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Impairment in Missouri’s Lakes, 2014

This is the 5th in a series of posts on the water quality of Missouri’s surface waters. This post focuses on impairment to Missouri’s lakes in 2014, and its causes (I’m using the word “impaired” for what the Missouri Department of Natural Resources calls “non-support”).

Impairment might mean that the water is unsafe, or it might not. For instance, too much bacteria or lead in the water would make the water unsafe. On the other hand, too much weedy material in the water can make water unpleasant to swim in, or it can give it an unpleasant taste, but it doesn’t necessarily make it unsafe.

Table 1. Source data: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Table 1. Source data: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

As noted in the first post of the series, Missouri’s lakes were used for a variety of purposes. Those that were impaired may not have been impaired for all uses, but for only some. Table 1, shows the number of classified lake acres in each use category, the number of acres assessed, and the number of miles impaired. In the table, Whole Body Contact Rec. – A (WBC-A) indicates designated or known swimming areas, Whole Body Contact Rec. – B (WBC-B) indicates areas other areas where recreational whole body contact with the water occurs.

The number of lake acres used varied from purpose to purpose. The most widespread uses were Aquatic Life & Fish Consumption and Livestock Watering. Relatively few miles were used for Industrial purposes or WBC-B. For some uses, only a very small fraction of miles were assessed: none of the lake acres used for Industrial or Livestock and Wildlife Watering were assessed, and only 18% of those used for Drinking Water Supply (public drinking water systems have to make their own, separate assessments of their water quality).

You have to use caution in using the data in the last two columns of the table. While only one use category shows any impairment at all, several of the use categories had no acres assessed. You can’t assess lake water as impaired if you don’t assess it at all. On the other hand, 82% of the lake acres used for WBC-A (swimming) were assessed, and none of them were impaired. I would tend to believe that if water is not impaired for WBC-A, then most likely it is not impaired for WBC-B, Industrial, or Livestock and Wildlife Watering.

Table 2. Source data: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Table 2. Source data: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Table 2 shows the problem causing the impairments. They are quite different from the causes of stream impairment. Five out of 7 are related to eutrophication. This is a fancy word that means the ability of the lake to support plant life – seaweed and especially algae. Too little, and the lake can’t support a population of fish and other marine life. Too much and the lake becomes choked with weeds or there is an algal bloom. Algal blooms use up all the oxygen, kill the fish, are sometimes toxic, and can turn a lake into a stinking mess. Lake Erie has had notorious algal blooms in the last 5 years that closed the lake to swimming and fishing, and made the water unsafe to drink.

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Table 3. Source data: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Table 3. Source data: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Table 3 shows the source of the problems causing the impairments. Of the sources of impairment that are known, Municipal Point Source was the largest, followed by Atmospheric Deposition. Municipal Point Source probably refers mostly to sewage treatment facilities that discharge incompletely treated sewage into lakes, while Atmospheric Deposition probably refers to mercury, which ultimately derives from coal burned in power plants.

There appears to be a disconnect between Tables 2 and 3, however. Of the causes of impairment, 3 are signs of eutrophication, not causes of it, and one is a heavy metal deposited from the atmosphere. The other 3, Total Nitrogen, Total Phosphorous, and Pesticides (Atrazine) are all chemicals primarily used in agriculture. Total Nitrogen alone was the cause of impairment in 25,180 acres. However, Agriculture was listed as the source of impairment for only 133 acres, less than 1%. How chemicals primarily used in agriculture can be the cause of so much impairment, but agriculture the source of so little is beyond me.

In summary, the largest causes of impairment of Missouri lakes seem to be mercury originating in coal-burning power plants and then deposited by the atmosphere, and chemicals primarily used on farms. The source of most impairment either has not been studied or is unknown.

Sources:

Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2015. Missouri Integrated Water Quality Report and Section 303(d) List, 2014. Downloaded 4/20/2016 from http://dnr.mo.gov/env/wpp/waterquality/303d/303d.htm.

(A word about the availability of the Missouri Water Quality Reports. As of 5/1/2016, reports for 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 are available on the Department of Natural Resources, Water Protection Website. Though the 2014 report is dated April 24, 2014, it was not available on the website until much later. The report for 2016 is not yet available, and may not be for many months.)

Wikipedia. 2016. Algal Bloom. Viewed online at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algal_bloom.

