Lake and river water quality pollution problems and their solutions begin on the land, and this is where we focus our efforts. Runoff carries pollutants into the nearest waterway – and these pollutants continue to flow downstream. Such pollutants include sediments, nutrients, bacteria, pesticides, toxic metals, and exotic invasive species.
These inputs are harming our lakes. The symptoms we see today include algae blooms, invasive weeds, muddy water, bacteria, nuisance swans and geese, and the decline of fisheries. When these stressors combine, lakes lose oxygen and slowly fill in from decaying matter, essentially killing the lake.
In addition, a new threat, which we are watching closely, is the spread of toxic bluegreen algae. This toxin is a potential health risk to pets, livestock, and humans. Some Indiana lakes have even been closed for swimming due to these algal toxins.
The Watershed Foundation works with partners to implement studies and pollution reduction projects. We focus on stopping pollution at its source (on the land) before it reaches our waters. TWF spends a lot of time locating problem areas and then talking to landowners about ways to protect our water quality.
Since seventy-five percent of the land in the watershed is agricultural, TWF works a lot with farmers. Agricultural solutions include planting cover crops in the winter, utilizing no-till farming and reducing the phosphorus, nitrogen and manure applied on farmland.
Residential solutions include phosphorus-free lawn fertilizer, maintaining septic systems, not feeding waterfowl, and installing healthy shorelines and raingardens. The results
are fewer chemicals, silt and E. coli flowing into our lakes – which leads to a reduction in the algae and exotic weeds that turn into the silt that fills in our lake bottoms. These are just some of the water quality improvement projects that TWF is constantly working on.
These projects have long-term benefits for the landowners and our community. Farmers are improving their soil health and gaining better crop production with less cost. Residents are learning more about conservation and how they can help make a difference from educational programs sponsored by TWF.
Studies over the past several years have demonstrated an overall improvement in the water quality of the streams feeding our lakes.
Our efforts to reduce and stop water pollution at its source are having an impact, but more work remains.