AWW presents State of the Lake Address at Lake Martin

Alabama Water Watch Program staff, Bill Deutsch (Program Director), Eric Reutebuch and Jayme Oates, and Auburn University staff, Mike Kensler (Outreach Programs Administrator) traveled to Lake Martin to present a “State of the Lake” program during the Lake Watch of Lake Martin (LWLM) 17th annual meeting at the Elks Lodge in Alexander City on Oct. 25. About 40 LWLM members attended the meeting. Bill Deutsch began the presentation by reminding all present that the battle over water among Georgia, Florida and Alabama rages on, and has direct implications for the waters of Lake Martin. He then commended the Bronsons, Dick and Mary Ann, for their leadership and dedication to Lake Watch and to the lake over the past two decades. Dick has served as the group’s President since 1991. Lake Watch is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that conducts monthly water quality monitoring at several sites on Lake Martin, along with lake clean ups, environmental education and advocacy.

                        Click here for PowerPoint Presentation

Eric Reutebuch then gave a brief overview of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s (ADEM’s) assessment of Lake Martin. He pointed out that in ADEM’s most recent Report to Congress, Martin was identified as the lake with the lowest trophic state index (TSI), thus, the cleanest lake in the state (see www.adem.state.al.us/WaterDivision/WQuality/305b/WQ305bReport.htm). TSI is a gauge that quantifies lake pollution or enrichment on a scale from zero to 100 – the higher the value, the more polluted or enriched a lake is. Lake Martin falls in the ‘oligotrophic’ range of the TSI scale, which is characterized by clear, clean waters exhibiting low biological productivity; the same rating that Martin exhibited 20 years earlier in a 1989 AU study by Dr. David Bayne*.  Eric noted that the recent ADEM assessment was based on 2007 water quality data collected near the dam.

 

Eric then discussed the ranking of LWLM relative to the other 17 AWW-certified citizen monitoring groups in the Tallapoosa River Basin. Based on water quality data collected and submitted to the AWW statewide database, LWLM ranks first in water chemistry data, and third in total water quality data (including water chemistry and bacteriological data) in the basin. The group currently has seven active water monitoring sites on the lake (see https://fp.auburn.edu/icaae/Groupsmap.aspx?dg=0&png=1&ChartID=0&WID=07 and click the green dot on the Lake Martin). A query of the LWLM water data indicated that seven of their sites have continuous monthly monitoring water quality records for more than a decade! A comparison of citizen data to ADEM data over the past five years indicated that ADEM sampled 123 times (dates sampled x stations sampled per date) while LWLM sampled 349 times, approximately three times more than ADEM. This comparison highlights one of the several advantages of citizen volunteer monitoring by certified monitors – a committed local group tends to monitor much more regularly (usually monthly throughout the year) for a longer period of time, and at more sites than a state agency , in this case ADEM, does.

 

Eric continued by featuring long-term trend data from two of the LWLM monitoring sites. The first, Larry Locke’s site # 07001010 in Elkahatchee Creek Embayment, has been sampled continuously every month since July of 1996 (161 months). Eric showed that Mr. Locke’s long-term data monitoring indicates a steady decline in dissolved oxygen over the last several years, evident by the descending trend line the data produces. This was a surprise to both Bill and Eric, who assumed that water quality, and therefore, dissolved oxygen concentrations, would steadily improve in Elkahatchee Creek Embayment since the Alexander City wastewater treatment plant outfall was diverted from the Sugar/Elkahatchee Creek Drainage out into the mainstem of Lake Martin several years earlier, in June of 2001. Eric pointed out that the LWLM dataset is the only information available that has documented this unexpected trend, which deserves further investigation.

