It is only fitting that I share my deepest concerns, even fears, about our unique Ozarks waters after getting personal with my last blog about floating the entire Buffalo River with my teenage son, and the experience’s lasting impact on us.
Following is the first half of a piece that I was recently asked to provide for an anthology published by the Ozarks Studies Institute at Missouri State University, LIVING OZARKS: The Ecology and Culture of a Natural Place. The second half will follow next month.
A SHADOW OVER OZARKS WATERS
In the beginning was water, lots and lots of water. There were green hills and rocky glades. Crystal springs fed crooked creeks to join a mighty river in its march to the Mississippi, cutting through limestone over eons of time to leave craggy bluffs of bare rock and gravel bottomed pools of clear blue-green water of varying shades, depending on slant of the sun.
The Ozarks spans most of southern Missouri and northwest Arkansas. Perhaps the most defining geological feature of upper White River country is the karst, swiss cheese like, topography of the region. It has allowed massive forces of time and water to carve a unique signature on the Ozarks, with the White and her tributaries as the region’s artists in residence.
I fear for the future of these Ozarks’ waters. Strange. In so many ways they are in better shape than when I moved back home twenty years ago.
The James River doesn’t have a seventeen mile algae bloom gumming up its gears. One can see a Secchi disc deep into Table Rock Lake. The city’s water supply doesn’t stink. Stockton Lake is an absolute gem. Sure, our water table has dropped and you have to drill a little deeper to source, but that’s true in many places.
The largest population centers treat their sewage with more care and concern. Citizen groups have stepped up to educate, and even agitate on occasion. Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, the James River Basin Partnership, the Upper White River Basin Foundation, and many other partners, are active, engaged, and committed to clean waters in the Ozarks.
Still, as one who has grown up in and next to them, treasured my time alone, or with family, and friends, on them for the past seven decades, and carries a deep and abiding hope that future generations of my kind will have the same privileges and opportunities afforded me, I look on with concern. I’m neither a scientist nor an academic, but I care. I list passion as an accrediting credential, skepticism related to ten years of service on the Missouri Clean Water Commission bearing witness to the decline of citizen oversight of our water resources as a principal concern, and “now” as a defining moment.
So, what’s really to worry about?
First of all there is more pressure on our waters of the Ozarks. Though some would disagree, I generally count that as a positive. It implies that more people are using and enjoying our most amazing natural resource than ever before. If one finds value and pleasure in something, that same one will be more inclined to care if it degrades, to step up if it is threatened. No, it’s more than that. (to be continued)
Coming Next, February 15, 2019 – A SHADOW OVER OZARKS WATERS, 2