Category Archives: Water Quality

New Master Naturalists learn about water quality in the Ozarks

by: Angela Danovi

Beaver LakeSmart Project Coordinator

If you happened to be at Horsebarn Trail Park in Rogers last Saturday afternoon, you probably saw a bunch of adults seemingly stomping around in the water looking for bugs or small groups standing beside the creek having a serious discussion about trees in the riparian zone or the rocks alongside the streambank.  This was the 2017 Benton County Master Naturalists in Training completing the field training portion of their class on streams and water of the Ozarks.

The Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists have become great partners with the water quality and environmental service community.  Their volunteers support stream cleanups, provide environmental education at public events, maintain trails, remove invasive species from state parks and public lands, and provide more than half of the volunteer support for the StreamSmart and Beaver LakeSmart volunteer water quality monitoring programs.  But, before you see the master naturalists out volunteering in the field or leading an environmental education program, they spend several Saturdays in the spring learning about all aspects of the environment in the Ozarks.

Nicole Hardiman of the Illinois River Watershed Partnership leads the Benton County master naturalist in training class on properties of water and watersheds of the Ozarks. Photo Credit: Stephanie Burchfield

The day began early Saturday morning at 8am when the coffee crew arrived to the Center for Nonprofits to set up 3 pots coffees and prepare for a day of training.  Around 8:45 the NITs or “naturalists in training” trickled in with their notebooks and field guides in hand, ready for another Saturday of learning and engaging in hands-on training.  Local experts lead training each week on specific topics. Nicole Hardiman and Stephanie Burchfield of the Illinois River Watershed Partnership led classroom sessions on water science, watersheds, and streams.  I finished the morning talking about the Beaver Lake Watershed and water science concepts connected with Beaver Lake.  This helped to provide some foundational knowledge to the “NITs” for an afternoon in the studying a nearby stream.

The afternoon stream training session is always one of the most well reviewed portions of the master naturalists training class.  It is also a unique chance for master naturalists to learn about and complete a stream monitoring training similar to Stream Smart.  During the stream training, the NITs broke into groups with a leader to complete a habitat assessment, learning about how stream conditions such as substrate of stream beds, sedimentation, and bank conditions can affect aquatic life.  The stream at horsebarn trail provided NITs a chance to look at 4 different conditions of stream habitat.  So, each group had different scores on their assessment as the stream, bank, and riparian zone conditions changed from upstream of the park, through the park, and just downstream of the park. Afterwards, Nicole Hardiman led several groups in testing dissolved oxygen, pH, and stream temperature, reinforcing how stream conditions can affect physical and chemical conditions of the stream.

Angela Danovi discusses the findings of the stream habitat assessment with the Benton County Master Naturalists in Training. Photo Credit: Nicole Hardiman

The afternoon finished with a favorite activity, a macroinvertebrate survey.  NITs broke into teams hauling kick nets and trays out into the stream as they did the stream bug shuffle to capture the macroinvertebrates living at the bottom of the stream.  For many master naturalists, this was their first time they ever saw or considered there were smaller aquatic bugs that lived in streams.  There were many surprised NITs who found mayflies, huge crayfish, and caddisflies living in the substrate of the Horsebarn trail creek.  Seeing the live critters wriggling about while identifying them as pollution sensitive, somewhat sensitive, or pollution tolerant, connected together the complete assessment of high quality stream chemistry conditions combined with a healthy habitat supporting the aquatic wildlife and ecosystem that two hours earlier they had not realized existed.

Benton County Master Naturalists in Training kicking for macroinvertebrates in the stream at Horsebarn trail park. Photo Credit: Nicole Hardiman

Angela Danovi and Stephanie Burchfield discuss macroinvertebrates and stream water quality with Benton County master naturalists in training. Photo Credit: Pat Dexter

The day ended with the NITs excited about streams and wanting to volunteer and learn more!  I am looking forward to working with this group of eager learners in StreamSmart.  They will bring their knowledge, experience, and skills to helping us monitor our streams and protect our water quality in the Beaver Lake Watershed and the Ozarks.

To learn more about the Northwest Arkansas master naturalists please contact Anney Davis at [email protected].  To learn more about joining a stream or lake monitoring team please contact Angela Danovi at [email protected] or call 479-295-7717.


Permeable Paving Demonstrated at Lake Atalanta

by: Angela Danovi, Program Director of Beaver LakeSmart

Water quality protection, reduced runoff, and aesthetically pleasing public parking are just some of the benefits Ozarks Water Watch has helped to contribute in the current renovation at Lake Atalanta in Rogers.  Over the past several weeks, we have shared photos and information about the permeable paver project.  Today, we are going to share photos and information about how the pavers were installed and the benefits the pavers will provide to the community and to water quality in the Lake Atalanta and Beaver Lake Watershed.