Impairment in Missouri’s Streams, 2014

This is the 4th in a series of posts on the water quality of Missouri’s surface waters. The first post discussed terms and introductory material about the state’s surface waters. The second and third posts focused on trends in the assessed water quality of the state’s classified streams and lakes. This post focuses on stream impairment in 2014, and its causes (I’m using the word “impaired” for what the Missouri Department of Natural Resources calls “non-support”).

Impairment might mean that the water is unsafe, or it might not. For instance, too much bacteria or lead in the water would make the water unsafe. On the other hand, too much weedy material in the water can make water unpleasant to swim in, or it can give drinking water an unpleasant taste, but it doesn’t necessarily make either unsafe.

Table 1. Source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Table 1. Source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Missouri’s streams were used for a variety of purposes. Impaired streams may not have been impaired for all uses, but for only some. Table 1, shows the number of classified stream miles used for each use category, the number of miles assessed, and the number of miles impaired. In the table, Whole Body Contact Rec. – A (WBC-A) indicates designated or known swimming areas, Whole Body Contact Rec. – B (WBC-B) indicates areas other areas where recreational whole body contact with the water occurs.

The the number of stream miles used varied from purpose to purpose. The most widespread uses were Aquatic Life & Fish Consumption, Livestock Watering, and WBC-B. Relatively few miles were used for Drinking Water Supply or Industrial. Interestingly, for some uses, only a very small fraction of miles were assessed. For instance, only 11% of the stream miles used for Livestock and Wildlife Watering were assessed, and a tiny 6% of the miles used for Industrial purposes.

Figure 1. Data source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Figure 1. Data source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Figure 1 shows the data in the last two columns: the percentage total classified stream miles that were assessed as impaired for each use, and the percentage of assessed stream miles that were assessed as impaired for each use. The blue columns show the percentage of total classified miles, the red column shows the percentage of assessed miles.

No stream miles used for Livestock and Wildlife Watering, Drinking Water Supply, and Industrial were assessed as impaired for those purposes. On the other hand, 85% of assessed stream miles used for WBC-B were impaired for that purpose, 39% of assessed stream miles used for WGC-A were impaired for that purpose, and 35% of of assessed stream miles used for Aquatic Life & Fish Consumption were impaired for that purpose.

Table 2. Data source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Table 2. Data source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Table 2 shows the problem causing of the impairments. There were 22 of them, but the first thing to note is that the list sums to only 5,351 miles. Even if one assumes that there was no overlap between categories, which seems highly unlikely, the list only accounts for only 51% of the total assessed stream miles, meaning that the cause of the other 49% is undocumented. Some of the problems, like bacteria, mercury, lead, zinc, and cadmium, can directly impact human and animal health. Others, like low dissolved oxygen, and temperature, affect the ability of the water to support life.

The bacteria referenced (fecal coliform and E. coli) come from animal waste. Sometimes the contamination comes from livestock, but often it comes from human waste. Waste treatment facilities, be they sewage treatment districts or individual septic tanks, discharge improperly treated waste into streams. Stream eventually cleanse themselves if the bacterial load is not too large, but the water is contaminated for miles downstream.

Table 3. Data source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Table 3. Data source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Table 3 shows the source of the problems causing the impairments. Again, the first thing to notice is that the list sums to only 5,344 miles. As above, even if one assumes that there was no overlap between categories, the list accounts for only 51% of total assessed stream miles, and the source of the remaining 49% is undocumented. Beyond that, the leading two categories in the list are Not Specified, Nonpoint, and Not Specified, Source Unknown.

Atmospheric Deposition was the leading known source of stream impairment. Readers of this blog encountered atmospheric deposition in the post on Heavy Metals in the Big River. There, I wrote about material from mine waste piles being blown by the wind into the Big River. Even more, however, most of the problem we have with mercury toxicity in fish comes from atmospheric deposition. Coal contains trace amounts of mercury. When coal is burned in power plants, the mercury is vented up the flue into the atmosphere. Over time it settles out of the atmosphere into bodies of water, or it settles onto the land, where rain washes it into bodies of water. There, it is ingested by tiny organisms, which are then eaten by fish.

There is a disconnect between Tables 2 and 3. In Table 2, the largest contaminant type was Bacteria. In Table 3, the largest known source of contamination was Atmospheric Deposition. Bacteria are not deposited into streams by the atmosphere. Municipal Point Source was the second leading known source of contamination, and that should probably be read as indicating (mostly) sewage treatment discharge. But in addition, some (much?) of the bacterial contamination probably came from untraceable individual septic systems in the Not Specified sources of contamination.

