Water conservation in the Midwest

Conventional wisdom usually maintains that change is inevitable. Along with change, though, certain unintended consequences can materialize.

In the American Midwest, some changes may be placing critical water resources in jeopardy. 

Jason Lupardus, NWTF conservation field supervisor for the Midwest, is pursuing an answer. “We’ve seen a lot of change and not much of it is really good news for water,” Lupardus said. “We’ve seen changes in commodity prices and changes in the Farm Bill that have led to a lot of acreage being removed from the Conservation Reserve Program. That can have a big impact on the water resources in the region. We’ve seen state and local laws changed to alter or reduce some of the buffer requirements along rivers and streams, those critical areas that help ensure there is clean water for excellent habitat.”

Lupardus believes water quality must be included in any conservation conversation, especially when it comes to improving or sustaining habitat.

 “It starts with people,” Lupardus says. “In some areas, we might see water quality issues from an area with a lot of houses and fertilized lawns. That fertilizer runoff is impacting water quality in a negative way.”

Invasive plant species in these streamside zones also cause issues, sometimes taking millions of gallons of water from native species. 

“It’s a complex thing — when it comes to water resources, it’s all intertwined. Water is the building block for everything,” Lupardus declares.

While drought conditions in some areas of the Midwest may seem to be an easy and obvious scapegoat, Lupardus insists water issues facing the region run much deeper.

“I really don’t think it’s as simple as pointing to drought. Yes, that has an impact. But it’s more than that,” he says. “We have changed the landscape and the movement, distribution and quality of water in that landscape. We need to understand that and work to correct it. That means doing the critical conservation work in those areas, doing the type of projects that the NWTF does and making sure we do all we can to implement sound water conservation principles into each one.”

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