!


Location of Ozarks Water Watch Spring Events in Arkansas

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