The Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition works to sustain good water quality in our rivers, lakes and streams by identifying and working to solve problems before they become insurmountable. Here’s how…
In the watersheds where water quality impacts have already been identified, professionally-trained staff members monitor water quality on a regular basis to look for trends and to prioritize locations for on-the-ground water quality improvement projects. Volunteers who are certified through the GA Adopt-A-Stream program monitor water quality monthly at other locations across the watershed in both Georgia and North Carolina to help us keep tabs on water quality conditions and identify water quality problems that might merit consideration for future improvement projects. Our data helps us determine which waters are safe for swimming, which rivers could support a viable trout fishery and which areas need to be prioritized for future water quality improvements.
In high priority watersheds where water quality problems have already been identified, the Coalition works to secure grants for on-the-ground water quality improvement projects. These range from bank stabilization and riparian enhancement projects to full-fledged stream restoration projects were new channels are designed to better manage flow and transport sediment. Often streams are reconnected with the floodplain and sometimes wetlands are created or preserved as part of the projects. Nonnative invasive plants are also eradicated along streams as part of the restoration efforts. Since 2000, the Coalition has brought $6.8 million in grant funding into the Hiwassee River watershed. 93% of these funds were spent for on-the-ground projects and programs to facilitate water quality improvements in areas where it has declined!
In 2007, the Coalition published the Lake Chatuge Watershed Action Plan to guide our work to improve the ecological health of the lake and stop an increase in algae concentrations that began in the mid-1990s. Projects to reduce phosphorus and nitrate concentrations continue as funding allows. Examples include repairing leaking septic systems, installing practices to reduce pollution from livestock operations, and managing stormwater runoff. Many of these projects also eliminate sources of bacterial contamination along rivers and streams flowing into our lakes. HRWC also hosts an annual shoreline clean-up on Lake Chatuge and provides volunteers and assistance for litter pick-ups hosted by other organizations on Hiwassee, Nottely and Apalachia, as well.
HRWC works to inspire change in attitudes and choices of residents in the Hiwassee River watershed. From walks on the River Walk with elementary school children to developing a local, low cost erosion control training program for contractors, our goal is to show people of all ages that their actions can make a difference for water quality, both positively and negatively!
The HRWC leadership believes that for water resources to truly be protected, citizens must first develop a passion for them and then be provided with the tools to participate in protection and restoration efforts. The Coalition works to improve public access to rivers, lakes and streams and hosts an outings program to help people enjoy the resources. We also provide diverse volunteer opportunities to enable local residents to participate in sustaining good water quality! And through our alternative break program begun in 2009, we have hosted hundreds of college student volunteers from 10 universities in 7 states.