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AWWA recognizes top Exemplary Source Water Protection programs

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is recognizing water systems based in Nevada, Illinois and Arkansas as recipients of its 2020 Exemplary Source Water Protection Awards.

Award recipients demonstrate the highest level of vision, goals, action plan, innovation, implementation and evaluation in the categories of small, medium and large water systems.

“The key to providing a safe and high-quality supply of drinking water is a multi-barrier approach, and the first and most efficient barrier is protecting your source water,” said Ted Meckes, water division manager at City Water, Light and Power in Illinois, one of water systems recognized. 

Small source water system (Less than 50,000 population) -- Tahoe Water Suppliers Association, California/Nevada
Tahoe Water Suppliers Association taste test
The Tahoe Water Suppliers Association (TWSA) is a partnership of 12 California and Nevada municipal water agencies operating around Lake Tahoe. Their primary drinking water source is Lake Tahoe, although several members have auxiliary groundwater sources. (Pictured right, TWSA’s Sarah Vidra oversees Tap Water Taste Test Challenge)

Lake Tahoe is one of the deepest and clearest lakes in the world and a popular destination for recreation, tourism and home ownership. Together, TWSA agencies serve fewer than 50,000 residents year-round, but during peak tourism the population increases to more than 100,000.

TWSA’s source water quality goals are clarity and exceptional water quality. Source water challenges include storm water runoff, urban development, air quality and erosion.

TWSA’s Watershed Control Program focuses on education, monitoring, data management, regulation, mapping, administration, water conservation and water rights.

“The mission of the Tahoe Water Suppliers Association is to develop, implement and maintain an effective watershed control program in order to satisfy recommendations in watershed sanitary surveys, advocate for the protection of Lake Tahoe as a viable source of drinking water, and to satisfy additional state and federal requirements,” said Madonna Dunbar, TWSA’s executive director.

Medium source water system (50,001 - 500,000) – City Water, Light and Power, Illinois
City Water, Light and Power tour for source water protection
As the largest municipal utility in Illinois, City Water, Light and Power (CWLP) provides water and electricity to about 150,000 customers in and around Springfield. The city owns and manages Lake Springfield, a 3,965-acre reservoir built in 1935. (Pictured at right, CWLP tour demonstrating best practices)

The lake is the utility’s primary source of drinking water, as well as the source of condenser cooling water for the city’s lakeshore power plant complex. It is part of the 265-square-mile Lower Sangamon River Watershed, which includes two main streams that feed the lake.

CWLP has worked with federal, state and local agencies and non-governmental partners to improve the water quality of the Lake Springfield Watershed. Because 75 percent of its land usage is agricultural, the city partnered with the Sangamon County Soil and Water Conservation District, leading to formation of the Lake Springfield Watershed Resource Planning Committee (LSWRPC) in 1990.

The mission of the LSWRPC is to develop and implement a comprehensive watershed protection plan.  Since 2018, the committee has grown to more than 75 members, including farmers, fertilizer/chemical dealers, government agencies, lake homeowners, college instructors and students.

The LSWRPC has developed a long-range source water protection plan to address 20 agricultural resource concerns and 17 urban issues. These include sediment removal, shoreline stabilization, cover crops and fertilizer application adjustments.

“CWLP’s Water Resources Department has done an outstanding job of securing additional funding to improve the water quality of Lake Springfield, our city’s only source for drinking water,” said Meckes. “Through their efforts and partnerships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Sangamon County Soil & Water Conservation District, best management practices are being implemented to reduce sediment and nutrient loading into our lake.”

Large source water system (500,001+) -- Beaver Water District, Arkansas
Beaver Water District fish sampling
Wholesale drinking water provider Beaver Water District (BWD) serves a population of 358,000 in Benton and Washington counties in northwest Arkansas. The system’s sole water source is Beaver Lake, a large reservoir on the White River that is vulnerable to high turbidity events and nutrient loads.

BWD partnered with the Northwest Arkansas Council to develop a Beaver Lake Watershed Protection Strategy, which became a key element in BWD’s 2012 Source Water Protection Plan. The district regularly revises and updates the plan as new data becomes available. (Pictured, BWD staff sample fish species to determine stream health)

In 2016, BWD’s Board of Directors voted to dedicate four cents per every 1,000 gallons sold to a Source Water Protection Fund. This funding ensures ongoing implementation of source water protection activities.

Through its Environmental Quality Department, BWD implements and oversees watershed protection projects including watershed and reservoir monitoring/modeling, stream restoration, research, GIS analysis, laboratory analysis, public awareness/education and policy/regulatory review.

Currently, BWD is the sponsoring organization for a Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) on the West Fork of the White River, an area with critical watershed and streambank erosion issues. This program is scheduled to be completed in 2022.

“Northwest Arkansas is a fast-growing region with some major Fortune 500 companies, and our economic growth and vitality is directly tied to the availability of clean, safe, drinking water,” said James McCarty, BWD’s Source Water Protection Manager. “We believe that if we don’t protect Beaver Lake for future generations, no one will. We know we can’t do it alone, so we try to lead the protection effort in a collaborative way, as seen in the RCPP we are sponsoring, where there are more than six participating organizations involved in an $8.6 million watershed improvement effort.”