What are Permeable Pavers?

Permeable is a term used to describe paving methods for roads, parking lots, and walkways. A permeable paving system allows water and air to move around the paving material. The permeable pavers that have been placed near the entrance to Lake Atalanta are an interlocking paver.  They look similar to a brick.  However, they have small notches on the side that allows them to interlock with one another while leaving space for rainwater to infiltrate into a layered media that is placed beneath the pavers.  Permeable pavers are different from pervious pavers because water cannot infiltrate through the paver but is instead directed to the edge of the paver where it infiltrates into the ground.  Learn more about the type of permeable pavers installed at Lake Atalanta here.

Bethany Alender from Beaver Watershed Alliance holds a pervious paver during a demonstration installation at Lake Atalanta


Permeable paver with interlocking notches allows for the pavers to lock together while leaving space for water to pass between pavers and infiltrate into underlying media


Pallets of Unilock interlocking permeable pavers at the construction site prior to installation.

How are permeable pavers installed?

A permeable paving system generally has three layers of clean gravel.  Each subsequent layer of gravel is smaller than the layer the beneath it.  The interlocking pavers sit on top of the layer of the smallest size gravel.  In some systems small rock is placed between the pavers to maintain space and allow water to infiltrate between the pavers.  For the system at Lake Atalanta, the notches on each paver lock the network of pavers together while leaving space for water to infiltrate between them.


A base layer of clean and washed gravel is laid as part of the permeable paver system at Lake Atalanta


The second layer of clean and washed gravel is laid as part of the permeable paver system at Lake Atalanta


The second layer of the permeable paver system is compacted.


permeable paver layers


Top layer of clean and washed chipped rock is spread over the permeable paver site.


The top layer of chipped rock in the permeable paver system is spread and evenly layered.


The pavers are placed by hand, interlocking each of the notches together and are gently tapped into place.


Design plan for permeable pavers. The pavers are laid out in a herringbone pattern.



The pavers are placed by hand, interlocking each of the notches together and are gently tapped into place.

paver layers

The four layers of the permeable paver system at Lake Atalanta


See the finished permeable pavers at Lake Atalanta:


The permeable paver parking area at Lake Atalanta


Installed permeable paver interlocked together with space for water infiltration


Edge of the permeable paver system. The system will be enclosed with curbs on the outer edge and concrete on the inner edge.


The completed permeable paver project at the entrance to Lake Atalanta


Benefits of Permeable Pavers to the Community:

  1. Permeable or pervious pavers allow water to infiltrate back into the ground.  This allows for rainwater to recharge local groundwater supplies, rather than quickly running into nearby creeks or streams.
  2. Permeable pavers reduce flashy runoff during rain storms.  Flash flooding is a result of rain falling on too much impervious surface in a concentrated area during a storm.  With permeable pavers, water can infiltrate into the ground, reducing runoff during rainstorms, reducing high streamflows during storms, and allowing water to slowly percolate, providing more water for streams throughout the year, rather than just during storms.
  3. When reflective, light-colored pavers are used, permeable pavers can be effective in reducing the urban heat island effect. Conventional asphalt absorbs most of the sunlight that strikes it because of its dark color.  That light is converted to heat and radiated back out, contributing to relatively higher temperatures in paved or urban areas.  This is known as a heat island.  By using light colored pavers, more light is reflected and less and is converted into heat, reducing the urban heat island effect.
  4. Due to their design, permeable pavers can provide a safer driving surface in hazardous winter driving conditions.  Unlike conventional asphalt and concrete, which provides a foundation for sheets of ice to develop in winter weather conditions, permeable pavers allow for ice to only form in small sections, providing less continuous surface area for sheet of ice to form, and allowing sunlight to penetrate the ice and melt it quicker.
  5. Permeable pavers protect local water resources.  By reducing runoff and increasing infiltration, permeable pavers also help to reduce pollution.  When a raindrop hits a surface, that raindrop will carry with it sediment and any pollution laying on the earth’s surface, where the raindrop strikes.  By allowing the raindrop to soak into the ground, rather than running to the stream, sediment and pollutants are captured in the ground and cleaner water will slowly release to the stream or percolate into the groundwater.
  6. Permeable pavers reduce thermal pollution in streams.  Thermal pollution is pollution resulting from abnormally hot water entering a waterway.  Hot water discharges to streams can come from many sources including industry.  One of the most common sources of thermal pollution is from asphalt parking lots.  By installing permeable pavers, water that would strike a hot parking lot and runoff, is allowed to soak into the ground, percolate through the soil, and cool to an appropriate temperature before entering a waterway.  By reducing thermal pollution, the habitat of aquatic species is protected.

