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A collaborative approach to water quality improvement

Lake Taneycomo is aging. Estimated to have a life span of 100 years, it has surpassed its deadline by just over a decade. The aging of water bodies can be determined by various natural and human-induced factors, such as pollution, sedimentation and nutrient loading—all of which cause water quality to decline.

In 1994 Lake Taneycomo was listed as an impaired water body on Missouri’s 303(d) list. This list identifies water bodies—like rivers, lakes and streams—that aren't meeting water quality standards, and flags places where the water might be polluted or unhealthy. Lake Taneycomo was flagged for impairment because of low dissolved oxygen (DO) contributions, which increases the mortality of aquatic organisms. Other emerging areas of concern include pollutants, such as nutrients from fertilizers and pesticides; oil, grease, heavy metals, and chemicals from vehicles; bacteria and sediment. Effects from these pollutants include algal blooms, increased vegetation, sedimentation and eutrophication in Lake Taneycomo and the streams and tributaries within the watershed.

“Lake Taneycomo is a treasured asset for our Ozarks. The Lake declines slowly, which makes it easy to believe it will remain the same forever. Our economy and sense of place must be cared for and advocated for. The cost of neglect is simply too high!” Raeanne Presley, former Branson Mayor/Community Leader

Lake Taneycomo is benefiting from collaborative efforts aimed at improving its watershed health. Through an agreement with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Ozarks Environmental and Water Resources Institute (OEWRI) and H2Ozarks have crafted a watershed management plan that seeks to pinpoint sources of pollution, devise effective solutions, and implement protective measures to safeguard the future of the watershed.

Between 2020 and 2023, H2Ozarks facilitated the planning and organizing of informational meetings with diverse stakeholders in the watershed area.

Stakeholders contributed by sharing their local concerns about the watershed, particularly focusing on issues of sedimentation and excessive algae and plant growth in Lake Taneycomo. The involvement of these stakeholders provided a critical component in the development of this watershed management plan.

OEWRI conducted a water quality perceptions survey in 2022 to gauge the general opinions about watershed management, water quality in the Lake Taneycomo watershed, and the relationship it has to tourism and recreation in the area. Hess reported that 78% of respondents were concerned with water quality impairments on Lake Taneycomo.

"We are excited to be the lead on this project. It is important to understand what stressors are placed on water bodies and what efforts we can implement to protect it." Josh Hess, Research Specialist, OEWRI

Aimed at demonstrating successful strategies for water quality improvements and protection, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the City of Branson implemented projects to demonstrate effective best management practices (BMPs) that are identified in the proposed plan.

One project, completed by the City of Branson, can be experienced by any of the patrons walking along the Eiserman Park walking path which is next to the Community Center on Compton Drive in Branson. This trail has a porous pavement design that allows water to filter through the pavers instead of running off and transporting pollutants into lake Taneycomo.

The Lewis Family Memorial Conservation Area, a 362-acre site managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation, is in the Lower Bull Creek watershed near Merriam Woods. A demonstration project at this site funded efforts to clear valley bottomland of invasive Johnsongrass for the planting of 12,000 native walnut trees, aiming to expand the riparian buffer zone around a large 5th order stream, Bull Creek, nestled in the Lake Taneycomo watershed.

“This project improved the riparian corridor and reduced excess sediment from soil and bank erosion from entering Bull Creek and is a great example of how proper riparian management can be used to enhance agriculture opportunities through planting harvestable native plants.” Shane Bush, Fisheries Biologist, Missouri Department of Conservation.

BMPs, like the ones demonstrated, are needed in critical source areas such as pasture lands, urban areas and the riparian corridors within the watershed to prevent or reduce pollutants from entering waterways. Initially approved at the state level, once accepted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the plan will outline information and recommendations to local governments, businesses and property owners on what they can do to protect the water quality of Lake Taneycomo. An accepted plan will also make the watershed area eligible for state and federal funding needed to help with educating the public on water quality concerns and aid in the implementation of water quality improvement projects.

Once the plan is accepted, H2Ozarks will continue to facilitate stakeholder meetings, annually, to track progress toward the plan goals.

“We are hopeful that the communities within the watershed make a personal commitment to help improve Lake Taneycomo.” Carin Love, COO, H2Ozarks

OEWRI confirmed the plan has been reviewed at the state level by MO Department of Natural Resources and is now under review with the U.S. EPA.

For more information on the Lake Taneycomo Watershed Management Plan, please contact H2Ozarks at or by visiting our website at H2Ozarks is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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