NEOSHO, Mo. —
By this time next year, there should be in place a set of voluntary practices designed to reduce the amount of pollution flowing into waterways in the Spring River watershed of Southwest Missouri.
For many area residents, the efforts will affect water they may swim or wade in or catch fish from in the summertime. For others, like residents of Joplin and Lamar, surface water is the primary source of community drinking water.
Because of levels of impairment from bacteria and other pollution, the watershed is one of three in the state identified by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to receive funding for a management plan. The locally produced plan will develop recommended practices that can reduce the amount of pollution that reaches Spring River tributaries as groundwater flowing off agricultural land and from communities.
Local officials, landowners and others gathered Thursday in Neosho for the second round of meetings on plan development. The session was one of three; others were held Wednesday in Mount Vernon and later Thursday in Carthage.
Of about 650 miles of streams involving Spring River and its major tributaries, 60 percent are identified by the DNR as impaired because of pollution from water runoff.
E. coli bacteria are the most consistent contributors to pollution in the watershed, through the plan also will address phosphorus and sediment.
DNR spokeswoman Gwenda Bassett emphasized that the plan will not impose new rules, but will identify voluntary “best management practices” and resources that will help farmers and others put them in place.
“Our watershed is damaged, but there’s a lot we can do to help ourselves,” said Harry Rogers of the regional Harry S. Truman Coordinating Council, which is helping to organize the work.
Robert Wilson, one of two Kansas State University professors involved in he project, said the plan will focus on parts of the watershed most likely to contribute to pollution problems.
“That will help us get the biggest bang for our buck,” he told the approximately 30 people gathered at the Lampo Community Building.
At a first round of meetings that focused on agricultural practices, participants set priorities on methods that could be used to reduce pollution that can come from raising crops and animals.
At Thursday’s session, Wilson and Josh Roe, also of Kansas State University, reviewed how much pollution and sediment levels could be reduced by those methods, such as no-till farming, use of cover crops, nutrient management plans and crop rotation in croplands, and off-stream watering systems, rotational grazing, relocating feeding sites and grazing management in livestock farming.
They said they estimated farmers’ participation in the programs after consulting with officials who already work with farmers through area university extension programs and the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“We can make good strides with willing landowners,” Roe said. “Agriculture is the biggest use, and that’s where you’ll see the numbers add up.”
Rogers said he is surveying cities and counties on the methods being used to reduce pollution in water runoff from communities and other developed areas. That information will be used in developing practices that will be recommended for communities and subdivisions.
“There is a lot of activity already out there, and part of what we want to do is identify what’s being done, and then fill in the blanks,” he said.
Reducing pollution from developed areas will be the focus of a third round of meetings tentatively set for late May or early June, with a final draft document to be produced by the end of the year. After it is submitted to the DNR, officials should be able to implement the plan recommendations early in 2015, said John Johnson, another DNR official at the session.
THE SPRING RIVER WATERSHED includes:
• Parts of Barry, Barton, Christian, Dade, Jasper, Lawrence and Newton counties.
• Cities including Carthage, Joplin, Lamar, Monett, Mount Vernon and Neosho.
• 270,036 residents.
• 102 public drinking water sources, with 99 that rely on groundwater and three surface water systems. Drinking water for Joplin is from both surface and groundwater sources.
• Land use, including 51 percent grassland, 20 percent cropland, 8 percent forest and 9 percent developed areas.
Source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources