Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Middle River water quality

The Middle River watershed lies in the heart of Augusta County. Along with North River and South River, it is one of the region's wonderful waterways that are major tributaries of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Each of these rivers has "issues" that impact not only uses of that particular river, but everyone downstream who uses the water for livestock, drinking, or recreation.
In July the Department of Conservation and Resources hosted a forum kicking off the development of a water quality improvement plan for Middle River, Jennings Branch, Moffett Creek, and Polecat Draft. On Thursday, December 10 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at the Augusta County Government Center, the Department of Conservation and Resources will conduct a public hearing on strategies and recommendations for improving water quality in the river and streams. Improving the water quality reduces the chance of human illness/infection, makes the water safer for agricultural uses, and supports healthy aquatic life and wildlife.
Middle River suffers from two major problems - bacteria and sediment - that impair the water quality. Sources of bacteria include runoff of manure and poultry litter, livestock pooping in the streams and on the banks, old leaking residential septic systems, and waste from pets and wildlife. The sediment is mostly caused by runoff from pastures and tilled cropland.
The good news is that we can take agricultural and residential conservation steps that not only restore the health of the creeks and rivers, those same actions will mean healthier people and more productive farms.
Recommended agricultural conservation practices include:
  • Vegetated buffer strips along streams and bank restoration
  • Manure/litter storage
  • No-till practices on cropland
  • Excluding livestock from streams
Recommended residential practices include
  • Repairs and upgrades of septic systems
  • Increased use of alternative waste treatment systems
We can be sure the naysayers will be there questioning the data and talking about private property rights. But, does anyone have the right to use a common resource such as a stream or river in ways that leave it seriously impaired for users downstream? I think not! Besides, the very practices that help clean the waters can also make even the naysayers' farms more productive and all our homes healthier.
Hope to see you at the Government Center. Speak up for clean water!

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