Spreading the value of water

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., MCD manager of watershed partnerships

Water is the Rodney Dangerfield of resources. Like Dangerfield used to say, it “don’t get no respect.”

Let’s face it. You can’t live without water. But I’ll bet you don’t think twice when you turn on the faucet. You just expect that good quality water will flow. The adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure was never truer than with our water.

MCD promotes the value of water in many ways, from the work our experts do to study water conditions to hosting events, delivering programs and providing sponsorships. We work with many partners around the region who carry the “Value Water” message, too. Together, the message that water is crucial to healthy communities has a broad reach. And yet we still need your help.

Below are some of the ways MCD works to spread the “Value Water” message. Please join us and participate in these programs to help spread the word.

For kidsProject WET booklets on floods, groundwater, and rivers
These fun activity booklets have been distributed to county soil and water conservation districts that work with teachers, interact with schoolchildren, and attend community festivals and fairs. The booklets were also made available to nature centers and children’s museums such as Boonshoft.

For everyone – Visit SPLASH!
Speaking of Boonshoft, MCD helped fund and design the museum’s interactive water exhibit SPLASH! You can discover more about our local aquifers, learn about conservation efforts and what you can do to preserve this crucial natural resource. Visitors can even explore water careers.

 

 

For teachersTrout Unlimited’s Trout in the Classroom
One way to help young people understand the importance of healthy rivers and enable them to appreciate fish and wildlife is a national program created by Trout Unlimited called Trout in the Classroom. MCD paid for the equipment that local teachers need to help students raise trout from eggs to young fish. The students complete the project with a field trip to the Mad River to release the fish into the wild.

Students release the young fish they raised during the school year into the Mad River. 

For private well owners – Test Your Well
To make sure the water that is pulled from a private well is safe for drinking, well owners need to test their water for impurities. Several counties host free Test Your Well events during the year. MCD sponsors those events and provides additional testing for pollutants like arsenic. For people who may not attend an event, MCD created an easy-to-use fact sheet on what to test for and local water testing locations.

Private well owners can make sure their water is safe for drinking through a free, private screening at Test Your Well events.

For homeowners with septic systems
It is also important for septic tank owners to properly maintain their system. A home sewage system failure could pollute groundwater or streams. MCD created an easy-to-use fact sheet of resources for homeowners to maintain their septic systems.

For citizens who want to get involved in science
To better understand the condition of our water, MCD staff trains volunteers to collect data such as the water level of private wells, and the bugs that live in streams through a program known as Stream Team. The well level data is used by MCD to track groundwater level trends over time. The data collected on bug populations is used by local groups, such as the Mad Men of Trout Unlimited to track if rivers and streams are improving or getting more polluted over time.

Stream bugs that live in the river are a reflection of water qualilty.

For community officials
MCD offers training and resources for planning and zoning officials, to encourage them to take steps to protect their community’s water resources. The Better Site Design Planning Roundtable program walks local leaders through a series of evaluations and decisions to improve their development policies. Better policies can encourage water protection, increase the use of green infrastructure, and better protect our groundwater and rivers and streams.

For youBe Water Wise
All of us can do something to help protect our water. Even the smallest steps make a difference. Drop off your unwanted/unused prescriptions rather than throwing them out or flushing them down the drain. Pick up your pet’s waste. Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly so the excess doesn’t run off your lawn and into rivers, lakes and streams. Even the smallest steps can help contribute to protecting our region’s water.

2019-2020 Winter Outlook

By Mike Ekberg, manager of water resources monitoring and analysis

It’s late November, and winter 2019–2020 is right around the corner. That means it’s time to discuss the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Winter Outlook. Before I do, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at last year’s Winter Outlook and see how it fared.

Last winter
The NOAA Winter Outlook for last winter predicted a 50-50 chance of a warmer-than-normal or colder-than-normal winter in the Miami Valley. It also predicted a drier-than-normal winter in the Miami Valley. How did the outlook perform?

Not well at least on the precipitation side. Last winter in the Miami Valley turned out to be warmer than normal and much wetter than normal. In fact, MCD recorded above-average precipitation in December, January, and February, with February setting a new record high of 5.68 inches.