Of the 20 contamination sources that are known, the top 7 are all human caused, and only 2 are not directly related to human activities. We are the ones causing impairment to the streams, not nature.

The next post will look at similar data for Missouri’s lakes.

Sources:

Missouri Consolidated State Rules, 10 CSR 20-7.031. Viewed online 5/6/2016 at http://s1.sos.mo.gov/cmsimages/adrules/csr/current/10csr/10c20-7a.pdf.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2015. Missouri Integrated Water Quality Report and Section 303(d) List, 2014. Downloaded 4/20/2016 from http://dnr.mo.gov/env/wpp/waterquality/303d/303d.htm.

(A word about the availability of the Missouri Water Quality Reports. As of 5/1/2016, reports for 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 are available on the Department of Natural Resources, Water Protection Website. Though the 2014 report is dated April 24, 2014, it was not available on the website until much later. The report for 2016 is not yet available, and may not be for many months.)

Water Quality Trends in Missouri Lakes

This is the third post in a series about water quality trends in Missouri’s surface waters. The first post contained introductory material. The second post reported water quality trends in Missouri’s streams. This post looks at trends in the number of lake acres that have been assessed as supporting all intended uses vs. impaired. Missouri’s natural lakes are limited to oxbow lakes, sinkhole ponds, and open water areas in wetlands. The rest of Missouri’s lakes are man-made, ranging from small ponds to large reservoirs. This data looks only at lakes that are large enough to be “classified,” that is, qualify for protection under the federal Clean Water Act. The status of unclassified lakes is unknown.

Figure 1. Data source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Figure 1. Data source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Figure 1 shows the status of Missouri’s classified lakes. In the chart, the blue shows the number of lake acres that were fully supported. The red shows the number of acres that were impaired. The dark gray shows the number of acres that were not assessed, but which the Department did not suspect to be impaired. The light gray shows the number of acres that were not assessed, but which the Department suspected were impaired. In some years the Department listed how many acres were not assessed, but did not say whether they were suspected to be fully supported or impaired. Those miles are shown with a hatched pattern.

(Click on chart for larger view.)

In looking at the chart, the first thing that jumps out is that the number of classified lake acres has not varied over the years to the same degree as has the number of stream miles.

Second, the Department seems to be assessing a much larger percentage of classified lakes than streams. In all years but 1, over 85% of classified lake acres were assessed.

Third, the percentage of classified lake acres assessed to be fully supported is higher than for stream miles. Across the time period, an average 67% of acres were supported for all intended uses.

Fourth, despite the generally higher level of support, the situation varied greatly across the years, from a high of 93% assessed support in 2006 to a low of 41% assessed support in 2010. In each of the three most recent reports, more than 33% of acres were assessed to be impaired for at least one use. This may be somewhat misleading, however, because in those years the Department assessed a lower percentage of lake acres than in other years.

Fifth, if one assumes that the Department’s guesses about unassessed lake acres are correct, and adds to the fully supported miles the miles for which non-support is not suspected, then the percentage of streams that are supported for all intended uses would range from 50% to 93%.

Figure 2. Data source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Figure 2. Data source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Counting only lake acres that were assessed, Figure 2 shows the percentages that were fully supported vs. impaired. The blue represents acres that were fully supported for all uses, the red those that were impaired for one or more uses. The chart shows that in only 2 years, 2006 and 2008, were a very high percentage of acres supported for all uses. In every other year, more than 25% were impaired, and in one year, 2010, 54% were impaired.

I don’t know why the number of impaired lake acres increased so much in 2010. It would make a great research project for a college student. If anybody knows the answer, please let us all know by posting a comment.

The reasons Missouri surface waters may be impaired can vary. Some reasons may be related to human causes, others to the nature of the terrain where the water body is located. I will look at the causes of impairment in 2014 in the next post.

Source

Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2015. Missouri Integrated Water Quality Report and Section 303(d) List, 2014. Downloaded 4/20/2016 from http://dnr.mo.gov/env/wpp/waterquality/303d/303d.htm.

(A word about the availability of the Missouri Water Quality Reports. As of 5/1/2016, reports for 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 are available on the Department of Natural Resources, Water Protection Website. Though the 2014 report is dated April 24, 2014, it was not available on the website until much later. The report for 2016 is not yet available, and may not be for many months.)

