Water — It’s time to make it personal 

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, manager for watershed partnerships

You turn the on the faucet and good quality water comes out it, right? But what if it didn’t?

Imagine a day without water. In the first hour alone, you couldn’t flush the toilet, brush your teeth, take a shower or make a cup of coffee. Beyond your personal needs, firefighters couldn’t save your house or business, medical staff couldn’t treat you with clean hands. Businesses would be forced to close, and the economy would grind to a halt.

Try living without water for a day – or even half a day. Life becomes a major struggle.

We don’t give water a thought, but it’s time we did. We need to make water a priority in our lives and in our communities.

Did you know?

  • 46 percent of US lakes and 43 percent of US rivers are polluted and unsafe for swimming or fishing.
  • Around the world, 1 of 5 children that dies under the age of 5 does so from exposure to polluted water.
  • And by 2025, 3.5 billion people will be facing water shortages.

 

 

Threats to water

Water can be threatened when pollution from cities, farms, and industry runs off the land and into rivers and lakes or drains down into the groundwater. The City of Toledo had no access to safe drinking water when toxins were sucked out of Lake Erie and sent into the drinking water supply chain.

The other challenge to safe water is the notion of “out of sight, out of mind.” Water and wastewater systems are large, hidden infrastructure systems that ensure we are able to go about our daily routines without a second thought. They work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to bring clean, safe water to us and take it away after we use it to be treated before it is safely released back into the environment. Unlike potholes on roads, these systems – many of which were built more than 100 years ago – don’t show their age as easily. But a broken water system is absolutely devastating.

 

 

Living without drinking water across the US

The City of Flint, Michigan experienced how terrible life is without safe, reliable water when lead was found at unhealthy levels. Beach goers along the Great Lakes are accustomed to seeing beach closure signs because untreated-sewage overflows make water unsafe for swimming, and local lakes have tested positive for toxic algae.

Residents from South Carolina to West Virginia to Texas have lost water and wastewater service because of terrible flooding in the last several years. There’s been a humanitarian crisis going on in Puerto Rico after a devastating hurricane earlier this year. These communities know that a day without water is a crisis.

If we are lucky, we won’t see these kinds of challenges, but we can’t count on luck. We need to take action. You don’t need to be a water expert – you just need to be a water advocate. Making water a priority means:

  • Supporting spending to fix the problems.
  • Strengthening laws that protect our water.
  • Voting for people who care about your life and your health and will do anything to protect the one thing we can’t live without: Water.

 

 

More than just an environmental issue

Water is not just an environmental issue.

It’s an economic issue.

It’s a jobs issue.

It’s a health issue.

Someday, it may be a national security issue.

So what is water worth to you? And what are you willing to do to protect it? It’s time to make it personal.

Note: MCD recently joined 750 organizations to promote the annual Imagine a Day Without Water Day. Together these groups hosted tours and open houses, wrote blogs and op-eds, issued resolutions, posted videos and more. Social media activities generated more than 6 million impressions using #ValueWater. Locally, we participated in four, live interviews on FOX45’s morning show and posted daily on social media.

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Well owners — is your water safe to drink?

By Mike Ekberg, Manager for Water Resources Monitoring and Analysis

Hey well owners, when’s the last time you had your drinking water tested? If you’re like many well owners in the United States, you probably have never tested your water. Why should you bother? You have plenty of water and it tastes good, right?

If you want to be sure your drinking water is safe, you need to get it tested.

Test at least annually
The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) recommends well owners test their water at least annually for bacteria, nitrates, and contaminants specific to your area. Consider more frequent testing if:
• There is a change in taste, odor, or appearance of well water.
• The well has a history of contamination.
• The well is near a septic system.
• There have been recurring incidents of gastrointestinal illness.
• An infant is living in the home.
• Home water treatment equipment has been installed.

