Earn your Water Diploma – Enroll at Great Miami U!

Win a gift card to your favorite local brewery or coffee shop

At most universities you pay to learn. At Great Miami U, we’ll pay you (if we pick your name in a drawing of all our graduates). Earning your degree from Great Miami U is free and easy. And better yet, it only takes a few minutes!

The Miami Conservancy District (MCD) is launching the Great Miami Watershed University, or Great Miami U, today as part of the national Value Water campaign to raise awareness about the importance of water and the often invisible water challenges facing our country.

We’re fortunate in this region to have plenty of water. You turn on the faucet and water comes out. It’s hard not to take water for granted when it’s always there for us. But how much do you really know about the region’s water? We’ve got the basics ready for you in a new and fun way to learn.

You can earn your diploma in three easy steps.

  1. Click here to get started.
  2. Watch four 2-minute videos about water.
  3. Take a 4-question exam to test your knowledge.

You will then be registered to win a $100 gift card to the local brewery or coffee shop of our choice. We’ll even email you a diploma to print.

EARN A BONUS CHANCE TO WIN – Take a photo of yourself with your diploma and post to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #GreatMiamiU and we’ll enter you a second time.

 

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).”

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