Water Quality Trends in Missouri Streams

This is the second post in a series looking at the water quality of Missouri’s lakes and streams. The first post, here, contained introductory material and an explanation of terms. This post looks at trends from 2002-2014 in the number of stream miles that have been assessed as supporting all intended uses vs. impaired. This data looks only at streams that are large enough to be “classified,” that is, qualify for protection under the federal Clean Water Act. The status of unclassified streams is unknown.

Figure 1. Source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Figure 1. Source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Figure 1 shows the status of Missouri’s classified streams. In the chart, the blue shows the number of miles that were fully supported. The red shows the number of miles that were impaired. The dark gray shows the number of miles that were not assessed, but which the Department did not suspect to be impaired. The light gray shows the number of miles that were not assessed, but which the Department suspected were impaired. In two of the years covered, the Department listed how many miles were not assessed, but did not say whether they were suspected to be fully supported or impaired. Those miles are shown with a hatched pattern.

(Click on chart for larger view.)

In looking at this chart, the first thing that jumps out is that for a few years the total number of classified stream miles decreased. As it seems unlikely that the topography of Missouri changes that much, I don’t know what the decrease was about. The changes were not large, and they seem to have returned to the 2002 level in the last two reports. Perhaps they were drought related, or more likely, perhaps they related to changes in reporting criteria or methods.

The second thing that jumps out is that, within classified streams, the number of miles assessed has varied widely. In 2004, 99% of the classified stream miles were assessed. In all other years, less than 67% of stream miles were assessed, and in 2002, 2012, and 2014, less than 50%.

The third thing that jumps out is that in 6 out of 7 years, less than half of Missouri total stream miles were assessed to be unimpaired for all intended uses. In 2002, 2012, and 2014, the percent assessed safe for all intended uses was 20% or less. This may be misleading, as in those years the bulk of stream miles were not assessed. Still, it leaves a gap in our knowledge about the safety of our streams.

Fourth, if one assumes that the Department’s guesses about unassessed streams are correct, and adds the fully supported miles to the miles for which non-support is not suspected, then the percentage of streams that are unimpaired for all intended uses would range from 49% to 63%.

Figure 2. Source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Figure 2. Source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Figure 2 shows similar information, but it includes only assessed stream miles. The blue represents stream miles supported for all uses, the red represents impaired stream miles. The chart shows that from 2006 – 2010 over 70% of all assessed stream miles were supported for all intended uses. But in 2002, 2004, 2012, and 2014, only about 50% were. Figuring out the reasons for the change is beyond this blog post, but it would be a fascinating research project for some college student. (If any body knows the answer, let us all know by posting a comment.)

I think it is hard to interpret a trend in this data – it seems to jump around from year to year. I don’t know what causes the differences. Overall, it seems that in some years half or more of Missouri’s streams were impaired for one or more of their intended uses. In other years, only 30% were impaired, but even that is a very substantial fraction.

The next post in this series will look at similar data for Missouri’s lakes.

Source:

Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2015. Missouri Integrated Water Quality Report and Section 303(d) List, 2014. Downloaded 4/20/2016 from http://dnr.mo.gov/env/wpp/waterquality/303d/303d.htm.

(A word about the availability of the Missouri Water Quality Reports. As of 5/1/2016, reports for 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 are available on the Department of Natural Resources, Water Protection Website. Though the 2014 report is dated April 24, 2014, it was not available on the website until much later. The report for 2016 is not yet available, and may not be for many months.)

Missouri Surface Water Quality – 2014

What is the overall quality of Missouri’s surface water? Is it improving over time? The following series of posts will attempt to answer those questions.

Data source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Data source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Missouri is home to a lot of surface water. By volume, the surface water is dominated by a few very large rivers (the Mississippi and the Missouri) and by a few large man-made reservoirs (Truman Lake, Lake of the Ozarks, Bull Shoals Lake, and Table Rock Lake are the 4 largest). By far the most stream miles and lake surface acres, however, come from small creeks, streams, lakes, and ponds. In 2014, 24,491 miles of streams and 303,014 acres of lake surface were large enough to qualify for protection under the federal Clean Water Act, and these are known as “classified” waters. Smaller streams, lakes, and ponds qualify for a lower degree of protection under state clean water laws, and they account for an estimated 234,395 stream miles and 605,979 acres of lake surface. They are known as “unclassified” waters. Thus, Missouri’s unclassified streams account for more than 9 times as many stream miles as do classified streams, and Missouri’s unclassified lakes account for about 2 times as many acres as do classified lakes. Table 1 summarizes Missouri’s surface waters by type.

