Friday, August 3, 2012

Lake Wedowee’s State of the Water

Lake Wedowee

Property Owners

by Barry Morris

Just as a state of the union address tells the people of the nation what's right about the country and what needs a bit of work, this “state of the water” article should give you a good idea of the quality of Lake Wedowee's water and how we can work together to keep it one of the cleanest lakes in Alabama and the southeast.

The state of the lake is very clean.  By many measures it is the cleanest in the state, but other lakes can claim to be the cleanest depending on how the data is sorted.  At a recent Alabama Water Watch (AWW) meeting at Auburn University, several lake associations boasted the cleanest water.  Lake Martin, our downstream neighbor on the Tallapoosa, even got a former governor to proclaim it the cleanest.  That says a lot about Lake Wedowee as much of their water comes from here.

What really matters is that our water is far cleaner than state and federal requirements for “full body contact,” the toughest standard for clean water.  The Lake Wedowee Property Owners Association, through a network of member volunteers around the lake, constantly tests the water for chemical and E. Coli bacteria problems.  Results are always within standards and are normally close to the best possible quality.  We have great water and we work with other organizations to keep it great because we know that if you don't have clean water, you don't have much of a lake.

The only potential threat to Lake Wedowee's waters is non-point-source pollution, such as sedimentation from erosion, lawn fertilizer runoff and agricultural runoff from cattle and poultry production areas up the rivers and creeks that fill the lake.  (Point-source pollution, such as from factories, is virtually nonexistent upstream from us.)  Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the Upper Tallapoosa Clean Water Partnership (CWP) work with agricultural interests upstream to mitigate runoff before it becomes a problem.  LWPOA tests the rivers many miles above the lake for bacteria, and checks potential problem areas that might require action by county health departments, such as faulty septic systems.  Lake and river test results are entered into AWW's online database, and any significant or long-term deviations from the norm can be cause for action.  The CWP and LWPOA board members were briefed on Georgia's efforts to control potential pollutants before the rivers enter Alabama.

Many people noticed the algae in the water this spring before the lake filled and the swimming season began.  Green algae is kind of ugly but it's not dangerous.  It quickly dissipated when normal rainfall returned in May.  When the weather warms up and river flows are below normal – conditions we've experienced the last two years – algae grows as a natural part of the environment.

Many of us heard the tragic story of the girl who was severely harmed by Aeromonas Hydrophila bacteria she contracted in the Tallapoosa river in Carroll County, Ga.  Such cases are rare as most humans fight off bacteria with little more than an upset stomach.  The fact remains that these bacteria and others live in all of nature's waters and if you suffer a deep cut it's best to stay out of any water until the healing process is well along.  If you're injured while in the water, have it checked out immediately.

The invasive aquatic plant hydrilla has been occasionally spotted well upstream from Lake Wedowee.  Hydrilla is a threat to oxygenation and thus fishing, chokes out native wildlife, and can cause problems with proper operation of the dam.  There's a picture of hydrilla on the LWPOA and Alabama Power websites.  If you think you see any, please contact the lake management office or LWPOA.  So far zebra mussels haven't made their way into Wedowee, but if you trailer your boat from waterways where this invasive lives, please follow all precautions about rinsing your hull and dumping your bilge safely before you launch into Lake Wedowee.

One of the biggest problems facing the lake is trash in the water, floating in the channel and washing up into coves.  This pollution is caused by the direct actions of people all over the lake basin.  Trash thrown from cars often finds its way into the lake.  The trash content in coves downstream from bridges is startling.  LWPOA works with Alabama Power and Randolph County to hold an annual lake clean-up in the fall.  Volunteers pick up and haul out tons of debris ranging from thousands of plastic bottles and styrofoam cups to lawn chairs, water heaters and refrigerators that have been dumped into the lake.

It's easy for lake users and property owners to help keep the lake clean by picking up litter as you see it, and by reporting potential water quality problems to the LWPOA.  If you live in the lake basin, go easy on the lawn fertilizer so it doesn't wash into streams and the lake.  Volunteer for lake clean up.  This year it will be Oct. 31 to Nov. 3.  You can join the Property Owners Association where your annual dues supports testing and clean-up, programs which cost thousands of dollars a year and are worth every penny to keep the water as clean as possible.

The state of the water is best summed up in the phrase “The water's great!  Jump in!”  You can enjoy swimming, fishing and skiing in a wonderful lake that will be clean for years to come.

[Barry Morris is a member of the LWPOA board and is chairman of the water quality monitoring committee.  Contact him at rbmorris222@gmail.com.]


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