So, what happened? The answer lies with the position of the jet stream over the United States. In February, a persistent high pressure pattern developed over the Gulf of Alaska and the southeastern United States. This caused the jet stream to shift northward over the Ohio Valley, bringing precipitation and lots of it to the Ohio Valley, including the Miami Valley. The jet stream has a strong influence on winter storm tracks. Where the jet stream lies is where precipitation falls.

This winter
NOAA’s Winter Outlook for this winter predicts a warmer- and wetter-than-normal winter for the Miami Valley. This forecast is based upon long-term trends as well as anticipated global climate patterns.

Three of these global climate patterns are the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), and the Arctic Oscillation (AO). The problem is two of these global climate patterns (AO and MJO) are short lived and hard to predict for more than a couple of weeks at a time.

The more persistent climate pattern, ENSO, is not sending a particularly strong signal favoring warmer-than-normal or cooler-than-normal conditions this winter. In other words, there is a lot of uncertainty in the Winter Outlook this year.

Outlook for December through February

  • Odds favor above-normal temperatures for much of the United States, including much of the Ohio River Valley and most of the Miami Valley region.
  • No part of the U.S. is favored to have below-average temperatures this winter.
  • Wetter-than-average conditions are favored across the Northern Plains, Great Lakes, and most of the Ohio River Valley, including the entire Miami Valley region.
  • Drier-than-average conditions are favored in portions of the Gulf Coast and California.

Could this winter be a repeat of last winter?
Last winter was noted for above-normal precipitation in the Miami Valley. Will this coming winter be just as wet?

We know ENSO conditions between the two winters are likely to be different. But it doesn’t look like it will offer much of a signal for the upcoming winter.

A better indicator may be long-term trends, which favor warmer and wetter conditions in the Miami Valley. Winter temperatures and precipitation are trending up, according to long-term climate records.

Predicting seasonal weather conditions is difficult under the best of circumstances. Without any clear longer term global atmospheric signal, the upcoming winter has a lot of uncertainty.

Although the Winter Outlook may not be definitive, we’ll definitely do our part at MCD to manage whatever weather ENSO and the jet stream bring to our region.

Shaping up to be a year of extremes

By Mike Ekberg, manager of water resources monitoring and analysis

It’s been a rollercoaster of a year so far weather-wise. The first six months were wet, wet, wet, followed by a very dry summer. And what can we expect these last couple months of the year in the Great Miami River Watershed.

A wet first half
2019 started out wet and remained that way through the first six months of the year. In fact, precipitation in the Miami Valley for each of the first six months of 2019 exceeded the 30-year (1981–2010) monthly average.

February precipitation set a new, all-time record high of 5.68 inches breaking the previous record high of 5.35 inches set just the year before in 2018.

The wet start to 2019 resulted in some high river flows and saturated soils.

The Miami Conservancy District (MCD) recorded 16 high-water events in the first half of 2019.That’s double our annual average! (MCD defines a high water event as any time river flows are high enough to result in water storage behind one or more of our five dams. Or when our staff takes action—such as closing a floodgate on a storm sewer—in one of our protected communities.)

Saturated soil conditions had a big impact on agriculture resulting in unplanted acreage or severe planting delays for crops.

An August story by the Columbus Dispatch reports that US Department of Agriculture statistics show “more than one in seven acres in Ohio went unplanted for farmers in the federal crop insurance program, the highest rate in the country.”

In some Ohio counties, rains prevented nearly 50 percent of the agricultural land from being planted, “making 2019 the state’s worst planting season on record,” the Dispatch reported.

Through August 2019, precipitation and runoff were on pace to set new record annual highs.
And then things changed.

A drought sets in
Mother Nature turned off the rain!

Monthly precipitation in July, August, and September fell below monthly averages. In September, drought conditions began to set in. According to the National Drought Monitor, the Miami Valley was in abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions through September. And as of Oct. 22, the region remained in moderate drought conditions. What a difference a couple of months can make!

