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.

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

More than 4 feet of precipitation in 2018!

By Mike Ekberg, manager of water resources monitoring and analysis

One year ago, I wrote a blogpost summarizing the year 2017 as “another wet year.”

Now I’m summarizing water conditions for 2018, and I could pretty much copy and paste what I posted last year. And, with some minor changes, it would ring true. Last year reflects a continuation of the trend in rising precipitation for our region. If it continues, we’ll see more rain, more runoff, and more high-water events in the future.

The chart below shows how the 30-year average annual precipitation for the Great Miami River has changed since 1945. Note the upward trend in precipitation that began sometime around the late 1980s to early 1990s.

Noteworthy Weather
Significant weather events in 2018 included record high precipitation in February, a large high-water event in April, significant showers and thunderstorms in August, the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon in September, a much warmer-than-normal October, and a cold and very wet November.

Precipitation for 2018 was much above average for the Great Miami River Watershed at 50.68 inches. This is 10 inches above the 30-year average annual precipitation of 40.30 inches. The Miami Conservancy District (MCD) observation station in Dayton recorded 48.70 inches of precipitation in 2018, which is the sixth highest since record-keeping began in 1883.

Monthly precipitation was more than 1 inch above average in February, April, August, September, and November. May, July, and October were the dry months, recording more than 1 inch below-average precipitation. February set an all-time record high for the month with an average of 5.35 inches of precipitation for the Great Miami River Watershed.

The chart represents an average of 42 precipitation stations MCD operates.

Three High Water Events in the Top 100
The greater-than-average amounts of precipitation in 2018 led to above-average runoff. Runoff is that portion of precipitation which flows downhill or seeps into aquifers, and enters streams, rivers, lakes or ponds. Runoff in the Great Miami River Watershed ultimately ends up in the Great Miami River. Annual runoff for the Great Miami River was 23.26 inches in 2018, which is 8.69 inches above average. MCD recorded 13 high-water events last year – well above the average of eight. A high-water event is defined by MCD as a time when one or more of the following occurs:

  • Any one dam goes into storage – when the conduits slow the flow of water. This is approximately when the conduits are flowing full.
  • The river at any one of the cities we protect reaches an action stage as defined by MCD’s Emergency Action plan.

The largest high-water event in 2018 took place from April 3-9 and resulted in a total peak storage of 65,050 acre-feet (21.2 billion gallons) of water behind all five MCD dams. This event ranked as the 12th largest high-water event in MCD history. MCD also recorded its 49th and 55th largest events in 2018.

There is evidence that rising global temperatures are increasing the amount of water or humidity in the atmosphere. Satellites have measured a 4-percent rise in water vapor in the air column. The more humid atmosphere seems to be making storms wetter. Many weather stations in the United States are showing increases in extreme precipitation. Our region seems to be showing signs of this trend.

 

 

MCD monitoring winter weather systems whether mild or wild

Like it or not, winter 2018 – 2019 is upon us. What kind of winter can we expect in the Miami Valley this year? Will it be cold and snowy, or mild and dry?

It’s hard to say, according to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). The go-to signs that often signal winter weather patterns are slow to give away their secrets this year.

The bottom line: It’s likely we’ll see cycles of mild weather as well as periods when arctic air descends our way as shorter term influences play out.

Whatever winter brings, MCD will monitor upcoming weather systems, preparing for any flood protection response needed in the communities we serve.

Read on to learn more about El Nino, Arctic Oscillation and more influences on our winter weather patterns 

Teleconnections in meteorology refer to large-scale patterns of pressure and temperature in the earth’s atmosphere that impact weather globally. Three teleconnections that influence winter weather in the Miami Valley include the El Niño –Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the Arctic Oscillation (AO), and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).

ENSO exerts a strong influence on the path of winter storm systems as they track across the United States. ENSO cycles tend to operate on timescales of at least several months and have long-lasting influences on global weather patterns. There are three phases to the ENSO cycle: El Niño, Neutral, and La Niña. Each of these phases impacts winter weather across the United States in different ways.

Locally:

  • Strong El Niños tend to result in milder and drier winters in the Miami Valley.
  • Strong La Niña winters tend to be wetter than normal.
  • Neutral conditions tend to result in colder than normal winters.

ENSO impacts winter weather in the Miami Valley by influencing the position of the Jet Stream and the track of storm systems across our region. AO and NAO also influence winters in the Miami Valley and add complexity to seasonal forecasts.

AO refers to changing atmospheric pressure over the arctic region of the globe.

  • Positive AOs tend to keep cold arctic air confined to northern latitudes. Negative AOs often plunge arctic air masses south into the eastern United States – think polar vortex.
  • AO cycles can be forecast only about two weeks ahead, so their use in making seasonal forecasts is somewhat limited.

NAO measures the difference in atmospheric sea level pressure between Iceland in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Northern Africa. Like the AO, the NAO has a positive and negative phase.

  • Positive NAOs are generally associated with warmer-than -normal temperatures in the eastern United States.
  • Negative NAOs tend to bring colder temperatures to the eastern United States.

Current atmospheric signals
NOAA forecasters think there is a 90-percent chance of El Niño conditions developing in the equatorial Pacific Ocean this year. Even if it does, it’s not expected to be a strong one. Weak El Niños do not exert as much of an influence on local winter weather as strong El Niños. So this year’s ENSO signal isn’t giving a strong signal as to how winter 2018 – 2019 will unfold.

The AO was in a negative phase throughout November allowing arctic air masses to travel south. This favored colder-than-normal temperatures in the Miami Valley, which is exactly what we got. The AO is now in a positive phase, which tends to keep cold air masses bottled up in the arctic. This favors more seasonable temperatures in the Miami Valley for the time being. NOAA is forecasting a continuation of positive AO conditions for the next week or so.

50:50 chances of a mild/cold or wet/dry winter
So what does this all mean?  NOAA published its 2018 – 2019 Winter Outlook for the United States, and the outlook is summarized in the two maps below.

The first map shows the temperature outlook. Much of the western United States is expected to have above-normal temperatures this winter. Southwest Ohio is colored white meaning there is an equal chance of above or below normal temperatures.

The second map shows the precipitation outlook. Above-normal precipitation is expected across much of the southern United States. Pockets of below-normal precipitation are expected across the Dakotas and Montana as well as the Great Lakes region. Once again, southwest Ohio is colored white meaning we have an equal chance of above-normal or below-normal precipitation.

Winter 2018 – 2019 – Anybody’s guess
Based on ENSO, AO and NAO information, it’s likely we’ll see cycles of mild weather as well as periods when arctic air descends our way as shorter term fluctuations in AO and NAO cycles play out. On top of all that is the simple randomness of local weather, making seasonal forecasting difficult at best!