 

Eric featured a second long-term trend from LWLM site # 07001003, Lake Martin at Bay Pine Island. This is LWLM’s oldest site, monitored monthly for the past 196 months since June of 1993 by the group’s President, Dick Bronson. He showed that Mr. Bronson’s dissolved oxygen readings have never dropped below the state-mandated minimum value of 5 ppm, the minimum amount required to maintain a healthy fish population. This impressive 16-year trend (along with a suite of additional parameters measured by Mr. Bronson) indicates that this portion of Lake Martin is in good shape.

Eric concluded with brief mention of two lake studies, the Tallapoosa Watershed Project and the ongoing 2009 APCo Lake Martin Water Quality Study, that LWLM has played an integral role in. LWLM not only aided in drafting the two studies, but has also actively participated in the research and outreach components of the studies. These and other Lake Martin studies have yielded a long-term trend graph of the lake’s TSI measurements dating back to 1989 which shows that although the TSI in the upper lake (measured at the Highway 280 bridge) had risen dramatically through the 1990s into the ‘low-eutrophic’ TSI zone, the values have stabilized since then at around 50. Mr. Bronson added that this graph indicates the bipolar nature of current conditions of the lake – the more polluted ‘eutrophic’ upper lake versus the nearly-pristine ‘oligotrophic’ lower lake.  Lastly, Eric then acknowledged LWLM’s role in the success and evolution of the Annual Tallapoosa Watershed Conference, a product of the Tallapoosa Watershed Project that garnered attention from USDA-CSREES (project funder) as one of their National Water Program success stories (see www.usawaterquality.org/themes/npm/success).

Mike Kensler concluded the program with a series of slides showing the rapid development in Alabama based on the decadal increase in housing density from 1940 through density projected for 2030. Mike’s point was that development/urban-suburban expansion is coming, and it is up to the current generation to guide and shape the course of this expansion to determine what Lake Martin, and the rest of the state, will look like in 2030. Jayme Oates added that in the course of several follow-up meetings with a variety of stakeholder groups in the Lake Martin Watershed, that she and Mike have experienced a lot of interest and support for advancing watershed management in the Tallapoosa Basin to protect the quality of Lake Martin’s waters, the theme of the 2009 Tallapoosa Watershed Conference (see http://blog.auburn.edu/twp/?p=81). Mr. Bronson concluded the meeting by reporting that LWLM is pursuing a special designation/recognition from ADEM to aid in protecting the Jewel of the Tallapoosa – Lake Martin.

*Bayne, D. R., W. C. Seesock and L. D. Benefield.  1989.  Water Quality Assessment, Alabama Public Lakes 1989.  Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Montgomery, AL. 178 pp.

Monitoring Lessons from International Projects

The new issue of the Volunteer Monitor newsletter features an article titled Monitoring Lessons from International Projects by Bill Deutsch, AWW and Global Water Watch Program Director.

  Click here for article

The AWW Office at Upchurch Hall on AU campus will have copies to distribute. If you would like one, please let us know and we’ll mail it to you, or you can stop by to pick one up. We’ll also have this issue and other pertinent issues available at our workshops and other meetings.

To view and download this and other volumes of the Volunteer Monitor, go to the Volunteer Monitor website -> CLICK HERE.

Training in Arley yields four new AWW trainers

Bill Deutsch and Sergio Ruiz-Cordova traveled to Arley, Alabama to train a group of Alabama Water Watch-certified volunteer monitors to become AWW trainers Saturday, September 12th. The AWW Training of Trainers Workshop was held at the Meek High School in Arley. The AWW Program has been training citizens throughout the state to test the water quality of their local streams, rivers, lakes, bays and bayous since 1993. Bill quickly realized that the exponential growth in volunteer monitors could not be sustained with just a couple of AWW trainers, and developed the Training of Trainer Workshop in 1995. Currently, the AWW Program has about 40 trainers statewide, and AWW-certified volunteer trainers conducted about 2/3rds of trainings within the past year. Since 1993, over 5,000 Alabamian have been certified as AWW water monitors.