In our area, I recommend the following tests:
E. coli – E. coli bacteria is a specific indication of fecal contamination in the well. Its presence is a warning that disease-causing bacteria may have entered the well.

Nitrate – Nitrate gets into drinking water from fertilizers, manure, and septic systems. It also occurs naturally. High nitrate levels present a health concern for infants if the water is mixed with formula. High nitrate levels can also suggest other toxins such as bacteria and pesticides.

Arsenic – Arsenic is naturally occurring in groundwater. It’s linked to various cancers and other health issues.

Manganese – Manganese also occurs in nature and can be present in groundwater. At high enough levels, it may cause brain damage.

Lead – Lead typically gets into drinking water from corroded pipes and plumbing fixtures. If your home was built prior to 1986, it’s more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, and solder.

To help you get started, MCD partners with various counties and soil and water conservation districts to offer free, confidential well water sampling for nitrates, nitrites, and iron through Test Your Well events.

Get your water sampled this month
Miami County residents can attend on Monday, Nov. 13, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Miami East High School cafeteria, 3925 N. State Route 589 in Casstown. Enter door #12 with parking on the east side.

Montgomery County residents can attend on Tuesday, Nov. 14, from 4 to 6 p.m. Montgomery County Environmental Lab 4257 Dryden Road, Moraine, OH 45439

Find a testing lab and view more resources

How much rainfall can MCD dams and levees handle?

By Kurt Rinehart, MCD Chief Engineer

With the heavy rains of recent hurricanes, especially Hurricane Harvey’s 50 inches, people are wondering how much precipitation can the MCD flood protection system handle?

The system is designed for the greatest reasonably expected storm but not the largest scientifically possible storm. In other words, the system is designed to handle more rain than the region has ever seen but not as much as meteorologists and scientists predict could occur in a worst-case scenario.

The 1913 Flood brought 9 to 11 inches of rain in three days across the entire 4,000-square-mile Great Miami River Watershed.

What the flood protection system is designed to handle

MCD’s integrated system of five dry dams, 55 miles of levee and acres of preserved floodplain is designed to withstand a storm the size of the 1913 flood plus another 40 percent. Eight to 11 inches of rain fell over the 4,000-square-mile watershed in three days in March of 1913. So the flood protection system is designed to handle about 14 inches of rainfall across the watershed over a three-day period.

The two largest high-water events since the 1913 flood were in 1959 and 2005. In 1959, 4 to 6 inches of rain fell between January 19 and 21. In January 2005, we saw 7 to 10 inches of rain in 14 days, plus another 1.5 inches of precipitation in snowmelt from a 15-inch snowstorm in December.

In both of those events, there was still plenty of capacity in the retarding basins behind the dams. In the 1959 event, floodwaters filled 32 percent of Germantown Dam’s retarding basin. That’s the most any dam has ever held.

Based on those numbers, there nothing to worry about, you might think. Which is true. Kind of.

A study commissioned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in 2013 predicts in an absolute worst-case scenario storm, this region would receive 16 inches of precipitation over the entire watershed in three days. The dams could hold the floodwaters but the levees likely would be overtopped.

Biggest storm possible

A study commissioned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in 2013 predicts in an absolute worst-case scenario storm, this region would receive 16 inches of precipitation over the entire watershed in three days. This is the most extreme scientifically possible event for our region.

If that were to happen, the dams could hold the floodwaters but the levees could be overtopped and flood the cities.

Maintenance and reinvestment are key

The cost-benefit ratio doesn’t allow for us to build a system large enough to handle a worst-case scenario. It doesn’t make financial sense to build for a storm that in all likelihood will never happen. But it is crucial that we continue to maintain our system to handle the smaller storms that could still flood our cities if we didn’t have a working flood protection system.

That’s why maintenance, reinvestment and preparation are key. Our dams and levees are nearly 100 years old. Fortunately, MCD has worked hard to maintain the structures over the last century.

