Helping keep the water clean
Readers of local newspapers have been learning about efforts to reduce algal blooms, especially in Grand Lake St. Mary’s and the western basin of Lake Erie. The articles have stated that farmers are making voluntary efforts to reduce nutrient runoff that is said to be the cause of algal blooms.
These articles may prompt Licking County residents to ask two questions: First, are there algal bloom issues in Licking County? And second, what efforts are being taken to ensure that local water bodies do not have harmful algal blooms like Grand Lake St. Mary’s or like Lake Erie?
First, the water quality in the Licking River watershed is very good. This fact is documented in the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) report Biological and Water Quality Study of the Licking River and Selected Tributaries, 2008. Of the 105 sample collection sites throughout the watershed, 88 . This percentage exceeded the OEPA statewide goal that all watersheds in Ohio achieve at least an 80% biological-life attainment rating.
Some algal blooms have occurred in Buckeye Lake. Ongoing studies by Buckeye Lake for Tomorrow indicate that runoff from farms contributes very few nutrients to the lake. The shallow nature of the lake, plus sediment, nutrients and sewage that have accumulated in the lake over the last 185 years, may be more significant causes of algal blooms than agricultural nutrient runoff.
Second, many conservation partners helped reduced nutrients through regulatory and voluntary efforts. Waste water treatment plants, industries and residential septic systems are regulated through a permitting process. Farmers, home owners and open space owners like golf courses are also reducing runoff through voluntary efforts. These efforts include incorporating best management practices that reduce or filter nutrients from runoff.
For 68 years Licking County Soil & Water has been working with landowners to reduce erosion and to improve water quality. Currently, Soil & Water is promoting the 4R approach to nutrient management. This approach includes educating farmers and homeowners to apply the right source of nutrients, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place.
Other Soil & Water efforts include training Stream Team volunteers to monitor water quality in streams throughout the county and co-hosting river cleanup events like the Licking County River Round Up. To date, Soil & Water has trained 71 Stream Team volunteers. In September 2012, volunteers removed 303 tires and 22 cubic yards of trash from area rivers during the annual river cleanup event.
To learn more about how to protect and improve water quality in Licking County, visit the Soil & Water website at www.lickingswcd.com or call 740-670-5330.
District Program Administrator
Licking County Soil & Water Conservation District