Benefits of Permeable Pavers to the landowner:

  1. With increased infiltration and runoff reduction, permeable pavers can help reduce costs associated with erosion.  Permeable pavers may even be effective in reducing irrigation to nearby grass or plants.
  2. Permeable pavers are easily replaced.  if one becomes chipped or broken, the individual paver can be lifted out of place and replaced with a new one, extending the overall life and function of pervious paving project for relatively little cost.
  3. Permeable pavers provide an aesthetically pleasing design to any outdoor space.  Due to the versatility in design, they can be placed in any size or shaped area and provide a more pleasing design than concrete would allow.

Thank you to our project partners

The Environmental Protection Agency Region 6, through the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission has provided partial funding for this project under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.


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New Volunteer Data is Here!

By: Angela Danovi, Beaver LakeSmart Program Director – Ozarks Water Watch

New data has been released for both the Beaver Lake Volunteer Monitoring Program and StreamSmart!  The reports represent over 1500 hours of donated time to volunteer monitoring, valued at more than $25,000 in service!


Click here to download the 2015 StreamSmart Data Report

2015 Data Report Front Cover1

Eighteen sites within the Beaver Lake Watershed were part of our 2015 monitoring report.  Sites were grouped together in chapters by sub-watershed and were listed within each chapter from upstream to downstream.

  • Beaver Reservoir Watershed – 2 sites
  • Headwaters-White River-Lake Sequoyah Subwatershed – 2 sites
  • Middle Fork of the White River Subwatershed – 1 site
  • War Eagle Subwatershed – 9 sites
  • West Fork of the White River Subwatershed – 4 sites

Upstream and downstream comparisons were made for Holman Creek, War Eagle and West Fork. Holman creek is monitored upstream and downstream of the city of Huntsville. Sharp increases in conductivity, total dissolved solids, total nitrogen, and total phosphorus were found when comparing the upstream site (site 307) to the downstream site (site 308) on Holman Creek. ADEQ has identified wastewater treatment as one potential contributor towards lower water quality in Holman Creek.

Data from War Eagle shows an increase in nutrients from the most upstream site (site 107) to the second site (site 301) on the creek at Withrow Springs State Park. Interestingly, Holman Creek flows into War Eagle just upstream of Withrow Springs, which could have an effect on higher nutrient levels found at the Withrow Springs monitoring site. But nutrient levels on War Eagle decrease further downstream at the mill (site 305). The site is the mill is sampled downstream of the dam, which may be one reason for a decrease in nutrient concentration found in War Eagle.

The main stem of the West Fork is monitored just north of Winslow (site 102) and just south of Fayetteville (site 101). There is no consistent trend in nitrogen concentrations and only a slight increase in phosphorus concentrations from upstream to downstream. The site with the highest concentrations of nutrients in the West Fork watershed was at Spout Spring Branch (site 206). Spout Springs is one of the few urban sites being monitored through StreamSmart. The stream flows through a large section of Fayetteville and is vulnerable to decreased water quality from stormwater runoff and other urban water quality impacts.

War Eagle 2016


Beaver Lake Volunteer Monitoring Program

Click here to download the 2015 Beaver Lake Volunteer Monitoring Program Data report

BVLP Front Cover Report Final

2015 was the second year for volunteer monitoring on Beaver Lake. Six sites were monitored this year and listed in the report from upstream to downstream. There was a general trend of increasing secchi depth from the upper sites to the lower sites in the lake. This is an expected outcome because as the water slows down, particulate matter and sediment drops out of the water column and settles at the bottom of the lake, resulting in increased water clarity. Comparing 2014 and 2015 data at the same site reveals slightly lower average secchi readings, slightly higher chlorophyll and phosphorus concentrations, and slightly lower nitrogen concentrations. However, more years of data are required before we will be able to establish a water quality trend.


Join a volunteer monitoring team today!


The success of these programs depends on a team of trained and reliable volunteers. 2016 lake monitoring will begin in late April and extend through the first week of September. Training will be provided in March.

