Sunday, August 24, 2008

Secchi Day at Beaver Lake finds clarity of lake reduced

ROGERS : Volunteers gather Beaver Lake data, shows less clarity
Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2008
ROGERS — The waters were calm as the first boats departed Prairie Creek Marina on Saturday for the third annual Secchi Day on Beaver Lake.

Sponsored by Beaver Water District, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers-Beaver Lake and Audubon Arkansas, the daylong event focused on water quality. Volunteers collect samples and record water clarity using black-and-white Secchi disks.

The event offered a range of displays on water-related issues, from stream banks to water in Third World countries. The smell of hamburgers wafted from grills at the marina, greeting returning volunteers while results were announced over loudspeakers and the sounds of children playing.

Area residents Dallas and Delores Drda and their friends Ken and Diann Yakel, of Denton, Texas, were among the first to return with findings. Their measurements showed the lake wasn’t quite as clear as last year.

“We know it’s not as clear as it was before the storms,” Delores Drda said, while she sat under the yellow canopy of the Drdas’ pontoon boat.

Delores Drda kept an eye on the depth finder, while her husband and Ken Yakel leaned over the bow peering down at the disk until it disappeared.

The first reading taken near the site of the defunct Grandview Heights condominium project was 2 meters. The reading indicates the clarity is half what it was last year.

After taking three separate readings with the disk at each location, volunteers collected water samples using plastic bottles. A black bottle was used to collect water to check for chlorophyl and a clear bottle for nutrients. Each filled bottle was stored on ice to maintain water temperature.

It was the first time the Drdas had participated in the event but not their first time to volunteer on the lake. The couple live near the marina and took part in the last lake cleanup.

“Amazing” is how Delores Drda described the amount of garbage they retrieved. All kinds of debris washed up along the banks of the lake, which is the source of drinking water for most of Northwest Arkansas.

Dallas Drda said the group they took out retrieved enough garbage to fill the boat twice, recovering items as large as tires and air conditioners.

The beauty of the lake is part of the reason the couple chose to retire here, Delores Drda said. They want to make certain it stays that way.

The Yakels took part in the event because they were visiting here.

“They wanted to take us for a ride,” said Ken Yakel, who helped navigate to the locations using a laminated map of the lake provided to volunteers.

Cruising to the second location, the water remained calm with few boats out. The sky turned gray and the sound of thunder could be heard in the distance, but the rain held off for the volunteer team.

The team’s readings will help determine the overall clarity of the lake, but it will take many more readings to determine any kind of trend, said Alan Fortenberry, chief executive officer of Beaver Water District.

Bob Morgan, manager of environmental quality for Beaver Water District, anticipates the clarity of the lake will be down from last year because of the amount of rain the area has experienced.

Last year, the lake was exceptionally clear because of the lack of rain, Morgan said. This year, there should be a significant increase in the amount of nutrients carried through the lake, because the spillway gates at Beaver Dam had to be opened, he said.

While the conditions of the lake may not be exactly what is wanted from a water treatment standpoint, the additional nutrients may bring the lake closer to optimal for certain aquatic life, Morgan said.

Fortenberry said that water clarity is just one of many aspects of the lake that is monitored. It is also one of the easiest which makes it ideal as a way to educate people about water quality.

“I don’t think anybody recognizes the true value of water,” Fortenberry said, “because water is a necessity of life, and what value do you put on a necessity of life ?”

Among the information at the booths was a display on water in Third World countries. A sign hung from a half-filled 5-gallon water jug, reading “imagine carrying this full on your head.”

Sara Milford said the display was to offer a different perspective on water availability and to spread the word about the Fayetteville chapter of Earth Scouts, a coed youth program.

Ecology is just one element of the program, Milford said.

“I look at it as teaching kids true sustainability,” she said.

More information about Earth Scouts is available on the Web site www. fayar-earthscouts. org. More information about Beaver Water District is available at www. bwdh 2 o. org.

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