Trainees, Larry Barkey (on left) and James Mason (in back) receive training materials from Bill Deutsch

The ranks of AWW trainers gained four new recruits at the Arley training, and two veteran trainers went through the Trainer Refresher Workshop. The workshop participants came from the Black Warrior, Coosa and Tennessee River basins, and represented five AWW monitor groups (listed below). New trainees included: 

  • John Kulbitkas representing Smith Lake Civic Association
  • Larry Barkey representing Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy
  • James Mason representing Huntsville Senior Environment Corps
  • Loretta Weninegar representing Columbia High School, Huntsville, AL

Trainers that got refreshed included:

  • Ray O’Donnell representing RSVP/Marshall County
  • Isabella Trussell representing Logan Martin Lake Protection Association

Bill opened the workshop with an overview of AWW Program trends. He then reviewed the Executive Summary of the 2008 AWW Annual Report, and lead a discussion “Thinking about AWW in the Big Picture”, touching on comparative advantages of AWW monitoring, maintaining quality citizen water data, interpretation of the citizen data, better use of the data, and AWW success stories and local initiatives.

Other topics of discussion included volunteer monitor group dynamics, levels of AWW certification, role of the Alabama Water Watch Association, what is involved in becoming a trainer, planning an AWW workshop, preparing for a workshop, conducting a workshop, and following up after a workshop.

Special thanks to Ms. Susette Rohde, the Meek High School science teacher who assisted with  training logistics and provided delicious home-made treats for the participants! To locate an AWW trainer near you and request a training workshop, go to the AWW website at www.alabamawaterwatch.org and click on the Monitor Resources menu, or call the AWW toll-free number at (888) 844-4785. And the next time that you’re out cruising on a beautiful lake, paddling down a picturesque stream, or fishing in a productive bayou, remember to shout out a big “Thank You!” to the selfless volunteer trainers – like John, Larry, James Loretta, Ray and Isabella, and the volunteer monitors who give hundreds of hours of their time to watch over and protect the rich aquatic resources of our State.

Can volunteer water monitors make a difference, a case from Lake Wedowee

 

(Article as pdf – for printing)

Residents of Lake Wedowee, in Randolph County, became concerned about the health of their lake more than a decade ago, and many members of the Lake Wedowee Property Owners (LWPOA) became certified water monitors under the Alabama Water Watch Program (AWW). Water monitoring began in 1998, and since then the LWPOA has submitted 1,179 water chemistry records and 359 bacteria records to the AWW statewide online database. LWPOA volunteer monitors currently test water quality at 19 sites on the lake and its two primary tributaries, the Big Tallapoosa and Little Tallapoosa rivers (see map below).

LWPOA water monitoring sites on Lake Wedowee and the Big Tallapoosa and Little Tallapoosa rivers in Randolph County. Green dots are active monitoring sites, and red dots are inactive sites (map taken from the AWW website, www.alabamawaterwatch.org).

Spurred by a growing concern about bacterial contamination of the lake from several possible point and nonpoint sources (including septic systems, waste water treatment facilities, campgrounds, and nonpoint source runoff from poultry and cattle rearing operations), several LWPOA monitors received training and certification in bacteriological monitoring from AWW in March 2006. Charles ‘Sut’ Smith, former LWPOA board member and Coordinator of the Upper Tallapoosa River Basin Clean Water Partnership Committee (UTRBCWPC), and Jack Duncan, LWPOA board member and LWPOA Water Testing Committee Chairman, drafted a bacteriological sampling plan to test for levels of E. coli at 22 sites throughout the Lake Wedowee Watershed (see map below).  The initial phase included bacteria testing on Lake Wedowee proper from the dam forebay back to upper lake boundaries.  The lake water was generally E-coli free and met ADEM’s Water Criteria for Swimming and Other Whole Body Water Contact Sports (Pathogens).