StreamSmart training will be on Saturday, July 16, 2016. The training will be an in-class and field experience and will train volunteers on each component of volunteer monitoring with StreamSmart. If you are interested in volunteering with either the Beaver Lake Volunteer Monitoring Program or StreamSmart contact Angela Danovi at 479-295-7717 or email [email protected]


Rainwater Harvesting Demonstration Project

By: Angela Danovi

Program Director of Beaver LakeSmart

In mid-October I had the opportunity to attend the EPA region 6 stormwater conference in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Over the past few years Hot Springs has become a leader in water quality and stormwater management in Arkansas. They have developed a Hot Springs stormwater inspector certification course and require stormwater inspectors to be directly involved with construction projects from planning through implementation and completion to ensure water quality protection and compliance with stormwater laws is a priority throughout the project.  Additionally, they have been implementing various stormwater demonstration projects to reduce runoff and flooding and to provide examples to residents and homeowners with ideas on how they can voluntarily protect water quality on their own property.  (Visit the Hot Springs Stormwater Management Website).

The EPA Region 6 Stormwater Conference provided a great opportunity to visit Hot Springs and see some of their demonstration projects as well as discuss some of the current trends and issues in stormwater management. The first day I decided to attend an all day workshop led by Brad Lancaster of the Watershed Management Group, where we learned about some innovative approaches to capturing and harvesting stormwater.  As a resident of Arizona, Brad has had the opportunity to test various systems and approaches in one of the driest climates in the nation.  For this workshop, the attendees helped to install a rainwater harvesting garden near downtown Hot Springs.  The great thing about this project was that with some help from the city to secure and prepare the site along with a few volunteers and some relatively low-cost materials, we were able to install a rainwater harvesting garden that extended the length of a block in one afternoon!

The project involved installing a rainwater harvesting garden that was situated between a curb and a sidewalk at the bottom of a hill near downtown Hot Springs.  At the top of the site on the upslope, a curb cut was installed and a rock pool was laid out.  The plan is for water that is flowing down the street to enter into the curb cut and flow into the rock pool.  If trash, debris, or cigarette butts is being carried downhill by the water, it should drop out in the pool, limiting the post-storm cleanup and maintenance.

Photo 1: The rainwater harvesting site prepared by the city of Hot Springs looking downhill


Rainwater Harvesting site in Hot Springs inserted into a curb and prepared by the city. The site is situated near the bottom of a hill with the slope heading towards the intersection seen in the distance at the top of the photo.

As the water flows downhill in the rainwater harvesting garden, it will flow through a series of rock checks that will help to slow it down and spread it out.  The rock checks work like stair steps.

Photo 2: The rainwater harvesting site prepared by the city of Hot Springs, looking uphill


The rainwater harvesting site installed in the city of Hot Springs, looking uphill. The water will enter into the curb cut and flow downhill through the site, spreading out, and soaking in.

Photo 3: Laying out stones for the rock checks in the rainwater harvest garden


Brad Lancaster, workshop leader from the Stormwater Management Group, explains installing the rock checks for the stormwater harvesting workshop at the 2015 EPA region 6 stormwater conference

Photo 4: Measuring height from bottom of the swale to the top of the first rock check


Brad Lancaster demonstrates the use of a water level to measure the difference in height from the bottom of the swale to the top of the first rock check

Photo 5: Measuring height from bottom of the swale to the top of the first rock check


Brad Lancaster and a volunteer demonstrate the use of a water level to measure the difference in height from the bottom of the swale to the top of the first rock check

Brad used a water level, a device made with two yard sticks, tubing, and water in the tubing, to demonstrate how to measure the difference in height from the swale to the first rock check.

Photo 6: Volunteers install the rock checks throughout the project


Photo 7: Installed rock check in the water harvesting project


Photo 8: Plants for the rainwater harvesting project


Plants organized by water tolerance to be planted into the rainwater harvesting project

Several different types of plants were planted in the project.  Before planting, the plants were set throughout the site according to their drought tolerance or water needs.  The plants with the highest water needs that could tolerate longer periods of saturation were placed in the center of the site.  Plants with moderate water needs were placed about 2/3 of the way up the slope from the edge of the curb or sidewalk.  The most drought tolerant plants with the least water needs were placed closest to the curb.  Additionally sages were planted in front of and behind the rock checks to slow down water and allow it to spread out throughout the site.

 Photo 9: Volunteers lay out plants according to drought tolerance


Volunteers laying out plants and planting plants according to water tolerance in the rainwater harvesting project

Photo 10: Planting sages near the rock check


Evan Teague, Environmental Specialist of the Arkansas Farm Bureau, assists with planting plants in the rainwater harvesting project

Photo 11: Completed Rainwater Harvesting Project


Brad Lancaster checks the completed site and makes a few adjustments to the rock checks

Photo 12: completed rainwater harvesting project in Hot Springs


Completed rainwater harvesting project in Hot Springs

Installation of the rainwater harvesting project was completed in about three hours by a team of approximately 20 volunteers who were attendees to the EPA region 6 stormwater conference.  One adjustment Brad recommended upon completion of this project was in preparing future projects to not cut out dips in the site preparation because the main idea is for water to flow over rock check as it moves downhill through the site.  He expects this site to still function well, especially as the plants grow and fill in across the site.  A similar rainwater project was planned and prepared around the corner from this one.  As the city of Hot Springs continues to develop and redevelopment occurs in the older sections of the city, these projects will help to protect water quality and improve the quality of stormwater throughout Hot Springs.