More recently, MCD’s capital improvement project, called the Dam Safety Initiative, addressed potential seepage issues in the foundations and the crests of the dams. We also repaired and replaced concrete floodwalls and revetment. More repairs and investment, however, are needed in the coming years to ensure the dams and levees continue to protect our riverfront communities.

Low levels of artificial sweeteners present in the aquifer, but what’s safe?

By Mike Ekberg, MCD manager for water resources monitoring and analysis

MCD staff recently found artificial sweeteners in five of 12 groundwater samples. The samples were collected from monitoring wells installed in the buried valley aquifer. This is further proof that many of the chemicals we flush down a toilet, rinse down a sink, or apply to our lawns and gardens ultimately end up in our rivers, streams, and aquifers.

It should be noted that none of the wells sampled in the study are used for drinking water. MCD uses its monitoring wells in the buried valley aquifer to act as a network of sentinels. Samples from the wells provide information on human impacts as well as natural changes in the quality of water over time.

MCD found artificial sweeteners in several groundwater samples (in monitoring wells, not drinking water wells), providing further proof that what we flush down the toilet and rinse down the sink makes its way to our rivers, streams and aquifers.

Artificial sweeteners in groundwater is a concern for two reasons: First, their presence is an indication that human sewage is flowing into the aquifer. Human sewage contains low levels of many contaminants that pass through the sewage treatment process and enter into natural waters. Second, artificial sweeteners are considered to be potential endocrine disruptors because they may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and harm people and animals.

The endocrine system is a chemical messaging system within the human body that regulates organ function. Fortunately, the artificial sweeteners were present in the groundwater at very low concentrations – parts per trillion.

These “endocrine disruptors.” as they are known, are present in many products we use every day, including plastic bottles, detergents, flame retardants, cosmetics, and pesticides. Among the other chemicals MCD found in the samples were:

  • Bisphenol A (BPA), a compound found in plastics.
  • DEET, an active ingredient in insect repellant.
  • The herbicides atrazine, metolachlor, simazine, and sulfometuron methyl.
  • Meclofenamic acid, a drug used for joint and muscular pain and arthritis.
  • Propylparaben, an ingredient in many cosmetics.

BPA is becoming a big concern because human exposure to the compound is widespread. Some animal studies report effects on fetuses and newborns exposed to BPA.

None of the chemicals found exceeded any human health-based standards. The jury is still out, however, on what the standards should be for some of these chemicals. It’s possible that new standards will be set once we better understand how these chemicals affect the human body.

If we want clean, safe water, we may need to support investments in advanced water treatment technologies to remove potentially harmful compounds from water.

 

Use green development to save money and energy

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., Manager for Watershed Partnerships

Last month we discussed how green development can reduce flooding, save money, reduce energy use, and improve public health. This month we want to key in on a few of the more popular green development practices and their incentives.

Rain gardens filter out pollutants and allow about 30 percent more water to soak into the ground than a patch of lawn.

Rain gardens filter out pollutants

Studies show that up to 70 percent of the pollution in our streams and rivers is carried there by stormwater. Rain gardens help filter out stormwater pollution before it flows into streams and rivers.

Rain gardens:

  • Feature attractive landscaping with perennial native plants.
  • Are designed to absorb stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces such as roofs and parking lots.
  • Allow water to slowly filter into the ground rather than run off to storm drains.
  • Allow about 30 percent more water to soak into the ground compared to a patch of lawn.
  • Come in a variety of sizes from small or large home-owner style gardens to complex bioretention gardens, and anything in between.
  • Can be bowl-shaped or saucer-shaped gardens.

Rain gardens are particularly effective at reducing solids and nutrients – like nitrogen and phosphorus – in stormwater runoff from residential yards and parking lots. Research done by the Center for Watershed Protection found that bioretention facilities installed in parking lots reduced total phosphorous in runoff by 65 percent, total nitrogen by 49 percent, and metals by 95-97 percent.

