Streamflow Measurement Project Continues At Lake Monroe

This article previously hosted on Indiana Environmental Reporter, written by Timberly Ferree, published on May 4, 2022

For the third straight year, water experts from public and private organizations will measure the volume and determine the quality of water flowing into Lake Monroe.

Experts from organizations like the Lake Monroe Water Fund, City of Bloomington Utilities and Friends of Lake Monroe will use a stream gauge located at South Fork Salt Creek at Kurtz in Jackson County for this year’s streamflow measurement project.

“Knowing the volume of water that flows into the lake, and quantifying the pollutants it contains, is crucial. It will allow us to identify specific geographic areas and strategies that we should take to reduce run-off of sediment and ‘nutrients’ from fertilizers, farm chemicals, animal waste and septic waste,” said Lake Monroe Water Fund executive director Michelle Cohen.

When large flow events occur, the City of Bloomington Utilities staff travel to Kurtz to collect and analyze water samples.

“This effort is especially important, as the frequency and intensity of large rain events have been increasing in recent years. Increased loading of nutrients in the lake may lead to more frequent blooms of blue-green algae. If these blooms cannot be controlled in the future, it will adversely affect the utility of the lake for recreation and water supply,” said City of Bloomington Utilities Director Vic Kelson.

According to some of the experts gathering additional data about contaminant concentration during high water flow events, such as during and after heavy storms, is crucial.

“Some studies estimate that 80 percent of the annual pollutant load can be generated during the top 10 percent of the highest flow days,” said Maggie Sullivan, who serves as Lake Monroe Watershed Coordinator for Friends of Lake Monroe.

The Kurtz stream gauge was installed three years ago to fill in a data gap that existed in the watershed. With the help of the Duke Energy Foundation and the Monroe County Storm Water Board, the Lake Monroe Water Fund raised $50,000 to purchase and install the gauge.

The implementation of the project was a collaborative effort.

Friends of Lake Monroe identified the specifications and proper site for the gauge, and hosted a water sampling blitz to collect chemical data throughout the watershed. This collaboration secured the U.S. Geological Survey to operate and maintain the gauge and to provide matching funds through September 2023, facilitated by the Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

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