Stormwater Runoff – What does that look like?

By: Angela Danovi, Beaver LakeSmart Coordinator

Have you ever taken the time to step outside during a rain event and see where the stormwater on your property flows?  It’s a good exercise to do because you learn about the direction water flows, where water concentrates on your property, and where your water converges with your neighbors or enters a storm drain.  This information is helpful because if you want to implement Best Management Practices to protect water quality, you need to know where the water flows that you are dealing with and where you might get the best impact and water protection.

During the recent rain event as Tropical Depression Bill came over Northwest Arkansas, I took the opportunity to follow the flow of water at my apartment complex and record what was happening.  The purpose was to see how the water was flowing and document it to share as an example for property owners.  There was nothing legally improper at my apartment complex, but there are certainly opportunities to decrease runoff, improve infiltration, and have an overall improvement on water quality.   I hope this blog will show you some things to look for when you walk around your property and evaluate it for possibilities to implement best management practices.

Photo 1: A rainwater downspout from a house

This is a typical setup of a downspout.  Water from the roof is sent on a downspout and out onto the ground.  The force of the water had pushed the black piping at the bottom off of the end of the downspout and the gravel has started washing away with the water.  The water coming off the roof here, goes into the gravel and quickly onto an impervious side walk where it quickly picks up speed and converges with other water water already flowing across the impervious walkway as it heads towards the curb and the nearest storm drain.

20150618_192647A water friendly alternative to downspouts releasing water onto gravel or impervious areas is a installing a rain barrel, installing rain gardens, or even directing the flow to a grassy area.


Photo 2: Rainwater flowing onto an impervious walkway:

Walkways are nice in our yards because they connect our driveways, parking areas, and other areas that we may readily access back to our homes.  However, impervious walkways serve as a conduit for quickly moving rainwater to the nearest creek or stream, bypassing infiltration that is critical for reducing flooding and improving water quality.

20150618_190953[1]A water friendly alternative to impervious walkways that connect to homes or driveways is to disconnect the impervious surfaces.  Can you install a stone walkway with gravel or grass in between the stones?  Can you install grass pavers?  Is there some place you might be able to disconnect your impervious walkway from the adjoining impervious surface?  There’s no right answer for everyone on this issue.  But learn about some permeable alternatives to a traditional concrete drive.  They can improve the aesthetics of the front of your home and will make you be a water smart homeowner!



Photos 3 & 4: Water flowing through backyards

This is the result of water flowing overland, concentrating, and heading to the nearest stream.  This water was flowing through backyards.  This situation occurs because water becomes concentrated and starts flowing overland quickly, rather than soaking in.  This picture is taken just before it drops underground and into a stream that was channelized and put under the parking lot.  The water collected from the parking flows into a storm drain at this location and all of the water flows underground in a channelized stream.



20150618_191429The situation occurs even in grassy areas because this water did not have an opportunity to infiltrate.  Downspouts, impervious surfaces, and poorly contoured yards concentrate water and cause it to flow off quickly.  If this water had the opportunity to infiltrate, you would not have this dramatic of a runoff situation.  If you have rills or small valleys on your property, you might choose to leave the grass higher in those areas.  That will increase infiltration and slow down runoff.


Photo 5: Water flowing into the Storm Drain

Water the flows into the storm drain comes from rain water that flowed overland and was directed to the stormdrain.  Curbs effectively channelize water, increasing its runoff.

20150618_191409A water smart alternative to curbs is to remove curbs.  Water will have a wider area to flow and will not become confined against the curb.  Also, you want to find ways to slow down and divert stormwater before it gets to the storm drain.  If you have a drain on your property, is there a place to install a raingarden before the water gets to the storm drain?


These are just a few photos to show you some of the things you are looking for when you evaluate your home for opportunities to reduce runoff and increase infiltration.  The next time you have a nice rain, go ahead and take a walk!  It’s fun and you can learn more about how water is acting and flowing on your property.  I suggest taking photos so that you can remember what you saw and you can use them when planning any best management projects.  Protecting our water resources starts with you!  Together we can make a difference at protecting our water resources now and for the future.