By MAGGIE SULLIVAN, guest columnist

Remember when volunteers collected water samples from streams across the county last April? The goal was to understand water quality draining into Lake Monroe through its tributaries.

Sullivan

More than 20 Brown County streams flow into the lake through North Fork Salt Creek and Middle Fork Salt Creek including Greasy Creek, Gnaw Bone Creek, Hamilton Creek, and Sweetwater Creek.

Friends of Lake Monroe organized the sampling event as part of a two-year project to develop the Lake Monroe Watershed Management Plan. The watershed management plan summarizes the available data, identifies top threats to water quality and provides an action plan to reduce pollution and improve water quality in the lake and its tributaries over the next 20 years.

The top three threats to water quality in Lake Monroe are sediment, nutrients and bacteria. Elevated levels of sediment increase the murkiness of water, carry nutrients or other contaminants and fill in Lake Monroe, which reduces its lifespan. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus stimulate harmful algal blooms that make the water unsafe for recreation and more difficult to process into drinking water. Bacteria such as E. coli are indicators of fecal contamination from humans or animals which pose a human health threat.

The best way to address these threats is to reduce the amount of sediment, nutrients and bacteria entering the streams that flow into Lake Monroe. This can be done through a variety of best management practices such as planting trees and grasses along stream banks, improving management of animal manure, using cover crops or reduced tillage on cropland, and maintaining septic systems by pumping septic tanks every three to five years.

What can you do to help? Attend one of our upcoming Lake Monroe Community Forums this spring to learn more about the watershed management plan and to share your ideas on how to put it into action. Who are the key organizations and individuals that can help us reach landowners? What messaging would be most effective in getting homeowners to care for their septic systems? How can volunteers mobilize community action in Brown County?

Friends of Lake Monroe and the Leagues of Women Voters of Brown County and Bloomington-Monroe County will host a community forum on Thursday, June 9 in Nashville from 6:45 to 8:30 p.m. at the Brown County Public Library. Two other forums will be offered covering the same information – one in Bloomington on May 24 and one virtually over Zoom on June 15. Visit www.friendsoflakemonroe.org/events for more information.

Please join us to show your support for water quality and share your ideas of how to protect and improve our lakes and streams.

Maggie Sullivan is the watershed coordinator for Friends of Lake Monroe. She can be reached at 812-558-0217 or [email protected]