MCD helped install rain gardens in several locations to demonstrate their effectiveness:

  • City of Springfield
  • City of Brookville Wenger Woods neighborhood
  • Heritage Park in Hamilton County
  • Preble County Historical Society

Pavers last decades longer than traditional asphalt and concrete driveways.

Pervious pavers absorb rain and snow

Pervious pavers are an alternative to a traditional asphalt or concrete driveway.

When stormwater flows over lawns and concrete driveways, it can carry with it chemicals, fertilizers, sediment and oils, which can degrade the quality of water running into storm sewers. Pervious pavers help slow polluted stormwater runoff, allowing the water to soak into the aquifer instead of flowing off the land and into rivers and streams.

Paver driveways and walkways allow rain and snowmelt to soak through the cracks between each paver so that water doesn’t pond during a rainstorm, and ice doesn’t form in the winter.

While concrete or asphalt surfaces may require a lower initial investment, paver systems are known to last decades longer. They also require little maintenance because they aren’t prone to cracking. When pavers need repaired, only the damaged section needs to be replaced, not the entire surface.

MCD uses pervious pavers to increase infiltration and slow runoff at its headquarters building in downtown Dayton. MCD also helped install pervious pavers at several homes in the City of Brookville’s Wenger Woods neighborhood.

Green roofs have been widely used in Europe for centuries but are still catching on in the U.S.

Green roofs mitigate heat and improve air quality

Green roofs, which are made from natural plant material, have natural thermal insulation properties that keep structures cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Green roofs are a layer of light weight vegetation that is installed over a roof membrane. They offer features and benefits not present in a conventional membrane roof such as:

  • The vegetation and soil layers protect the waterproof membrane from solar exposure, prolonging roof membrane life.
  • The soil provides additional insulation and shades the roof from solar heat gain.
  • Environmental benefits – including stormwater filtration, heat island mitigation, improved air quality and increased wildlife habitat.

Green roofs have been used in Europe for centuries, but are still catching on in popularity here. They are particularly cost-effective:

  • In dense urban areas where land values are high.
  • On large industrial or office buildings where stormwater management costs are likely to be high.

MCD helped install green roofs on several modular homes in the Canal Block Litehouse Development in downtown Dayton. Green roofs are also in use on top of Dayton’s city hall building and Springfield Regional Medical Center.

How you can help

Your community can encourage the installation of green practices – like the three listed above – by updating your development policies to encourage builders to think green.

An easy way to get started is to host a Site Planning Roundtable that brings together local leaders from government, development, and natural resources. MCD staff can, in partnership with local sponsors, assist communities during all phases of the Site Planning Roundtable. Call me at 937-223-1278 ext. 3244 and let’s get started!

Green development could mean green backs for your community

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., manager of watershed partnerships

Could your land use plan be holding back your community?

It could if you’re not focusing on balancing water protection with land development.

This region is averaging about 4 more inches of precipitation per year than it did 30 years ago. Stronger storms, heavier rainfalls and destructive erosion are becoming more common. Just a few weeks ago, the region experienced a new record for rainfall for June 14, from 1.29 inches that day to 2.68 inches, according to a Dayton Daily News story.

This region now averages about 4 more inches of precipitation per year than it did 30 years ago.

Businesses looking to grow or relocate want to be sure flooding isn’t an issue. Communities now more than ever need to focus on protecting their water, and mitigating flooding and peak flows.

Studies show green development practices can save money 

According to a 2010 study by the American Society of Landscape Architects, governments are wasting billions of dollars a year by not going green. The report looked at 479 case studies of green development projects around the U.S. and found that in more than 73 percent of the cases, the environmentally friendly solution cost the same or less than traditional development.
According to the study, green development practices:

  • Not only cost less, but these practices can further reduce costs of treating large amounts of polluted runoff.
  • Can help municipalities reduce energy expenses.
  • May reduce flooding and related flood damage.
  • Improve public health — reducing bacteria and pollution in rivers and streams, preventing gastrointestinal illnesses in swimmers and boaters.