 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), the dry, hot conditions the Miami Valley experienced over the past couple of months was a result of a persistent ridge of high pressure over the southeastern United States.

Outlook for the remainder of 2019
What can we expect for the remainder of the year? According to NOAA’s three-month outlook, the Miami Valley can expect above-normal temperatures through December. The precipitation outlook is less clear with atmospheric circulation patterns not giving a strong signal for wetter- or drier–than-normal conditions. As usual we’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the year plays out.

You can never be too prepared

By Cory Paul, executive director, Red Cross Dayton Area Chapter

The importance of being prepared has been renewed in the last several months after the Miami Valley responded to an outbreak of devastating tornadoes.

The most common sentiment I heard was, “I never thought it could happen here.”

We’ve been reminded that “it” can happen anywhere, and it is our duty to become more resilient. It’s been more than 100 years since Edward Deeds, Arthur Morgan, and so many others in the Dayton area identified the region’s flooding vulnerability and addressed it with ingenuity and public support.

We are #DaytonStrong when we prepare ourselves and our families for the emergencies by making a kit, making a plan and being informed. September is National Preparedness Month, and the American Red Cross is urging everyone to take three easy steps to get their households ready for emergencies.

 

Make a kit

Being prepared means being equipped with the proper supplies you may need in the event of an emergency or disaster. Keep your supplies in an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit, like a plastic bin, that you can use at home or take with you in case you must evacuate. For information on how to build your emergency kit, visit here.

 


Make a plan

Create your emergency plan in three steps

  • With your family or household members, discuss how to prepare and respond to the types of emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play.
  • Identify responsibilities for each member of your household and how you will work together as a team.
  • Practice as many elements of your plan as possible.

Check out the details here on how to make your emergency plan.

Be informed

Learn the types of disasters or emergencies that are likely occur in your area. These events can range from those affecting only you—and your family—like a home fire or medical emergency, to those affecting your entire community, like an earthquake or tornado. You can find Red Cross safety information for all kinds of disasters here.

  • Identify how local authorities will notify you during a disaster and how you will get information, whether through local radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio stations or channels.
  • Know the difference between different weather alerts such as watches and warnings and what actions to take in each.
  • Know what actions to take to protect yourself during disasters that may occur in areas where you travel or have moved recently. For example, if you travel to a place where earthquakes are common and you are not familiar with them, make sure you know what to do to protect yourself should one occur.
  • When a major disaster occurs, your community can change in an instant. Loved ones may be hurt and emergency response is likely to be delayed. Make sure that at least one member of your household is trained in first aid and CPR and knows how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). This training is useful in many emergency situations.

About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit 
redcross.org  or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

 

It’s national Protect Your Groundwater Day

Today is national Protect Your Groundwater Day!

Did you know…

  • About 2.3 million people rely on groundwater for drinking water in our region.
  • The local Buried Valley Aquifer holds about 1.5 trillion gallons of water.
  • This region uses about 250 million gallons per day for everything from drinking to bathing, and cooking to irrigation.

Most of us don’t think twice about turning on the faucet and expecting good quality water to come flowing out. Let’s make sure it stays that way. There are two ways to protect groundwater.

  • Keep it safe from contamination.
  • Use it wisely and don’t waste it.

Human activities can contaminate groundwater, and this is where every person plays a role in groundwater protection. Here are steps you can take at your home, your office or your business.

  • Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly, and store them properly because the chemicals can soak into the groundwater or run off your property into rivers, lakes and streams.
  • Take household cleaners, paint and other chemicals to your local drop-off site. Many of these items are too dangerous to place in the trash or pour down the drain.
  • Drop off your unwanted medications; don’t flush it or place in the trash. Check with your county sheriff or local police for drop off sites near you.
  • Be water smart – test your well. If your water comes from a private well, it’s important to have it tested every year for potential problems, including nitrates, bacteria and arsenic.
  • Have your septic system maintained regularly.
  • Properly seal abandoned or unneeded wells.

Protect Your Groundwater Day is an annual observance established to highlight the responsible development, management and use of groundwater.

