New monitoring data from the Grand Lake Watershed shows that the efforts undertaken by farmers, ranchers and other landowners to address non-point source pollution through best management practices are starting to bear fruit according to Joe Parker, President of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD).  

Parker said this initial success shows once again that voluntary, locally-led conservation works.

 “We are proud to see that the work that has been done on the ground is resulting in this initial reduction in nutrients and bacteria in the Grand Lake Watershed,” Parker said.  “The fact that this is being done, not through regulations, but through voluntary, locally-led, cooperative efforts designed to address the problem while protecting private property rights shows we can work together to address this critical issue.”

According to Parker, four years ago the Oklahoma Conservation Commission in cooperation with local conservation districts and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) began working on an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Water Act Section 319 (319) program in the Honey Creek sub-watershed of the Grand Lake Watershed.  During this period, 86 landowners installed conservation improvements on their land covering over 49 percent of the sub-watershed.

 Producers installed practices ranging from improved pasture management and poultry litter handling to fencing off riparian areas next to streams and establishing alternative watering systems to keep livestock out of the water.

 In addition, staff from the Conservation Commission began a continuous in-stream monitoring program to determine the effects these and other practices were having on the quality of the water.

 Analysis of the data collected over this period has now shown that these efforts resulted in a reduction of between 10 percent and 15 percent of the watershed’s total phosphorus load and a reduction of bacteria loading of roughly 40 percent.  According to Parker, these numbers are right in line with the reduction numbers that Oklahoma has seen early on in similar water quality projects.