The Arkansas Water Resources Center publishes this e-newsletter each month to highlight research, faculty, news and important events.
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November 2015
Water Quality Data is Available at Your Fingertips
The Arkansas Water Resources Center is making water-quality data from Center-related research and monitoring projects available for everyone’s use.
One of the missions of AWRC is the dissemination of water resources information. While we have long been publishing technical reports associated with completed projects, we decided to make the raw data available by publishing data reports that are accessible through our website. You can find water-quality data for many stream sites throughout Arkansas, many of which have data going back several years.
Whether you’re a researcher, a water resources manager, an educator, or an interested citizen, you could benefit from having access to this data. Maybe you need some background information about a stream, or maybe you want to ask a new question and analyze the data in a new way.
The more data are shared and used, the more valuable data become. Go to our website to view the wealth of data currently available. You can download the Microsoft Excel spreadsheets for fast and easy access to the data. We’re in the process of making the last 8 years of monitoring data available and we’ll continue as we complete future projects. 
Public Perception of Water Quality Could Help Manage Water Resources
Amie West, Ph.D candidate in Environmental Dynamics at the University of Arkansas and advised by Dr. Thad Scott in the Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences Department, is studying water quality in recreational rivers in the Ozarks. West and Scott received funding from the Arkansas Water Resources Center through the US Geological Survey 104B Program for their research.
The Problem: Who wants to see the beautiful fall colors while floating down the Buffalo River? When we think about floating a river, we tend to ask ourselves, “has it rained recently?”, because no one wants to get out and drag their canoe or kayak. We all want to float the river when it’s high, but we also inherently want clear water – we want to look down from our seats and see the rocks on the bottom and the fishes swimming around. The problem is, sometimes quantity of water and clarity of water are at odds with each other. Rain and high flows often bring sediments and nutrients from the surrounding land into the river, which can reduce water clarity and lead to unfavorable perceptions by people using the river to float or swim.
So What?: Outdoor recreation is a huge economic driver for Arkansas and generates an estimated $10 billion in consumer spending and supports 126,000 jobs each year. So the perception of clean water is paramount for the advertising campaign of Arkansas as “the Natural State”.

The Research Question: West and Dr. Scott’s research team wanted to know, how does water quality change through time after stormflow has peaked and the river is coming back down, and what are the perceptions of water quality during these times?
The Methods: West and her team collected water samples from sites on five rivers in the Ozarks of Arkansas, all known for their recreational uses: the Buffalo, Illinois, Kings and Mulberry Rivers, and War Eagle Creek. They collected water samples for up to five days after storm events as flow began to recede, presumably when recreational activities would be high. These samples were analyzed for sediments and nutrients and then related to discharge. They also measured the clarity of the water and took underwater photographs that captured the streambed and water column. They later conducted surveys of the public and of water quality experts using the photos, which covered a range of water clarity and measurable water quality conditions.