Seattle Public Utilities found that using grassed channels; combined with narrowing the roadway, eliminating traditional curb and gutter, and placing sidewalks on only one side of the street garnered a cost savings for the city of 15–25 percent, or $100,000 – $235,000 per block, as compared to conventional stormwater control design (Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2010).

One study found that using green development practices saved 15 to 20 percent in stormwater control costs.

 

Land Use Planning to protect water and maximize economic opportunity

MCD can help communities that want to integrate water protection into their land use plans, zoning code, and subdivision regulations. Amending local codes and ordinances is an important first step to achieving a balance between protecting water and promoting economic development.

Communities often find that their existing development policies conflict with the goal of water protection. For instance, current design calls for

  • Wide streets
  • Expansive parking lots
  • Large-lot subdivisions

Massive parking lots are impenetrable, creating a barrier to groundwater recharge.

All of these create excessive impervious cover, increase flood risk in low lying areas, and provide little room for green space and a natural environment. Incentives for developers to conserve natural areas and consider water protection are generally few and far between.

So what’s the answer?

Better Site Design is an approach to both residential and commercial development that is intended to:

  • Reduce flood risk.
  • Help comply with stormwater regulations.
  • Increase groundwater recharge.
  • Improve stormwater filtration.
  • Reduce erosive flows to streams and rivers.

All of the above can save your community money and create a more marketable product.

Pervious pavers like this driveway in Brookville reduce stormwater runoff and last years longer than concrete. 

How MCD can help

Using a Site Planning Roundtable, MCD staff can guide a community through a consensus process, bringing together local leaders from government, development, and natural resources.

Together, we’ll create development policies that balance water protection and economic development for your community.

The local roundtable will:

  • Identify existing development rules.
  • Compare them to the principles of Better Site Design.
  • Determine if changes can or should be made to current codes and ordinances.
  • Negotiate and reach consensus on what the changes should be.

Let’s get started!

MCD, in partnership with local sponsors, can assist communities during all phases of the Site Planning Roundtable. Call me at 937-223-1278 ext. 3244 and let’s get started!

MCD has its eye on water

By Mike Ekberg, MCD manager for water resources monitoring and analysis

Did you know MCD tracks precipitation, groundwater levels, and flow in rivers and streams?

This information helps MCD and its partner agencies with flood forecasting, groundwater quantity monitoring, and understanding water movement into and out of the Great Miami River Watershed.

Here’s what we tracked in 2016 and what we’ve seen in 2017.

Water in 2016

  • Precipitation for the year was right around 37 inches or about 2.5 trillion gallons of water.
    • Average annual precipitation for the Miami Valley is about 43 inches.
  • Precipitation was below average eight of 12 months in 2016.
    • August was a notable exception with nearly 6 inches of rain. The average for that month is a little more than 3 inches.
  • Runoff from the Great Miami River Watershed into the Ohio River was about 12 inches or 823 billion gallons of water. Runoff includes water from rainfall and groundwater water that seeps into the river.
    • Average annual runoff is about 15 inches.
  • Water levels in the buried valley aquifer began the year near average at most observation wells. They declined to below-average levels during the summer and then returned to average levels in the fall.
  • Water recharge to Miami Valley aquifers averaged a little more than 6 inches or about 411 billion gallons.
    • Average annual recharge for the watershed is around 8 inches. Despite the lower average for 2016, the region has an abundance of groundwater.

What are we seeing in 2017?

We’re not even halfway through the year, and precipitation and runoff are trending above average. At the end of May, MCD had recorded nine high water events this year, which is above average for the entire year. MCD recorded only five high water events during all of 2016.