Classified streams and lakes are the largest bodies of water in the state, and they receive priority in Missouri’s efforts to protect water quality. They are governed by the federal Clean Water Act. Every 2 years, to comply with this act, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources assesses and reports the water quality in these classified water bodies. The most recent report is for the year 2014.

Source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

Source: Missouri Department of Natural Resources 2015.

People use surface water for all kinds of purposes. Table 2 shows the number of stream miles and lake acres classified for each use (more than one use may apply to a body of water).

Often, water is used for one or more of these uses, but not all of them. Water that is of sufficient quality to be used for all of its intended purposes is said to be in full support of assessed uses. Water that is not of sufficient quality for one or more of its intended uses is said to be impaired.

The following post will review trends in the overall quality of Missouri’s surface waters from 2002-2014: the number of stream miles and lake acres that are supported for all intended uses, vs. those that are impaired. After that, I will look at the problems that impair some Missouri waters, and I will finish by providing a map of Missouri’s impaired waters.

Source:

Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2015. Missouri Integrated Water Quality Report and Section 303(d) List, 2014. Downloaded 4/20/2016 from http://dnr.mo.gov/env/wpp/waterquality/303d/303d.htm.

(A word about the availability of the Missouri Water Quality Reports. As of 5/1/2016, reports for 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 are available on the Department of Natural Resources, Water Protection Website. Though the 2014 report is dated April 24, 2014, it was not available on the website until much later. The report for 2016 is not yet available, and may not be for many months.)

2015 Census of Public Water Systems

Each year the Missouri Department of Natural Resources publishes the Census of Missouri Public Water Systems. I reported on the 2013 census here, and the 2014 census here. This post updates the information for 2015.

Public Water Census 2015The census provides basic information about the number and type of public water systems in the state, plus information on each system that includes the source of its water, the type of treatment it gives the water, and a chemical analysis of the water that covers 16 inorganic chemicals. The table at right shows the summary data for 2013-2015.

A primary water system is one that obtains water from a well, infiltration gallery, lake, reservoir, river, spring, or stream. A secondary water system is one that obtains its water from an approved water system, and distributes it to consumers. (Missouri 10 CSR 60-2015, Definitions) About 78% of Missouri public water systems are primary systems, and they serve about 77% of the population.

The EPA defines a public water system as one that provides water for human consumption to at least 15 service connections or that serves an average of at least 25 people for at least 60 days a year. It classifies public water systems in three categories. Community Water Systems (CWS) supply water to the same population year-round. Non-Transient Non-Community Water Systems (NTNCWS) supplies water to at least 25 of the same people at least 6 months per year, but not year-round. An example might be a school that has its own water system. A Transient Non-Community Water System (TNCWS) provides water in a place where people do not remain for long periods of time. Examples might include gas stations or campgrounds that have their own water systems.

There were 2,722 public water systems in Missouri. The number of community systems in Missouri increased by one in 2014, then decreased by 14 in 2015. NTNCWS systems decreased by 3 in 2014, then increased by 5 in 2015. TNCWS systems decreased by 20 in 2014, then increased by 15 in 2015.

Groundwater means groundwater that is not directly influenced by the surface water above it. The groundwater is isolated from surface groundwater by thick layers of rock or sediment that filter the ground water before it reaches the groundwater aquifer. Groundwater Under Direct Influence refers to groundwater that is not protected from the surface water above it, and which consequently contains groundwater contaminants, such as insects, microorganisms, algae, or turbidity. This kind of water and surface water, require more extensive treatment before they are fit for use.

In 2015 there were 217 surface water systems (about 15% of all systems), but they served a population of 3,534,956 (about 64% of Missouri’s population). There were 1,210 groundwater systems (about 84% of all systems), and they served 1,980,271 (about 36% of the population). Between 2014 and 2015 the number of surface water systems increased by one, and they served 174,734 more people. The number of groundwater systems decreased by 15, and they served 2,607 more people.

Most of the water systems in Missouri source their water from groundwater, only a few from ground water under direct influence. However, the source serving the largest population is surface water. Specifically, the Missouri River is the water source for much of the Kansas City and St. Louis metropolitan areas. More than half of Missouri’s population is served by water either from the Missouri River Alluvial Aquifer or water from the river itself.

Source:

Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2015. Census of Missouri Public Water Systems, 2015. http://dnr.mo.gov/pubs. This URL will take you to a long list of publications available from MoDNR. Scroll down to Public Drinking Water to find the census reports.