Monday, October 29, 2018

Partnership Crosses State Lines In Bedford County To Protect Water Quality

The following article appeared in the Fall Conserve Magazine published by the Western PA Conservancy--
Water quality monitoring is specialized work and one of the most effective ways to ensure the safety of public drinking water sources.
That’s why Raquel Ketterman, an environmental specialist with the City of Cumberland, Md., requested help from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s watershed conservation program to test the water quality is one of the primary tributaries that supply drinking water to the city.
“The Conservancy has such a good reputation in our community due to all the previous land protection and other watershed work that has already been done over the years,’ Raquel said.  “So it was a natural fit for us to partner to leverage their expertise to support our water quality needs.”
More than 50,000 people depend on the City of Cumberland’s public water supply each day.  The city sits at the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland, and its water supply originates from Lake Koon and Lake Gordon, which are located in Bedford County, Pa.
The primary tributaries supplying water to these reservoir lakes are Evitts Creek, Growden Run and Oster Run as well as several unnamed tributaries within the Evitts Creek Watershed, which drains a 59,400 acre area.
Although the city’s water supply is monitored regularly, is safe to drink and treated in accordance with all state and federal regulations, Raquel says city leaders were concerned about emerging threats from residential, commercial and energy development that could affect water quality within the watershed.
“We wanted to take a proactive step to learn more about the water quality in the tributaries to our lakes, because if those waterways are compromised, eventually our drinking water treatment process will be affected,” she added.
Eric Chapman, the Conservancy’s director of aquatic science, met with Raquel and other city leaders to explain our water monitoring process and devised a needs assessment and monitoring protocol.
The city had never undertaken an effort of this kind to assess these primary tributaries.
“They didn’t have a baseline for their water quality or established monitoring and sampling procedures for these tributaries, so we were pleased to partner with the city to provide this technical assistance to keep an eye on the health of their public water system,” said Eric.
Eric is one of nine staff located in the Conservancy’s watershed conservation program office in Indiana, Pa. From this office, as well as offices in Ridgway and Hollidaysburg, Conservancy staff partners with local landowners, farmers and conservation and watershed groups to implement various monitoring and restoration projects in rivers and streams across our region.
Work began in fall 2017 to sample water at five sites.  Eric and other staff members measured and assessed nitrate, phosphate, turbidity, flow levels and macroinvertebrate communities.
Tests confirmed that the water quality near farms along tributaries had elevated levels of nitrates.  Nitrates are found in agricultural fertilizers that are applied to soils to help plants grow, but when they enter local streams and creeks they can degrade water quality and kill aquatic life.
“We’ve been partnering with the Bedford County Conservation District, which works with local farmers to implement best management practices, so we were interested in the Conservancy’s findings,” Raquel said.  “We held public meetings, which gave us an opportunity to discuss the monitoring results with landowners and explain the importance and need to maintain our water quality efforts.”
Bob and Deb Passarell were among several farmers in the watershed who wanted to do more, and asked how they could better manage their land.  As a result of our partnership with the city, the Conservancy organized a tree planting in April 2018 on 4.5 acres of their farm.
“It was impressive to see how engaged Bob and Deb, and many other farmers, were to make sure their farms were part of the solution and not the problem,” Eric said.  “We planted 900 live stems, 360 shrubs and 540 trees along the creek on their farm. This large planting of vegetation will make a big difference in filtering the area.”
With a baseline now in place, Conservancy scientists will continue working with the City of Cumberland to monitor and track changes and conditions at the sites.  Work is expected to conclude in spring 2019.
Need Watershed Help?
Local entities interested in learning more about implementing similar efforts in their communities or about other watershed conservation services, please call the Conservervancy at 724-471-7202 or send email to:
More information is available on programs, initiatives and special events at the Western PA Conservancy website.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from the Conservancy, Like them on Facebook, Follow them on Twitter, add them to your Circle on Google+, join them on Instagram, visit the Conservancy’s YouTube Channel or add them to your network on Linkedin.  Click Here to support their work.
(Photo: Passarell Farm tree planting.)
(Reprinted from the Fall Conserve Magazine published by the Western PA Conservancy.)

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