MCD defines a high water event as a time when:

  • Any single dam goes into storage, meaning the elevation of the water upstream of the dam exceeds the top of the dam’s conduit.
  • Or the river at any of our cities reaches an “action stage” as defined by the MCD Emergency Action Plan, such as closing a floodgate.

All of the dams except Huffman Dam have stored floodwaters at least once this year:

  • Germantown Dam – 7 storage events
  • Englewood Dam – 9 storage events
  • Lockington Dam – 1 storage event
  • Taylorsville Dam – 1 storage event

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ohio River Forecast Center, there’s an equal chance of above- or below-average precipitation for the next three months. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.

Regional trails draw worldwide attention

By Angela Manuszak, Special Projects Coordinator

Many everyday items that make life easier were invented in the Dayton region. The airplane. The pop-top can. The cash register. Dayton is also home to some pretty amazing, more natural creations, too, namely, our rivers – and the hiking and biking trails near them. And while our trails don’t get the same attention as the airplane or the cash register, our regional trails are about to get noticed in a big way.

The American Trails’ International Trails Symposium heads to the Dayton region, May 7-10. The ITS is a biennial symposium that brings together the worldwide trails community to experience regional trails and advocate for the economic and environmental power of trails.

But what’s so special about our rivers and trails?

With 340 miles of trails to explore, this region boasts the largest, paved trail network in the country

Contiguous land ownership

MCD owns extensive and contiguous riverfront land in cities along the Great Miami River as part of its flood protection system. It also preserved floodplains at each of its five dry dams. Upstream of each dam are vast tracts of land meant to flood occasionally so downstream cities don’t. MCD’s first chief engineer, Arthur Morgan, persuaded the MCD Board of Directors to open thousands of acres of the “retarding basins” to the public.

Today, each dam’s forested greenspaces are wrapped with hiking trails, traversed by bike trails, dotted with picnic areas, then splashed with river launch ramps – all managed in partnership with county park districts, especially Five Rivers MetroParks.

In the 1970s, a grassroots effort to build a paved, connected trail on MCD’s riverfront property led to the first major segment of trail – an 8-mile loop on both banks of the Great Miami River in Dayton. While flood protection remains the highest purpose of the land, trails are a compatible use that has transformed our region. The Great Miami River Bike Trail now has a total of nearly 80 miles completed, and new sections will be constructed before 2020. Other trails – built by MCD partners and colleagues — radiate like bike wheel spokes from Dayton in every direction.

The Buckeye Trail is one of many hiking trails throughout the region.

Recognition
Every year the trail network’s fame grows. MCD’s trails:

  • Host part of the North Country and Buckeye trails.
  • Have been named National Recreation Trails.
  • Are designated to carry part of US Bike Route 50 across the state.

Connect several sites of the National Aviation Heritage Area.

The Great Miami, Stillwater and Mad rivers, along with Greenville, Buck and Twin creeks are the only nationally designated water trail in Ohio and one of only 22 in the country. The Great Miami, Stillwater and Mad rivers also are a state designated water trail.

State and national designated water trails

Our rivers are getting plenty of attention, too. Last year, the Great Miami, Mad and Stillwater rivers along with Greenville, Buck and Twin creeks were designated the first and only National Water Trail in the state of Ohio. The national water trail designation by the U.S. Department of Interior is given only to those water trails that are exemplary. The Great Miami, Stillwater and Mad rivers also are state-designated water trails.

Soon the world will know
With all of the amazing trails nearby, no wonder American Trails chose the Dayton region for its 2017 ITS. We are proud to join the list of celebrated trail cities that have hosted this conference in the past, including: Portland, Oregon; Tucson; Chattanooga; Austin; and Orlando. We hope you will join us for the symposium or one of the related events open to the public. Go to americantrails.org to learn more.

 

Private Wells – Test for a silent killer

By Mike Ekberg, MCD manager for water resources monitoring and analysis

There may a silent killer lurking in private wells used for drinking water. Recent groundwater studies in our region show that drinking water in up to 20 percent of private wells contains high levels of arsenic.

