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Lake Water Quality

Lake Springfield is a reservoir built by impounding water upstream of Spaulding Dam on Sugar Creek. In general, the raw water quality of the lake is typical of many midwestern reservoirs. Rain falling directly on Lake Springfield is one source of water supplying the lake; however, the predominant supply is runoff from the 265-square-mile watershed that lies primarily southwest of the lake. The watershed is the system of drainage ways, most notably Lick and Sugar Creeks and their tributaries, that collect runoff water and groundwater from as far west as Waverly and as far south as Virden. The land use in the watershed is approximately 88 percent agriculturally oriented with the row cropping of corn and soybeans predominating. Given the agricultural nature of the watershed, the lake is very much influenced by the soils, land uses, and human activity occurring within the watershed. These influences, seasonal changes, and the dynamic nature of the lake ecosystems all contribute to the quality of water in the lake.

Lake Springfield Watershed Protection Programs Awarded For Excellence

CWLP was one of three water systems in North America awarded the American Water Works Association’s Exemplary Source Water Protection Award for developing or implementing the highest level of source water protection for Lake Springfield. The award was presented for a number of measures accomplished with a broad coalition of the utility’s watershed partners, which are improving and protecting the source water supply for Springfield’s drinking water. For the award, AWWA noted programs and planning in place to reduce and remove sediment and nutrient loading into Lake Springfield, including shoreline stabilization, cover crops, conservation tillage and split/reduced fertilizer application.

CWLP has also worked with federal, state and local agencies and non-governmental partners to improve the water quality of the Lake Springfield Watershed through grants and educational outreach. This AWWA award follows an announcement in April of USDA funding of $1.29 million, to be matched with CWLP and land partner resources of another $1.29 million to cover five years of programming for outreach and education as well as implementation of projects to prevent nitrogen, phosphorus and other sediment loads from entering into Lake Springfield.

CWLP partnered with the Sangamon County Soil and Water Conservation District, leading to formation of the Lake Springfield Watershed Resource Planning Committee (LSWRPC) in 1990. In 2017 the LSWRPC developed a long-range source water protection plan to address agricultural resource concerns and urban issues in the watershed. Cost-share programs between the utility and land owners have been implemented for reducing soil erosion and nutrient and sediment runoff.

Other water systems receiving this award from AWWA included the Tahoe Water Suppliers Association, a grouping of California and Nevada agencies using Lake Tahoe as a water source, and Beaver Water District in Arkansas, which uses Beaver Lake as a water source.

USDA Water Quality Project Funding Awarded for Lake Springfield

In April 2020, CWLP and a broad coalition of other Lake Springfield watershed partners were awarded funding up to $1.29 million for a number of water quality and watershed protection programs aimed at improving source water quality in the lake and as a critical conservation area for the Mississippi River Basin. The funding is awarded from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) under the 2018 Farm Bill and will match CWLP and partner funding also totaling $1.29 million. Under RCPP land partners are encouraged to work together to implement a variety of conservation activities to meet agricultural and resource objectives with improve water quality, soil health and drought resiliency.

This funding award is planned to cover five years of programming for outreach and education as well as implementation of projects to prevent nitrogen, phosphorus and other sediment loads from entering into Lake Springfield to protect the source and improve its water quality. This effort will be guided by the 2017 Lake Springfield Watershed Management Plan and collaboration among project partners to track, prioritize and implement projects. CWLP watershed partners include the, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Lake Management Association, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, Illinois Pork Producers Association, ManPlan, Northwater Consulting, Sangamon County Farm Bureau, and Sangamon County Soil & Water Conservation District.

Source Water Protection is the first and most efficient step in the multi-barrier approach in ensuring a safe and high quality source of drinking water according to CWLP Water Division Manager Ted Meckes. “To protect our source, Lake Springfield, the reduction of sediment and nutrients from both urban and agriculture sources is a vital first step,” he said. “The RCPP funding is going to greatly assist CWLP and our numerous partners in promoting Best Management Practices in our watershed to improve water quality in our lake while also preserving and protecting resources among land owners.”

For this RCPP program, CWLP and its partners intend for a number of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to be implemented, which will reduce sediment and nutrients from entering the tributaries of Lake Springfield. These BMPs include cover crops, conservation/reduced tillage practices, grass waterways, wetlands and other structural practices. Outreach and education of such practices to reduce nutrient and sediment loading will also be a part of the program.

CWLP Chief Utility Engineer Doug Brown said there are a multiple beneficial outcomes expected from this round of watershed protection programming. “Beyond the very important environmental benefits of these resource protection measures for source water quality, we expect to reduce our costs for water treatment and lake management into the future,” he said. “Plus we see a lot of benefit for farmers in getting improved efficiency in their nutrient use, boosting the resilience of their food producing land and in turn improving their income and their economic viability of the communities that depend on them.”

Brown credits the work of a number of long-standing partners with the utility for succeeding in getting the watershed protection funding award. “It is through CWLP’s partnerships with NRCS and Sangamon County Soil & Water Conservation District that many best management practices have been implemented to improve the source quality of our sole water source,” he said. “Our Water Division Manager Ted Meckes and CWLP’s Water Resources Department have done an outstanding job in managing these partnerships and securing funding, plus outreach and education aimed at improving the water quality of Lake Springfield.”

Meckes credits project partners as well. “I want to thank all of our watershed partners for their participation in getting this project and a special thanks to the American Water Works Association, Dave White of the 9B Company and Jeff Boeckler of Northwater Consulting for their assistance in preparation of the RCPP application.”

Over the last 35 years, CWLP and its Lake Springfield partners have invested in and implemented source water protection measures throughout the 265-mile watershed. A number of watershed protection programs for Lake Springfield began in the 1980s. Shoreline stabilization and sediment removal, among other practices, commenced in those years. Following the formation of the Lake Springfield Watershed Resource Planning Committee in 1990, various lake land use and land management plans were developed for water quality and protection purposes for Lake Springfield and its watershed. Many cost-share programs between the utility and land owners have been implemented for reducing soil erosion and nutrient and sediment runoff over the years. Measures have also been taken to reduce atrazine, nitrogen and phosphorus specifically in Springfield’s water source. In 2020 CWLP was awarded the American Water Works Association’s award for its watershed protection efforts.

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