In the past decade, 2003-2013, so much has been done to preserve and improve the water quality in the Illinois River watershed. We are proud to recognize the wisdom of a broad mix of stakeholders who set examples for watershed conservation and work hard to increase environmental protections.

 

D. Earl Jones, Jr. first coined the term “Blue-Green” Development in an article he published in 1967 titled “Urban Hydrology-a Redirection.”

Man’s relationship to the major {water] system is a measure of his wisdom, observed D. Earl Jones, Jr. Chief of Land Planning in the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Illinois River

Illinois River

Watershed advancement comes in all shapes and sizes.  We’d like to recognize some of the highlights of the past 10 years from municipalities, businesses and individuals alike.

 

Cities

NACA Plant

Northwest Arkansas Conservation Authority Regional Treatment Facility

Bentonville, Arkansas

Advanced Wastewater Treatment: Northwest Arkansas’ major cities achieve one of the nation’s most restrictive phosphorus limits on discharges into Illinois River watershed tributaries. The cities of Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, Siloam Springs and Springdale discharge phosphorus below 1 milligram per liter, a level achieved in only 28 of 391wastewater plants in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.

Increased Stormwater Retention: Local municipal laws now require developers to have “zero impact” on stormwater runoff from pre-construction to post-construction. This meets new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) requirements of urban planning areas.

Counties

Benton County Cleanup

Benton County Clean-Up Event

Collections of Hazardous Waste: Benton and Washington counties both promote and support systems to help residents properly dispose of hazardous household materials. That keeps chemicals out of waterways. Benton and Washington counties have environmental enforcement officers who work to eliminate illegal dumps. Cleaning up illegal dumps and ensuring that the public knows trash must go in approved landfills keeps pollutants from reaching streams.

Improved Road Construction: When the two counties pave roads, they use rock check dams in roadside ditches to prevent sediment from flowing to streams. After construction, the rock check dams stay in place. County road departments make special efforts to ensure that roads are graded in ways that prevent gravel and dirt from reaching streams.

Agriculture

Nutrient Management: The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, working with landowners through local conservation districts, manage and monitor the application of fertilizer or poultry litter on fields and lawns, ensuring that crops and lawns receive only the nutrients they need. Arkansas laws regulate the use of poultry litter and commercial fertilizer on land in the state’s 10 counties with nutrient sensitive watersheds.

EQIP BMP

EQIP Best Management Practices

Conservation Incentives: Oklahoma and Arkansas partnered and received funding with USDA NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) with special federal funding now over $13 million over the past 3 years. The program provides cost share assistance to landowners who voluntarily install environmentally approved best management practices.

Business

Sam's Club Bioswale

Sam’s Club Bioswale

Rogers, Arkansas

Low-Impact Development: Raindrops on the roof at Sam’s Club in Fayetteville are collected and then slowly discharged into wetlands near the store, keeping fast-moving rainwater from carrying sediment directly into streams. It’s one of the nation’s best examples of big commercial development being environment friendly.

Nutrient Transport: Arkansas poultry companies in 2003 created BMPs Inc., a nonprofit corporation focused on transporting poultry litter out of nutrient sensitive watersheds. Over the past ten years, the industry has spent millions and now transports over 75% of litter to areas where nutrients are needed for optimal crop growth.

Individuals

Farmers: In nutrient sensitive watersheds, Arkansas law requires farmers to follow nutrient management plans written by certified professionals. Soil tests must meet nutrient management plan requirements to determine how much poultry litter and fertilizer can be applied to all land over 2.5 acres.

Riparian Buffer

Well established Riparian Buffer protects the waterway

City Residents: Homeowners must follow Arkansas laws when using commercial fertilizer on lawns. Lawn-care companies must take soil samples to determine how much fertilizer can be used. The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission checks records and offers training to ensure lawn-care companies adhere to the requirements.

2003-2013 Outcomes

A watershed is so dynamic that it’s nearly impossible to know immediately or exactly what every watershed improvement causes to occur, but it is possible to gain a view of how a watershed changes over several years. Looking back ten years we know:

– Overall water quality is better than it was a decade ago.

– Cleaner water is being discharged from wastewater treatment plants.

– Efforts to plant thousands of native trees, rain garden plants and streamside vegetation increase nutrient uptake, filter pollutants, decrease stormwater erosion and recharge ground water resources increased.

– Water is being intentionally guided toward wetlands, allowing the wetlands to thrive and filter water before it reaches streams.

– There’s less opportunity for sediment to reach streams and lakes due to temporary water storage systems, smart road grading and low-impact construction practices.

– The availability of federal financial assistance has increased the probability of landowners using their property as conservation areas for watershed protection.

– Fewer nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen are reaching streams and lakes from urban and rural sources.

– Educational programs notify everyone from construction workers to school-aged children about the importance of watershed protection.

– Organizations such as the Illinois River Watershed Partnership are in place to ensure long-term attention on protecting the Illinois River.

 

What advances in land and water conservation will we see in the next decade, 2013-2023?

As a water and nutrient-rich watershed, the next 10 years in the Illinois River Watershed will allow time for 2003-2013 investments of on-the-ground improvements and policies to see the positive effects work through the watershed while significant capital investments can be made to our “blue-green” development and infrastructure.

And the IRWP will continue to advocate for wise stewardship of our rich natural and human resources to do good in the Illinois River Watershed.

 

Related Posts:

The Watershed Landscape: Shining the Light on Watershed Stewards

Grateful for the Beauty of Generous Hearts and Hands

 

Additional Resources:

IRWP CREP and EQIP Program Overview