One recent visitor to the watershed center noted Valley Water Mill Lake’s low water level. On my daily hike around the lake, I have watched the lake once again retreat to a central pool, exposing long stretches of our creek normally hidden within the borders of the lake. Muddy flats covered in drying algae and wetland grasses offer a home to shore birds and a resting place for weary travelers; a resident blue heron feeds alongside migratory waterfowl. As we move forward into our driest months, these lake-bottom features will become more prominent. These newly exposed features are cause for major concern in some areas. In the great lakes, water levels are steadily lower than average, and only slightly higher than record lows. Cargo ships are receiving lighter loads to avoid navigational problems in the shallow water bodies. In the Mississippi river, the Army Corps of Engineers is set to begin a rock-removal project south of St. Louis. Grounded barges and low water projections for the coming year have caused the multi-million dollar rock blasting to take place a month earlier than planned. The economic impact of light cargo ships and river traffic jams will surely be immense.

Valley Water Mill Lake

We often need reminders like this to see that water conservation is an issue that requires constant attention. After the fall season rains, which were a welcome relief from the dry summer, there was a temptation to forget our water troubles. Rubbing our eyes, as if waking from a horrible dream, we saw lakes and streams full and flowing. But now, just as suddenly, we are double taking as we pass our favorite body of water, barely a trickle of what it was just a month ago. We are not clear of the lasting effects of this summer’s drought. We will be feeling this strain for some time still. It goes without saying that this issue of low water levels will affect us all. We all need clean water to drink, which comes from the same lakes that are steadily shrinking. Although the premise may seem dire, our current water shortage in the country can teach us to use water more wisely. What would you do differently if you expected next summer to be just like this one was? How would you change your behavior if someone told you that we would receive no relief this year; that our lakes would not rise, but continue to slowly shrink?

There are many ways to save water, from shortening showers, to placing a brick in your toilet tank. For more ideas that you can use year-round, visit our website at .

For more information on the Great Lakes problem or the Mississippi River emergency, visit these useful sources:

Rob Hunt, Watershed Center Coordinator

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