Do you live/farm in a watershed that’s listed as impaired? Unfortunately, most people probably do not know the answer to this question. It’s important to know and understand if you live in an impaired watershed, the problems that the watershed you live in is facing, and what you may unknowingly be doing to contribute to the problem. By being aware of the problems you can be a part of the solution!
Under the Indiana Clean Water Act (CWA) there is a list of waterways that have been determined as impaired. Indiana Department of Environmental Management lists these impaired waterways together on a list that is known as the 303(d) list of impaired waterways. Unfortunately, according to the Upper Iroquois River Watershed Management Plan, “the Iroquois River and its tributaries are listed on the 303(d) list for “excessive nutrients”, which negatively impact aquatic wildlife and potentially can impact groundwater drinking supplies” (p. 26). To see the full 303(d) list of impaired waterways in Indiana go to: http://www.in.gov/idem/nps/2647.htm
What has caused our local waterways to become impaired and listed on the 303(d) list? Well, according to the Upper Iroquois River Watershed Management Plan “we think failing septic systems, manure mismanagement, field soil erosion, nitrogen loss out of tile drains and lawn fertilizer, bare ground during the winter, stream access by livestock, lack of conservation tillage, and geological based hotspots may be significant sources of nutrients” (p. 26).
So how can you be part of the solution? I will tackle the list of problems and the solutions one at a time. If you live in an urban setting:
- Failing septic systems or “No Fail”- if you have a septic system have it checked or upgraded to make sure that it is functioning correctly and not leaking nutrients into our waterways.
- Bare ground during the winter- residential vegetable gardens need cover crops too! Keep your lovely garden soil healthy by planting cover crops in the winter, contact me and I will help you to determine the right cover crops for your garden!
- Nitrogen loss out of lawn fertilizer- I’m sure your neighbors envy your lush, green lawn; just please make sure that you are not over fertilizing your lawn. The excess nitrogen that is not being used by your grass is reaching the waterways. Also, dumping the grass on the side of the road for pick up will release nutrients. Bag them up.
If you live in an agricultural setting:
- Failing septic systems- if you have a septic system have it checked to make sure that it is functioning correctly and not a “No fail” system running directly into tile drain.
- Manure mismanagement- make sure you are not over applying manure and use cover crops as part of manure application, the excess nitrogen that your soil is not taking up is getting into the waterways.
- Field soil erosion- cover crops help prevent soil erosion and keep sediments out of our waterways by covering the bare land.
- Nitrogen loss out of tile drains- make sure you are correctly managing your manure and other fertilizers, plant cover crops to help hold on to your nitrogen and prevent it from being lost out of the tile drains. If you are paying to put it on, then you’re losing money when the nitrogen runs out of your fields through the tile drains.
- Bare ground during the winter- get that cover crop on! Cover crops help in so many ways. They prevent field soil erosion and help to hold the nitrogen in your fields.
- Stream access by livestock- put fencing up to prevent your livestock from reaching the streams, this will help prevent the nutrients from their waste getting into the waterways.
- Lack of conservation tillage- more residue will help to keep the water in your ground rather than allowing it to run-off, carrying nutrients and your field soil with it.
If you have questions about the 303(d) list of impaired waterways, want to know more about how you can help improve local water quality, or want to get involved please contact us at 219-866-8008 ext. 3 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, you CAN help improve water quality!