The second phase of E-Coli testing focused on the two rivers and tributary streams feeding Lake Wedowee. This phase was done as a project of the UTCWPC to evaluate non-point source pollution entering the watershed streams. More than 100 samples, in triplicate, were collected and analyzed using the AWW Bacteriological Monitoring protocol throughout the 2006 growing season (April-October).  The following results from obtained from the study:

  • the highest E. coli levels (up to 8,250 colonies/100 mL of water) occurred in the Little Tallapoosa River just upstream of the Alabama-Georgia state line,
  • high levels of E. coli were also measured in Wedowee Creek (up to 2,786 colonies/100 mL of water) and in the Tallapoosa River (up to 506 colonies/100 mL of water), and
  • the sources appeared to be from nonpoint source runoff because high levels of E. coli were detected following rainfall/runoff events.

Map showing sites in the Lake Wedowee Watershed that had harmful levels of E. coli during the 2006 growing season (sites in red had > 600 colonies/100 mL of water, sites in yellow had 200-600 colonies/100 mL, sites in green had < 200 colonies/100mL).

 After completion of this tremendous effort and collection of results showing the bacteriological ‘hotspots’ in the Lake Wedowee Watershed, Sut Smith communicated his findings to ADEM. Missy Middlebrooks, ADEM Senior Environmental Scientist, invited representatives from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA EPD) to a meeting in Wedowee to discuss the citizen findings in November, 2006. At the Upper Tallapoosa River Basin Clean Water Partnership meeting, Sut Smith presented the bacteriological findings of periodic high E. coli concentrations in the Little Tallapoosa to representatives from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA EPD). The extremely high concentrations recorded at the state line inspired the GA EPD to action.

After the meeting, GA EPD, Carroll County, the City of Carrollton and the Rolling Hills RC & D Council initiated action to apply for federal 319(h) funds to address the bacterial contamination problem in the Little Tallapoosa River.  The GA EPD awarded a $900,000 grant in January of this year for a three-year watershed project to clean up the Little Tallapoosa River. The project addresses septic tank repair/replacement/maintenance, strategic installation of on-the-ground agricultural best management practices on impaired stream segments, and follow-up water quality monitoring to verify reductions in fecal coliform concentrations (including E. coli) in the river and its tributaries. Representatives from the Rolling Hills RC & D Council recently returned to Wedowee and gave a presentation on the watershed project, and remarked that one reason for doing this project was the citizen bacterial monitoring conducted by LWPOA, along with coordination with ADEM and the Upper Tallapoosa River Basin Clean Water Partnership.

IMG_0548
LWPOA water monitors undergoing periodic recertification in AWW water monitoring techniques on Jack Duncan’s pier.

For details on the LWPOA watershed-level bacteria study and lake water quality monitoring, go online to www.alabamawaterwatch.org (click Monitor Resources, then Publications to see the group’s publication titled Citizen Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring of Alabama’s Reservoirs – Lake Wedowee), to www.globalwaterwatch.org (read about LWPOA in a World Wildlife Fund-sponsored publication titled Community-Based Water Quality Monitoring Data Credibility and Applications), and to www.twp.auburn.edu (click Click here to go to original TWP Project to read about LWPOA side-by-side water monitoring with Auburn University researchers in the TWP Final Report: 2006-2007). Thanks to a good, data-rich nudge from our ever-vigilant AWW water monitors, the waters of Lake Wedowee and the Tallapoosa River are being cleaned up so that we can all safely enjoy them – GREAT JOB LWPOA and UTRBCWP!

 

Clear Water Alabama seminar

On October 28th and 29th, the Alabama Erosion and Sediment Control Partnership will held the 2009 Clear Water Alabama Field Day in Bessemer, Alabama. The field day will highlight many erosion and sediment control practices and give participants a chance to observe and discuss many on-site practices.  Some of the practices include new sediment basin technology that reduces the suspension of soil particles in water, called turbidity.

Click here to see a brochure and registration info for the 2009 seminar.

To see about the 2008 Field Day click here.