Regional open space plan can help your community plan for the future

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., manager of watershed partnerships

Could your land use plan be holding back your community?

It could if you’re not utilizing the regional open space plan to safeguard the aquifer’s groundwater and be prepared for the future.

Planning for changing climate
This region is averaging about 5 more inches of precipitation per year than it did 30 years ago. Stronger storms, heavier rainfalls, and destructive erosion are becoming more common.

Businesses looking to grow or relocate want to be sure polluted water or flooding isn’t an issue.

Communities, now more than ever, need to focus on protecting their water, and mitigating flooding and peak flows.

Well-managed open space programs provide a variety of benefits including protecting water and groundwater and preserving functioning floodplains.

A tool you can use – Regional Open Space Plan
According to a recent MVRPC report, the urbanized area has steadily marched outward from the core city of Dayton, consuming farmland and enclosing streams. The additional roads, parking lots, buildings, and transportation and utility infrastructure—even as the regional population holds steady—strains community resources.

To help your community plan for future development, the MVRPC Open Space Plan identifies which specific parts of the region contain critical open spaces that should be protected. Like development, open space conservation can be either planned or haphazard.

Well-managed open space programs protect water and groundwater, preserve functioning floodplains, provide recreation, keep prime farmland, increase greenspace connections, and support wildlife.

Open space is valued for natural services such as groundwater recharge, clean water, wildlife habitat, and the air purifying impacts of forests.

MVRPC’s Open Space Plan refers to several tools communities can use to protect open spaces and preserve farmland.


Tools to help

The Open Space Plan refers to several tools communities can use to protect open spaces and preserve farmland.

  • Farmland preservation
  • Conservation easements
  • Park development and management
  • Conservation design
  • Green stormwater infrastructure

The report/plan can help Miami Valley jurisdictions manage development from an open space perspective.

How MCD can help
MCD staff can guide your community through a local roundtable using a consensus process, bringing together local leaders from government, development, and natural resources.

Together, we’ll create development policies that balance water protection and economic development for your community.

The local roundtable will:

  • Identify existing development rules.
  • Compare them to the principles of better site design.
  • Determine if changes can or should be made to current codes and ordinances.
  • Negotiate and reach consensus on what the changes should be.

Let’s get started!
MCD, in partnership with local sponsors, can assist communities during all phases of a better site design process. Call me at 937-223-1278 ext. 3244 and let’s get started!

Giving the Mad River Some Love

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., manager of watershed partnerships

Sometimes it feels like the Great Miami River gets all of the attention.

But the Mad River, with its scenic vistas, abundant fishing and paddling, and new rock climbing access, offers fun and unique places that can’t be found on other rivers.

If you have paddled on the Mad River from Eastwood MetroPark to downtown Dayton, you know what it is like to float through the forested riverbanks and then transition to urban life with the approaching downtown and RiverScape fountains. And while a rather unique trip, there’s so much more to the Mad River.

Premier outdoor recreation 

Designated as part of Ohio’s only national water trail, the Mad River and its tributaries offers diverse recreation fun.

  • World-class fishing including brown trout
  • 60+ miles of flatwater for beginning and intermediate paddlers
  • 5 whitewater features for the advanced paddler on Buck Creek and the Mad River
  • 2 lakes for powerboating and sailing at CJ Brown Reservoir in Springfield and Eastwood Metropark in Dayton.
  • Rock climbing in the Mad River gorge

Play area along the Mad River at Eastwood MetroPark

The health of the Mad River

So the Mad River offers exceptional river recreation. But what about the health of the river? Is it safe to recreate?

The Mad River is in good condition based on the number and diversity of fish, bugs and habitat. As with virtually every water body in the country, however, there are threats. One of the most common is bacteria.

While bacteria levels often spike in the Mad River and its tributaries from fecal contamination after steady or hard rainfall, the good news is the bacteria tend to die off quickly.

Keep in mind that even if bacteria levels are elevated, the risk of exposure to bacteria is likely to be low unless you swim in or drink the river water. For most people, paddling or rowing is a relatively low-risk activity.

