One simple act can lead to a safe summer on the water

By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, manager of watershed partnerships

The Great Miami, Stillwater, and Mad rivers offer many paddling, rowing, and power boating opportunities. Our water trail maps take you to public access sites and give you safety information. And one simple act can help you have a safe summer on the water.

Wear your life jacket!

 

It’s that simple. The facts are clear:

  • Four out of every five boating deaths in 2018 were due to drowning.
  • 84 percent of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket.

Having a life jacket in your boat isn’t enough. You have to wear it. Accidents can happen much too fast to reach for a stowed life jacket, so WEAR IT!

As you prepare for the boating/paddling season remember to:

  • Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved.
  • Double check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite water activities. Read the label!
  • Take the time to ensure a proper fit. A life jacket that is too large or too small can cause different situational problems.
  • Check that your life jacket is in good condition, with no tears or holes.
  • Life jackets meant for adult-sized people do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets based on their weight. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to “grow into.”

Modern life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the bulky orange version. There are so many life jackets to choose from, there’s simply no excuse not to wear one. There are even life jackets that use inflatable technologies so you can remain cool and comfortable. Some will inflate automatically when immersed in water.

A good life jacket is critical to your safety. There are other steps to take as well. Before heading out for a day on the water, be sure to review the safety tips on the back of our maps.

COVID-19 considerations

COVID-19 is part of our lives for now and needs to be considered when boating, too. Maintain good hand washing and don’t go boating if someone in your household is sick. Be sure to review these tips for navigating social distancing  while boating and tips for cleaning and storing your life jacket.

National Safe Boating Week is May 16-22.
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Where does the Miami Valley get its water?

MCD has created a new series of videos about the importance of water. Many people in the Miami Valley don’t know where our water comes from, how it’s replenished or the ways water is used beyond our daily life activities. They don’t know what an aquifer is or how it works. Or how many industries rely on groundwater and how high-quality water helps drive our economy.

We created these videos to explain all of that and more. Help us spread the word by sharing this first video with friends and family. The more people know about the aquifer, the more they will care about it and our water.

Together, we can protect our water.

 

Protecting in all kinds of conditions

By Mike Ekberg, manager of water resources monitoring and analysis

The US Postal Service is often lauded for delivering the mail in all kinds of weather—rain, snow, sleet, etc. But delivering, or in our case, protecting, in bad weather is kind of our thing. And for the past two weekends, our staff took it to another level, protecting our communities while following the necessary guidelines in place due to COVID-19.

“The river went up extremely quickly, and staff monitored the situation and responded—some during the middle of the night—with timely flood gate closures and well readings,” says Janet Bly, MCD general manager, of the March 19-23 high water event. “Staff members are following the workplace guidelines necessary due to the COVID-19 situation while still doing the critically important job of protecting communities from flooding.”

The hydrology team drove separately to the gages to collect stream measurements, says Krystal Lacy, lead worker. Since the team members can’t wash their hands in the field, the hydro techs made sure to use lots of hand sanitizer between locations and kept distance between one another. And they made sure to wipe down the vehicles, she says.

Water rushing through the Germantown Dam conduits.


High water facts and figures for the March 19-23 high-water event:

  • An average of 2.5 inches of rain fell throughout the Miami Valley between 8 a.m. March 18 and 8 a.m. March 20.
  • At peak storage, our five flood protection dams together stored a total of 6.8 billion gallons of water, which ranks 95th on MCD’s list of largest high water events.
  • The peak pool stage at Germantown Dam reached 42.4 feet, which ranks 24th on the list of highest pool stages at the dam.

High water facts and figures for the March 28-29 high-water event:

  • Between 0.75 and 3.25 inches of rain fell throughout the Miami Valley March 28 and 29.
  • At peak storage, our five flood protection dams together stored a total of about 6.5 billion gallons of water, which ranks 102nd on MCD’s list of largest high water events.
  • Lockington Dam recorded its 15th highest pool stage at 28.8 feet.

MCD has recorded seven high water events so far in 2020, with the dams together storing water 25 times this year.

How much water flowed through Germantown Dam?
Earlier this week, a resident asked how much water was flowing through Germantown Dam conduits during the high water event. We thought you might be interested, too.

Peak outflow at Germantown during the high water event over the March 21 weekend was 7,000 cubic feet of water per second, equaling about 3.1 million gallons per minute or 188.5 million gallons per hour.

“I just love that dam and it really works,” the resident wrote, “And they didn’t have any computers, just slide rulers (when it was built).”

The one thing private well owners should do

By Mike Ekberg, manager of water resources monitoring and analysis

If you own a private well, do you have it tested at least annually? You should. Your family’s health depends on it.

Just because your water tastes good doesn’t mean it is good. If you want to be sure your drinking water is safe, you need to have it tested.

Test at least annually
The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) recommends well owners test their water at least annually for bacteria, nitrates, and contaminants specific to your area. Consider more frequent testing if:

• There is a change in taste, odor, or appearance of well water.
• The well has a history of contamination.
• The well is near a septic system.
• There have been recurring incidents of gastrointestinal illness.
• An infant is living in the home.
• Home water treatment equipment has been installed.

In our area, I recommend the following tests:

Total Coliform – Coliform bacteria is an indication of potential disease-causing bacteria or viruses in well water. Not all coliform bacteria is harmful, but the presence of coliform bacteria in well water may be an indication that water from the land surface is directly entering the well. Coliform bacteria may also indicate the presence of contamination from human or animal waste.
E. coli – E. coli bacteria is a specific indication of contamination from human or animal waste in the well. Its presence is a warning that disease-causing bacteria or viruses may be present in the well water.

Nitrate – Nitrate gets into drinking water from fertilizers, manure, and septic systems. It also occurs naturally. High nitrate levels present a health concern for infants if water is given to babies under 12 months old––mixed with formula or otherwise. Boiling water before feeding doesn’t reduce nitrate levels.. High nitrate levels can also suggest other toxins such as bacteria and pesticides.

Arsenic – Arsenic is naturally occurring in groundwater. It’s linked to various cancers and other health issues.

Manganese – Manganese also occurs in nature and can be present in groundwater. At high enough levels, it may cause brain damage.

Lead – Lead typically gets into drinking water from corroded pipes and plumbing fixtures. If your home was built prior to 1986, it’s more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, and solder.

To help you get started, MCD partners with various counties and soil and water conservation districts to offer free, confidential well water sampling for nitrate, nitrite, and iron through Test Your Well events.

Test Your Well events are scheduled throughout the year in various counties. The next Test Your Well event will be held on Monday, Mach 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Collinsville Community Center for Butler and Preble county residents.

Find a testing lab and view more resources

For more information about Test Your Well, visit our website or contact me at (937) 223-1278 ext. 3237.

Water Stewardship Summary Report 2012-2019

MCD has released a new report on Water Stewardship that discusses the region’s water challenges and how communities can take action and build resiliency to address those challenges..

Mike Ekberg, MCD manager of water resources monitoring and analysis, and Sarah Hippensteel Hall, manager of watershed partnerships, are currently visiting county commissions and key stakeholders to present the report and ask for input. They are highlighting the work of all three of MCD’s mission areas—flooding protection, water stewardship and recreation—but focusing primarily on water stewardship issues.

Your input through our short survey will help shape our work plan and ensure we are meeting your community’s water concerns and challenges.

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.