| An Arkansas case study on source water protection: Beaver Water District
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An Arkansas case study on source water protection: Beaver Water District

This is an excerpt from an article for customers of Beaver Water District in Arkansas, written by James McCarty, Environmental Quality Manager.

Beaver Water District (BWD) in northwest Arkansas keeps a keen eye on Beaver Lake and the streams that feed into it. These valuable water bodies provide drinking water for about 545,000 residents, and the district is committed to protecting this source.

BWD, a regional water distribution district established in 1957 and a utility member of the American Water Works Association since 1972, supplies wholesale drinking water to 2019 fish survey team at Beaver Water Districtthe cities of Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville. These cities pump, store, distribute and resell the water to more than 350,000 customers.

Each summer growing season, BWD’s environmental quality department conducts biological sampling -- collecting and analyzing fish and aquatic insects -- to monitor the quality of streams that feed Beaver Lake. (Pictured right, 2019 fish survey team from left, Kent Holloway, Jarrod Phillips, Brad Hufhines, James McCarty, Matthew Rich and Cody Hudson)
James McCarty
“A stream’s biological properties, such as the diversity and quantity of the fish that inhabit it, help us determine its health,” said James McCarty (pictured left), BWD’s environmental quality manager. BWD produced a video about its efforts to monitor stream health.

In 2016, BWD’s board of directors voted to annually contribute four cents per every thousand gallons of water sold to a source water protection fund. These and other efforts are part of BWD’s long-term Source Water Protection Plan, established in 2010 and updated in 2012 and 2018. New objectives from the 2018 update include:

•    Alignment of the forestry and drinking water industries
•    Commitment to conserve land in the watershed
•    Research technologies to reduce nutrient transport to Beaver Lake and its streams
•    Participate with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) at the local, state and federal levels
BWD's Matthew Rich records fish species
“In 2019, we completed multiple research projects and maintained a robust data collection effort to inform long-term water quality trends in Beaver Lake and its watershed,” McCarty said. (Pictured right, BWD’s Matthew Rich records fish species)

“In addition, BWD provided stewardship funding with the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust for a 10-acre conservation easement in the Brush Creek watershed to ensure that the property continues to provide environmental services to the watershed,” he added. “We also provided input to guide the selection of new funding priorities for the National Water Quality Initiative, an NRCS program funded through the current farm bill.”

BWD and other partners in the watershed are in the fourth year of a five-year, $8.6 million project to implement agricultural best practices and restore stream reaches along the West Fork of the White River.

Looking forward, BWD plans to form a task force to identify best practices for decentralized wastewater treatment to improve wastewater systems in the watershed. BWD also will conduct prescribed burns on its forest and prairie properties to maintain forest health and habitat and water quality. “We want to be good stewards of our land holdings and a positive example for other watershed landholders,” McCarty said. 

“These actions will help BWD to preserve land with the greatest environmental benefit and secure funding for programs to accomplish the Beaver Lake Watershed Protection Strategy,” he added. “At the end of the day, the goal is to reduce the most significant contaminant in our drinking water source – sediment and nutrient transport to Beaver Lake.”

Resources for source water protection are on AWWA’s website.