If, however, you have open wounds, skin infections, or have a compromised immune system, consult your physician before taking part in any river recreation, and use caution.

MCD has collected data to develop a forecasting app for parts of the Mad River. When completed, the forecasting app will be available on the Great Miami Riverway website.

MCD and the Mad River

Keeping rivers healthy is a big part of MCD’s water stewardship efforts. We collaborate with schools, communities and local groups to protect the river:

  • Bringing Trout Unlimited’s Trout in the Classroom program into local schools so students learn about the importance of clean rivers, and raise and release trout.
  • Assisting the City of Springfield in updating development policies to encourage green infrastructure, and installing rain gardens.
  • Tracking nutrient, bacteria, and other pollutant levels in the Mad River.
  • Sponsoring trash cleanups on the river.
  • Educating homeowners on proper maintenance of home sewage treatment systems.

Fishing on the Mad River

Stay Safe

And anytime we talk about river adventures, we need to talk about river safety. A few small steps can ensure your next experience on the Mad River—or any river for that matter—is a fun and safe one.

  • Do not enter the water when river levels are higher or water is moving faster. Most people underestimate the power of water.
  • Always wear a life jacket while paddling.
  • To minimize your exposure to bacteria in the Mad River, enjoy it during days of dry weather.

Use our Mad River water trail map to learn more about staying safe on the river.

Your water wise actions keep the Mad River healthy.

Fish and bugs love low dam modification and removal

By Mike Ekberg, manager of water resources monitoring and analysis

What if I told you the Great Miami River in Dayton has some of the healthiest populations of fish and macroinvertebrates (stream bugs) and provides some of the best aquatic habitat in Ohio? You probably wouldn’t believe me. After all, urban rivers aren’t often associated with high water quality.

Recent studies commissioned by MCD indicate that the number and diversity of bugs and fish living in a 5-mile stretch of the Great Miami River in downtown Dayton exceed expectations for this section of the river.

We wanted to know if the river’s aquatic life would improve after the low dam near Monument Avenue in downtown Dayton was altered for paddling recreation. Before the kayak chutes were created, the low dam slowed the river’s flow under certain conditions. This lowered oxygen levels and made the river an undesirable place for species of bugs and fish that need lots of oxygen and clear water.

Fish sample from Great Miami River

Fish sample collected on the Great Miami River in Dayton

With funding assistance from Five Rivers MetroParks, MCD hired the University of Dayton’s Jeff Kavanaugh, Ph.D., to conduct the studies. Kavanaugh and his student researchers collected data in 2014 and 2015 before the low dam was modified, and again in 2017 and 2018 after the low dam was altered.

The studies took a close look at the diversity and population of the river’s fish and macroinvertebrate communities. Macroinvertebrates are stream bugs that live part of their lives underwater. Scientists track fish and bugs to determine a river or stream’s health because they can be sensitive to changes in habitat conditions and water pollution. If pollution-sensitive species are present in the river, experts believe the river is in good condition.

Key findings from the study include:

  • The fish community is diverse and abundant.
  • The macroinvertebrate community is also diverse and abundant.
  • The habitat conditions of the river channel are very good to excellent.
Dragonfly nymphs

Dragonfly nymphs are an example of a macroinvertebrate found in the Great Miami River.

Modifications to the low dam near Monument Avenue improved river channel habitat. The changes allowed healthier communities of macroinvertebrates to flourish, and the fish that feed upon those communities to return.

The results from the study show this section of the river could meet the state’s highest criteria for water quality.

The study also noted a few other factors that contribute to the health of this stretch of the Great Miami River:

  • The City of Dayton does not have a combined sewer system. This eliminates periodic discharges of raw sewage into the river during rain events.
  • Municipal wastewater treatment, thanks to requirements of the Clean Water Act, has played a major role in the recovery of the Great Miami River.
  • The buried valley aquifer sustains flow in the Great Miami River during droughts. Abundant water flows even during the driest times of the year, typically summer and early fall, thanks to the aquifer.

