Photograph courtesy of Stephen Higgs

Lake Monroe Water Fund Mission

The Lake Monroe Water Fund is an active funder for watershed projects that conserve, protect and sustain Lake Monroe as our shared community water resource.

Lake Monroe, with a 276,000 acre watershed, is the sole water source for 128,000 customers in Monroe County and a supplemental source for Brown County. In mid-2017 a small group – including representatives from The Nature Conservancy, City of Bloomington Utilities, Friends of Lake Monroe and others – began meeting to explore the feasibility of forming a Water Fund to connect a funding source with the management and sustainability goals of Lake Monroe.

As a result, the Lake Monroe Water Fund incorporated in 2021 as the 43rd water fund enabled by The Nature Conservancy, the 13th in the US and the first one in Indiana. Our sole purpose is to be a financing source for mitigating threats to the water quality of Lake Monroe from sedimentation, nutrient runoff, and 9,000+ septic systems, many old and poorly maintained. We are uniquely positioned as a water fund that formed proactively, not in response to a crisis, because it costs less to prevent water quality problems than to recover from them!

Progress has been swift on our top three key action areas.  For additional information, see our 2022 Annual Report.

  • Forests/Woodlands: Even though 80% of the watershed is forested, steep slopes, minimal vegetation beside streams, and erosion lead to sediment in streams and eventually the lake. We have received grant funding from the Duke Energy Foundation and the Smithville Charitable Foundation to plant 900 native shrubs/trees and 600 willow cuttings in bare streambanks along Clay Lick Creek as a demonstration project at CYO Camp Rancho Framasa in Brown County. Bonus: these plants will attract pollinators and capture carbon!
  • Septic: Old fashioned septic systems don’t work well in our soils, and often fail. With 9000+ septic systems in the watershed, that’s a lot of you-know-what! We are self-funding a program, and working in coordination with the Brown County Soil and Water Conservation District to assist at least 50 households in the Brown County portion of the watershed with $200 reimbursements for septic tank inspection, riser installation, and pumping.
  • Agriculture: Fertilizer, manure, and loose soil from tilling can wash into waterways during heavy rains. We have received grant funding through the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County, and will partner with the Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District to offer a free soil test to landowners so they can apply a minimal amount of fertilizer, saving them money and reducing excess nutrients flowing into the lake where they can stimulate algal blooms.

Photography Courtesy of Steven Higgs

A Little History

      1. A robust Water Monitoring Program
      2. A Watershed Management Plan
      3. Best Management Practice Implementation
      4. Funding for Implementation of Best Management Practices (Water Fund), and
      5. Definition of the Additional Funding Approach (Water Fund).
  • Sept 2019: Friends of Lake Monroe award 319 Grant by EPA to create a Watershed Management Plan.
  • Q4 2019: Water Fund Demonstration Project funded by City of Bloomington Utilities, Monroe County Stormwater Board, Conservation Law Center and US Geological Survey to place a new stream water gauge on South Fork of Salt Creek.
  • Jan 2020: Lake Monroe Water Fund Task Force formed comprising major watershed stakeholders
  • Jan 2021: Lake Monroe Water Fund 501c3 incorporated
  • Mar 2021: LMWF Board formed
  • Feb 2022: LMWF Executive Director hired
  • Spring 2022: Friends of Lake Monroe published the Watershed Management Plan
  • March 2023: LMWF issued 2022 Annual Report

Some specific actions that have already been completed include:

    1. A robust Water Monitoring Program
    2. A Watershed Management Plan
    3. Best Management Practice Implementation
    4. Funding for Implementation of BMP (Water Fund), and
    5. Definition of the Additional Funding Approach (Water Fund).
  • Friends of Lake Monroe (FLM) has participated in capstone projects at IU O’Neill SPEA under the guidance of Melissa Laney and Sherry Mitchell-Bruker. FLM worked with graduate students who used soils and land use data to map rates of soil loss in the watershed. The IU group also attempted to model a sediment budget for the lake but concluded that there was insufficient data.
  • Friends of Lake Monroe is managing a 319 grant funded by the EPA to develop a Watershed Management Plan for Lake Monroe.  This project should be complete by January, 2022.
  • A Lake Monroe Integrated Monitoring Committee has been formed representing 9 organizations actively engaged in water quality monitoring in Lake Monroe Watershed.
  • In early 2020 a watershed steering committee was formed including the primary stakeholders, as represented by the current board.
  • January 2021 Lake Monroe Water Fund incorporated in the state of Indiana, receiving it’s 501(c)(3) designation.

Make A Difference For Lake Monroe

Consider A Donation To The Water Fund