The Findings: Peak flow across the rivers was associated with high concentrations of sediments and nutrients and low water clarity. But as flow receded, sediments and nutrients decreased and the water became clearer. This makes sense because rainfall runoff carries sediments and nutrients from adjacent land into streams and rivers. They also found that experts and non-experts grouped the photographs similarly, and those groups were strongly related to concentrations of sediments and nutrients. For example, people generally grouped the photos according to clarity, color, and the amount of algae they could see.
The Benefits: Perceptions can exert a strong influence on policy and regulation in water resources issues. West’s research shows that expert and non-expert perceptions and scientific data aligned very well in this case. The best way to communicate about water resources, especially for recreational and scenic rivers, may be to apply a range of management strategies that addresses not only the science of water quality, but also the perception of water quality by the public.
Workgroup Formed in Arkansas to Address Harmful Algal Blooms
HABs, or harmful algal blooms, are an increasing concern for water resource managers. Remember the headlines from the Lake Erie algae bloom a couple summers ago? “Toxic algae bloom leaves 500,000 without drinking water in Ohio”.
HABs have hit closer to home too, where in 2011 warnings were issued about avoiding bodily contact with the water on Grand Lake in Oklahoma, near the Arkansas border – and this came just a few days before the big Fourth of July weekend. Think about the loss in revenue from tourism and recreation.
In Arkansas, the Army Corps of Engineers closed all swim beaches on Nimrod Lake in the summer of 2014 due to an algal bloom.
As HABs are occurring all around the country, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the States are starting to take action. For example, the EPA recently issued health advisories related to HABs. In Arkansas, a technical advisory “Workgroup” has recently been formed to address the HABs problem.
What are Harmful Algal Blooms?
Generally, algae are important for the health of lakes and streams because they form the base of the food web. But, HABs are algae gone wild… well, really a particular group of algae and a few other species that grow out of control and produce toxins under certain conditions.
The majority of HABs are caused by a type of algae called cyanobacteria, where these algae can produce toxins and compounds that cause taste and odor problems; ever heard of geosmin or MIB. The toxins produced by HABs can cause nausea, vomiting and liver damage if ingested or rashes and irritation if the skin is exposed to it – just ask Oklahoma’s Senator Jim Inhofe. Cyanobacteria toxins have even been known to be fatal for pets and livestock that drink contaminated water.
Cyanobacteria blooms can be particularly problematic in lakes and rivers that are used for drinking water supply and recreation. Taste and odor compounds and toxins can be very difficult and costly for drinking water utilities to adequately treat. Contact advisories and beach closures can cause significant economic losses for tourism and recreation too. 
What’s Arkansas’s Move?
Dr. Reed Green, hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the president of the North American Lake Management Society, and Tate Wentz, with the Water Division of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, are spearheading the Workgroup. “We’ve got a great group of experts from state and federal agencies ready to get to work”, said Mr. Wentz. The Workgroup includes individuals representing the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Arkansas Department of Natural Heritage, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arkansas Water Resources Center, Beaver Water District, Central Arkansas Water, Beaver Watershed Alliance and academic institutions.
The group has met twice so far and plans to meet about every 6-8 weeks. They are charged with 3 main objectives:
  1. to form a plan of attack for state-wide assessment of risks to public health from cyanotoxins;
  2. to provide guidance on water sampling, testing and protocols for toxins; and
  3. to recommend strategies to reduce and prevent future HABs. 
The Workgroup is “non-regulatory and solely functions in an advisory capacity”, said Darcia Routh, Geologist Supervisor for Source Water Protection with ADH. The group will identify solutions that will assist water resource managers and drinking water utilities in their preparedness for the next HAB. “Forming this Workgroup is an important step towards protecting the health and safety of Arkansans”, said Ms. Routh.
You can read more about HABs in the current issue of the Arkansas Drinking Water Update from ADH.
For more information about the HABs Workgroup, contact Darcia Routh at or call her at 501-661-2623, Reed Green at or 501-228-3607, or Tate Wentz at or 501-682-0661.
Storm Drain Art is Flowing through Arkansas
This month’s article features a design from Central Arkansas’s dRAIN smART, a project modeled after UpStream Art and organized by the Friends of Fourche Creek.

Fourche Creek is Little Rock’s main waterway, and about 73% of the city is in the Fourche Creek Watershed. The dRAIN smART project is part of the Friends of Fourche Creek’s multifaceted litter prevention and reduction campaign. Storm drains are a major route for trash and pollutants to enter water ways. The organization’s overall goal is to restore and revitalize Fourche Creek for the benefit of the environment and a wide variety of public uses. Painting storm drain murals draws attention to the usually discreet concrete and iron stormwater infrastructure with the hope that people stop and think about where the water flows after it enters a storm drain.

In its inaugural year, dRAIN smART recruited 17 artists to create murals on selected storm drains in three high-traffic parts of Little Rock – River Market, South Main, and War Memorial. Brianna Peterson’s “AquaCulture” can be viewed on Fair Park Boulevard next to War Memorial Stadium and just north of Interstate 630. She is a High School Art Educator in Little Rock. Brianna says her work is “inspired from imagery along the Arkansas River Trail, where many Arkansans enjoy outdoor activities.” For more information visit and on Facebook at
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Calendar of Events

November 18

EPA Water Research Webinar Series

November 19

BWA Speaker Series
Unpaved road improvement projects...
Huntsville, AR

November 24
EPA Small Systems Webinar Series

December 1-3

SWCS Nutrient Management and Edge of Field Monitoring Conference
Memphis, TN

December 15
EPA Small Systems Webinar Series

December 16
EPA Water Research Webinar Series

January 15
Deadline for submitting abstracts to the OSU Student Water Conference

January 19
Deadline for submitting abstracts to the UCOWR/NIWR Annual Water Resources Conference

January 21
Blue Pathways Workshop
Fayetteville, AR

January 27
Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference
Jonesboro, AR

February 15
OSU Research Experience for Undergraduates Application Deadline
Stillwater, OK

March 18-19
ONSC Teacher Workshop (Watersheds)
Huntsville, AR

March 24-25
OSU Annual Student Water Conference
Stillwater, OK

May 2-6
NWQMC National Water Monitoring Conference
Tampa, FL

June 21-23
UCOWR/NIWR Annual Water Resources Conference
Pensacola Beach, FL
Job Openings

Several postings for Project Managers, Structural Engineers, Technicians, etc.
Little Rock, Fayetteville, and regionally

Arkansas Natural Resources Commission
Little Rock, AR

City of Fort Smith
Environmental Technician
Fort Smith, AR