Monthly Archives: November 2017

Arkansas Water Resources Center plays important role protecting water quality

By: Erin Scott, program manager of the Arkansas Water Resources Center & Angela Danovi, Ozarks Water Watch Arkansas Projects Manager.

The Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Science

The new state of the art  Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences opened at The University of Arkansas on November 16, 2017 to much fanfare and excitement.  Ozarks Water Watch staff attended the grand opening to represent their partnership with Arkansas Water Resources Center Water Quality Lab through the StreamSmart volunteer monitoring program.

For more than five years, Arkansas Water Resources Center Water Quality Lab has served as a critical partner with Ozarks Water Watch in the StreamSmart volunteer monitoring program.  Each quarter, AWRC accepts over 20 samples into their lab and analyzes those samples for nutrients, suspended solids, dissolved solids, pH, alkalinity and conductivity.  Their analyses increases the quality and reliability of data from the StreamSmart volunteer monitoring program and provides thousands of dollars of in-kind analytical services each year towards volunteer water quality monitoring in the Beaver Lake Watershed.  The AWRC budgets its own funds to cover the costs of sample analyses so the limited StreamSmart resources can be directed towards equipment purchases, volunteer recruitment and training, and publication of data and information associated with the program. Additionally, AWRC personnel serve on the advisory board to provide technical support and input for the volunteer monitoring program as well as to provide education and training each year for new volunteers.  The partnership between Ozarks Water Watch and AWRC also gives the public more awareness of the water center and how the AWRC positively impacts the community.

Erin Scott, AWRC program manager, conducts a training for new StreamSmart volunteers

For the last several years, the AWRC lab has been housed in the smaller and older biomass building, located behind the new building. With the opening of the new building, the water quality lab relocated into a new state of the art wing of the Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences. The new building covers 54,000 square feet, with the majority of it as lab space. It’s also a certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver building, meaning that it’s designed to be sustainable, highly efficient, and provide cost-savings benefits.

The AWRC staff and lab technicians are thrilled with the new space, “we get a lot of natural light and it just feels better in here than in the old space we were in before,” said Keith Trost, analytical technician who works daily at the lab. The new lab also is great for public perception. People love to see fancy new state-of-the-art facilities. “We give a lot of lab tours to water stakeholders and students,” says Brina Smith, analytical technician with the lab. “I think the beautiful new lab will really stick in their minds in a very positive way.”  The new AWRC lab is definitely an upgrade from the old facility. For example, new or better safety features are in place, such as fume hoods, lighting, and a negative pressure system for air quality. Also, there’s simply more space; now the lab can accommodate more staff and students working alongside each other without bumping elbows. The extra space also allows room to grow!

Brina Smith in the new AWRC lab

Jennifer Purtle, AWRC technician, prepares for water water quality analysis in the new AWRC lab

In addition to supporting StreamSmart, AWRC conducts their own water quality monitoring, which is primarily funded by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the Poteau Valley Improvement Authority. These monitoring projects support a number of people including post-doctoral and student positions. They collect water samples from 15 sites in northwest Arkansas in the Upper White and Upper Illinois River watersheds, and about 35 sites in the Poteau River watershed in Oklahoma and in Arkansas. The goal of these projects is to understand how water quality is changing over time and to help identify areas in the watershed where resources should be targeted to improve water quality.

The AWRC also focuses on training students through various programs. For example, undergraduate and graduate students work with the Center director, Brian Haggard, on research projects through the Research Experience for Undergraduates and the Freshman Engineering programs at the University of Arkansas. The AWRC also funds research by other faculty and students throughout the State through the US Geological Survey 104B program. Summer interns and hourly personnel are also supported by the water center.

Dr. Brad Austin, AWRC researcher and StreamSmart volunteer, conducts research on phosphorus availability of soils

The Arkansas Water Resources Center (AWRC) is part of a network of 54 water institutes established by the Water Resources Research Act of 1964 and is located at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.  AWRC operates the water quality lab in service to researchers, landowners, and others across Arkansas. The Lab is certified by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) for the analysis of a variety of constituents in water samples, such as nutrients, sediments, metals, bacteria, and more.

Anyone can submit a water sample for the analysis of any of the available parameters they choose. The lab also offers analytical “packages” to target the needs of producers for livestock, crops, and fish. To learn more about AWRC, please visit their website at

You can also follow them on facebook and twitter to keep up with their research and activities.



Secchi Day 2017 Results

by: Angela Danovi, Arkansas Regional Projects Manager

Earlier this year we wrote about Secchi Day on Beaver Lake, an annual volunteer citizen science event held to document water quality trends in Beaver Lake.  Around the same weekend each August, Beaver Water District hosts Secchi Day on Beaver Lake, a citizen science program that allows volunteers to get on the lake to take secchi readings and collect water quality samples which are analyzed  for chlorophyll-a, total phosphorus, and nitrates. Staff at Beaver Water District analyze the samples in their certified lab and compile the data into a report describing the annual results and long-term trends of water quality in the lake.  In mid-October, Beaver Water District released the 2017 Secchi Day report.  The results  indicate most water quality parameters were fairly close to the 12-year average found from all Secchi Day data. The average lake Secchi depth this year was around 9 feet, which is slightly higher than the long-term average of 8.8 feet. The average lake chlorophyll-a this year was 6.39 parts per billion (ppb), which was slightly lower than the longer term average of 7.32 ppb.  Both of these values point to 2017 as being a year with better than average water quality.on Beaver Lake, indicating we are generally maintaining our water quality in Beaver Lake, the drinking water source for Northwest Arkansas.

Matthew Rich, Environmental Specialist with Beaver Water District said “after 12 years of collecting data, we are finally getting a picture of the variability in water quality at the different sites.  On Beaver Lake, as you travel from Hwy. 412 bridge to the dam, chlorophyll-a decreases and Secchi transparency increases. This is because as water moves through the lake, nutrients are used up and suspended particles like sediment and algae fall to the bottom, making the northern part of the lake less productive.”  there are a lot of factors that play into numbers in any given year and the amount and timing of rainfall is one of the largest contributors.  Rainfall totals in June, July and August of this year were 7.5 inches, which was approximately 17 inches below average.

Graphs and maps, below, depict the 2017 Secchi Day Results.


Please click here to access the complete 2017 Secchi Day Report

Secchi Day 2017 Results

Secchi Depth:

The maximum depth at which a Secchi disk can be viewed from the surface of the water

  • Maximum Secchi Depth -19.68 feet at the Beaver Dam
  • Minimum Secchi Depth – 0.65 feet at the Confluence of White River and Richland Creek



A pigment in algae that is used to measure the density of the algal population of the lake.


  • Maximum Chlorophyll-a concentration – 20.01 ppb at White River arm near Hwy 412
  • Minimum Chlorophyll-a concentration – 2.03 ppb at the Big Clifty Recreation area..


Total Phosphorus:

A nutrient that promotes algal growth. Phosphates come from a variety of sources including agricultural and urban runoff, sewage treatment plant effluent, and faulty septic systems.

  • Maximum Total Phosphorus Concentration – Confluence of White River and Richland Creek
  • Minimum Total Phosphorus Concentration – < 10 ppb at many sites



A nutrient that promotes algal growth. Nitrates also come from a variety of sources including fertilizer runoff, faulty septic systems, municipal wastewater and sludge, and erosion of natural deposits.


  • Minimum Nitrate – < 30 ppb at multiple sites from War Eagle to Rocky Branch
  • Maximum Nitrate – 434 ppb at the confluence of White River and Richland Creek