Long-term exposure to arsenic through drinking water is associated with multiple serious health problems. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen, linked to cancers of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate gland.

Skin lesions caused by arsenic poisoning

In addition, exposure to arsenic interferes with the immune system, impacts cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological, and hormonal processes, and may be a contributor to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Elevated arsenic not uncommon in regional groundwater

Arsenic is an element and a minor component of the rock and soil present in local aquifers. Under the right conditions groundwater dissolves arsenic in the aquifer and carries it into wells. Public water systems must test for arsenic. If arsenic levels are high, they are required to remove it.

Unlike public water supplies, private wells usually are not routinely tested.

Drinking water comes from a private well? Get your water tested.

How can you tell if your well water has high arsenic levels in it? You can’t, not without a laboratory test. That’s why I urge well owners who use their wells for drinking water to get their water tested. A laboratory test will typically cost anywhere from $20 to $25. If you use a private well for drinking water, it’s important to test your water for arsenic. If you don’t, you run the risk of consuming drinking water with elevated levels of arsenic.

Removing arsenic

Removing arsenic from drinking water can be complex. In general, there are two major categories of removal systems, point of use (POU) and whole-house. POU arsenic removal systems remove arsenic at a single tap where the water is consumed. POU arsenic removal systems do not remove arsenic throughout the entire house. Whole-house arsenic removal systems remove arsenic at the point where water enters the house, distributing treated water throughout the entire house.

Point of use system installed under a kitchen sink. The system is a single tap reverse osmosis unit.

A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey and MCD found the effectiveness of treatment systems in removing arsenic is largely dependent upon the arsenic level in the untreated water. The higher the arsenic level in the well, the less effective arsenic removal systems tended to be. Fortunately, studies of our regional aquifers show that most water has arsenic levels that can be removed with arsenic removal systems that are available on the market.

Currently, there are two labs in our area that will test your water. Call them for fees and more information:

Montgomery County Environmental Laboratory
4257 Dryden Road, Dayton, OH 45439
(937) 781-3016

Pace Analytical Services, Inc. – Dayton
25 Holiday Drive, Englewood, OH 45322
(800) 723-5227

 Other resources to help you understand how to test your well water

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has a website with contact information about state-certified labs that can help with testing. Heidelberg University also offers testing services.

The Ohio State University (OSU) also offers an on-line tool to help you understand the test results. The OSU site offers a lot of information for well owners.

Top 5 Regional Water Challenges for the 21st Century

By Mike Ekberg, MCD manager for water resources monitoring and analysis

You may have heard me say this before—southwest Ohio is water rich. We have abundant, high-quality, water when compared with other parts of our country and the world.

Yet, our region is not without challenges in managing water. Here are five water trends that may pose challenges to our community leaders for the foreseeable future.

Precipitation and runoff are trending up

Our region is getting wetter. Mean annual precipitation and runoff (the amount of water that drains off land) in the region are trending up. In the 1960s, mean annual precipitation was around 37 inches per year. Today, mean annual precipitation is a little over 41 inches. That‘s an increase of about 4 inches per year. Not surprisingly, mean annual runoff shows a similar trend.Precipitation trending up chart

These trends are good news and bad news at the same time. The good news from a water quantity perspective is our region isn’t likely to experience any long-term water shortages given current water uses. The bad news is our region could experience more frequent flooding outside of areas protected by The Miami Conservancy District (MCD). One thing that’s clear is communities will likely deal with more frequent and intense rain events in the future.

Water use is trending down

According to data compiled by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, water use for things such as drinking water, manufacturing, and irrigation are declining. Total ground and surface water used in the area that drains to the Great Miami River peaked in the early 2000s at slightly fewer than 600 million gallons of water per day. Water use is currently at about 300 million gallons per day

Water trend usage chartThe decline in water use is a result of several factors, including more water-efficient plumbing fixtures, increased efficiencies in industrial water use, a regional decline in manufacturing, and the closure of the DP&L Hutchings Station power plant.