Dr. Kavanaugh also studied the fish, bugs and habitat conditions in the area surrounding the Tait Station low dam before its removal. He will compare that data with data from studies completed after the dam was completely removed in 2018.

Wear it: Your excuses don’t hold water

By Brenda Gibson, public relations manager

How many different ways can we say it? Wearing a life jacket can save your life. We know, we know. You have all kinds of reasons why you don’t want to wear it. Here are five excuses we’ve heard for not wearing a life jacket and why they don’t hold water.

I have life jackets on board.

That’s like saying, “I have seatbelts in my car.” They don’t do any good unless you wear them. Have you ever tried to put on a seatbelt during an accident? The same goes for trying to put on a life jacket. There’s just not enough time.

I’m a strong swimmer.

That’s great, but are you a smart swimmer? Because a smart swimmer would know that if you fall into the water, your clothes can feel a lot heavier and exhaust even a strong swimmer.

It’s too hot, and life jackets don’t look cool.
Nice try, but the days of the old-fashioned, bulky orange life jacket are long gone. There are many choices of life jackets including trendy colors and patterns and those that can resemble a pair of suspenders or a belt pack. They not only look cooler, they are cooler.

The life jacket gets in the way.

Again, you have plenty of choices to find the one life jacket that will work for you no matter the activity.

Nothing is going to happen to me.

Face it, accidents happen. Boating can be fun, safe and enjoyable with the smallest of efforts. Are you really willing to take the chance of losing your life, and causing pain and suffering for your family and friends just because you wouldn’t “Wear It!” Come on, you’re better than that.

Find the right life jacket for you. And WEAR IT! Then download any or all of the river recreation maps for more information on paddling safety.

Safe Boating Week is May 18-24 2019.

Tweet us a photo of you wearing your life jacket @mcdwater

Tour de Way — A Riverway Giveaway

By Elizabeth Connor, Great Miami Riverway 

Sometimes the best travel plans are right in your own backyard. If you’re looking for new and exciting activities to do and places to visit this year, you won’t have to travel far.

The Great Miami Riverway’s Tour de Way passport program launches on May 4. You can explore the region all year long with more than 100 locations, perfect for the adventurer, the art lover, the aviation enthusiast, the beer connoisseur, and everyone else in between.

Each time you visit one of the locations, you’ll collect points that can make you eligible for exciting prizes like a SmithFly Shoal Tent (world’s first floating tent). The program runs through March 1, 2020, so there’s plenty of time to explore and collect points.

 

Get started
To get started, you simply visit one of the many locations that will be listed on greatmiamiriverway.com starting May 4. Follow the instructions to find the QR code with your smartphone. The first time you scan a QR code, you’ll be prompted to create a Great Miami Riverway account. Every time you visit a new location, you collect points in your account, making you eligible for prizes such as a bicycle, downtown gift cards and more. The more locations you visit, the more chances you have to win.

Each location enters your name into the drawing, so if you visit 50 locations, you have 50 chances to win. This is not a race. We encourage you to spend time in each location and enjoy the community. You have 10 months to complete this, so enjoy it!

Keep checking the Riverway’s social media accounts for pop-up and temporary QR code locations. If you want to win the big prizes, you’ll need those extra points! If you take a photo while exploring and use the hashtag #RiverwayGiveaway, you’ll receive double points for that location. Photos can be posted on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

The winners will be announced at the 2020 Riverway Summit. You don’t need to be present to win, but you will need to pick up your prizes. They are too large to ship!

A Tour de Way guide to each city—Sidney to Hamilton—will be available on the Great Miami Riverway website.

RiverCon
Tour de Way launches May 4 in Middletown at a new event called RiverCon. Held at the MetroParks of Butler County’s River Center, the event will combine Star Wars and the Great Miami River. There will be a Star Wars costume contest, Jedi yoga, live music, downtown shuttle and amazing food trucks. It’s the perfect place to log your first Tour de Way location. #MayTheRiverBeWithYou

The Great Miami Riverway is 99 miles of river, paved trails, and connected communities from Sidney to Hamilton. MCD is a partner in the Great Miami Riverway.