Don't take water for granted
Water is the lifeblood of any community. At a bare minimum, enough is needed to drink, cook with, and clean with. It also is handy for irrigation, keeping lawns green, and recreation.
The importance of protecting water sources has been highlighted every summer for the past decade by blooms of dangerous blue-green algae, first at the Marion Reservoir and then at Marion County Lake. The algae have threatened the drinking water source of more than half the population of Marion County — Marion, Hillsboro, and Peabody all get their water from the reservoir.
Blue-green algae are clearly dangerous. Dogs have died from drinking water infested with blue-green algae, and last summer several cattle died drinking from ponds where blue-green algae were present in high concentrations. Humans are less likely to suffer serious harm quickly, but prolonged exposure can affect their health.
The blue-green algae pose an economic danger, too. Marion County is blessed with two nice recreational lakes, which attract tourists to the county. But blue-green algae are at their worst when people most want to spend time in or on the water — when it is sunny and brutally hot. People don’t want to go camping when it’s 100 degrees out if they can’t cool off with a dip in the lake.
So what can be done? Blue-green algae thrive on phosphorous and nitrogen in the water, and there are decades’ worth of those nutrients built up in the lakes. It won’t happen overnight, but conditions can get better with careful management.
Reducing the amount of phosphorous and nitrogen washing into the lakes is a good first step, and farmers have every reason to try to do their part. In an era where farmers operate on an increasingly minuscule margin, fertilizer washing off fields is money washing off fields. But water and soil conservation projects cost money. There are assistance programs to help with the cost, but their funds are limited. Agencies that provide assistance do their best to prioritize the projects that will do the most good, but they can’t know everything.
The public can help, and the first step to helping is learning more about the subject. The Marion Community Center will host an informational meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Marion Reservoir Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy will have an informational meeting about work going on in the reservoir’s drainage basin.
— ADAM STEWART
Last modified May 30, 2013