A new report shows mixed results on water quality in the Ozarks. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more.
The “Status of the Watershed” report, issued by the Upper White River Basin Foundation, is a preliminary report in many respects, according to the UWRB’s executive director John Moore. But he says it begins to answer the question “How’s the water?”
"In a way that is based on sound science but also in a way that a person can read and relate to and understand."
The report is based on samples taken by the US Geological Survey at 16 sites in Southwest Missouri. Overall, it shows water quality in the Upper White River Basin is OK but not great.
"Being an old teacher, an old educator, I would give our water quality, based on this first report, a 'C.' It's not bad bad, but it's not nearly as good as it should be. The major problem that appears is one that we might have predicted, and this is we have exessive nutrients in our streams."
Some sites tested better than others. The test site with the highest index score, 83.9 and given an “A” grade, is located on Swan Creek near Swan, Missouri in an area of the Ozarks less affected by development and population growth. The lowest index score, 11.5 and graded “F,” was recorded at Wilson’s Creek near Brookline just downstream from Springfield. Almost half the index scores are in the 40s range and given a “C” grade.
More sites will be added next year and UWRB has contracted with Missouri State University to do stream surveys of ecological conditions, which will be included in next year’s report.
"We're going to be out seining the riffles to check for the little creatures--the macroinvertabrates, the little creatures that live under the rocks--and they are, in many respects, like canaries in the mine. If they're plentiful, if they're doing well, then that's an indication that the water quality is good. It supports aquatic life."
They’ve also contracted with Missouri State to do geomorphology surveys—they’ll look at the stream channel, the riparian corridors and the land forms to see how those elements impact water quality in the stream. Moore says they plan to issue the report on an annual basis.
"We not only can get a snapshot of how the water is doing but also what the trends are and establish those pretty clearly."
Moore says the first report shows that, clearly, there’s much work to be done. He says they’ll continue to work to educate people about the importance of good water quality and what they can do to help. You can view the Watershed Status Report online at uwrb.org.
For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.