Declining water use poses a challenge for many local water utilities struggling to maintain sufficient revenues to deal with rising infrastructure costs. In the past, water systems often made their financial projections based upon an assumption of rising water demand. This assumption is no longer valid. And yet, public water system infrastructure must be maintained if we want to have safe drinking water. Some water utilities may need to restructure rates to ensure sufficient revenues.

Nutrient levels in rivers and streams remain too high

Algal bloom on Great Miami River

2012 algal bloom on the Great Miami River in downtown Dayton

Nitrogen and phosphorus levels in many area rivers and streams are too high and affect aquatic life. The most common sources of nitrogen and phosphorus are agricultural fertilizers and human sewage. When nitrogen and phosphorus are present in water at high levels, they fuel excessive algal growth in the rivers where we like to recreate. Recent algal blooms in other parts of the US have been toxic. Agricultural leaders and communities that manage water-reclamation facilities are working to find a solution that cost-effectively reduces nutrients in our rivers and streams.

Road salt and fertilizers impact aquifers

top-water-challenges-blog-road-salt

Deicing agents such as road salt and brine can increase chloride in streams and rivers.

Applications of road salt and nitrogen fertilizers are perhaps the two most prolific sources of man-made contaminants to aquifers. Elevated levels of chloride from road salt—and elevated levels of nitrate from fertilizers or failing septic systems—are present in regional aquifers. That’s what  groundwater data collected by the United States Geological Survey, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA), and MCD show.

The take-home message is better methods for applying road deicing agents and agricultural fertilizers are needed in areas where regional aquifers are vulnerable to contaminants.

Do we know where these vulnerable aquifer areas are? We have a good start. Every public water system in Ohio that relies on groundwater has a defined source water protection area. A source water protection area is a map of all the aquifer areas which provide drinking water to a particular public water system. Those maps can be shared with farmers and road maintenance departments. It may be possible to reduce use or find better methods to apply fertilizers and road salt in these sensitive areas.

Widespread destruction of natural stream habitats continue

top-water-challenges-blog-concrete-channel

Modified stream channels have poor habitat and water quality.

It used to be that most people’s image of a polluted stream involved a factory with a big discharge pipe pouring toxic chemicals into the stream. That’s no longer a top water quality threat to regional rivers and streams. According to Ohio EPA, human alterations to the stream channel are perhaps the most widespread cause of stream destruction. Human alterations can mean:

  • Channelizing or straightening a stream channel.
  • Removing the natural vegetation from a streambank.
  • Increasing the impervious surface area that drains into a stream.
  • Damming the stream channel.
  • Developing in a stream’s floodplain.

All of the activities listed above disrupt a stream’s natural habitat, which can affect water quality in the places many of us like to recreate. They also create other problems, such as soil erosion and flooding, which can lead to costly clean-up and restoration.

Solutions to the problem typically seek to preserve as much of the stream channel in its natural state as possible. Streamside setbacks, conservation easements, and low- impact development practices are tools that can minimize destruction of rivers and streams.

Moving Forward

All of these water challenges can be overcome. The know-how already exists. The key is you and me. Most of these water challenges are the direct or indirect result of how we live our lives—the neighborhoods we build, the services we demand, and the value we place on having clean water.

The solutions will require different ways of thinking and different approaches to the way in which our region develops land. Agricultural practices for fertilizers and stream conservation will have to improve. New investments in water reclamation technologies may be needed, and perhaps changes to water rates. Are we ready to embrace those changes?

What can you do to prepare? Here’s a short list of ideas:

  • Advocate for federal investment in water infrastructure upgrades.
  • Include water management in short- and long-range community planning.
  • Keep water protection at the top of your community’s priorities.
  • Write local policies that protect water.