VOICES: Water makes our region more resilient and more desirable

Miami Conservancy District (MCD) is a pioneering organization at the forefront of flood protection, water stewardship, and riverfront recreation since 1915. MCD was established after the disastrous Great Flood of 1913 that caused widespread destruction and loss of life throughout the Miami Valley.

We all know we can’t live without water. But have you ever considered how critical water is to your community in terms of jobs, tourism, and economic vitality?

This region boasts many clean rivers and abundant groundwater. The Great Miami, Stillwater, and Mad rivers along with their tributaries are wonderful for paddling and recreation. Equally important, they allow communities to develop riverfronts with shopping, attractions, and housing — all of which further enhance recreation and tourism.

Rivers are about jobs, too. Today’s jobseekers, when deciding where to put down roots, are looking for fun and active experiences. All the new riverfront developments increase tourism and improve workforce attraction and retention.

It’s not just our rivers that provide economic vitality. The buried valley aquifer provides a safe and plentiful supply of water that can be treated for drinking inexpensively. The buried valley aquifer supplies agriculture and industry with a reliable supply of water for irrigation and manufacturing. The aquifer provides continuous flow to the Great Miami River even during dry periods, helping to sustain river water for fish habitat and making the rivers attractive for paddling and rowing.

Our region’s abundant water allows us to better cope with drought conditions. Seasonal water shortages are less common.

This region boasts abundant, high-quality water when compared to other parts of the country and the world. Yet, our water supply is vulnerable and could be threatened.

In addition to concerns over water contaminants such as PFAS, here are several water challenges that community leaders currently face.

  • More frequent and intense rain events. Precipitation and runoff are trending upward. To ensure communities along the Great Miami River are protected from the devastating impacts of flooding, MCD is working to prioritize necessary investments to enhance MCD’s aging flood protection infrastructure to ensure the integrated system stays strong. Overcoming this challenge also requires rethinking the way we currently manage stormwater. Green engineering uses techniques that filter pollution, slow rainwater, and allow water to drain to the aquifer reducing runoff to streams. These techniques include pervious surfaces in parking lots, rain gardens, and green roofs.
  • Nutrient pollution in rivers and streams in local rivers and streams are too high. This can lead to excessive algae growth and deadly conditions for fish and aquatic insects. Certain kinds of algae can also create toxins making water unsafe. To reduce nutrient pollution, incentives can be created for farmers so they can afford to reduce nutrient runoff and keep fertilizer on the land where it helps crops grow. We also need to reduce the amount of nutrients discharged into rivers from sewage treatment systems and lawn fertilizers.
  • Destruction of natural stream channels and riparian areas is destroying stream quality. The day when the factory was the big polluter is history. According to Ohio EPA, changes to the shape of stream channels are perhaps the most widespread cause of stream destruction. Overcoming these threats involves a combination of actions, including protecting stream channels and banks, creating stream buffers and limiting development in natural areas.

Using data collected by our staff and partners, MCD works collaboratively with elected officials and community leaders, providing them with valued research and insight. This helps support the overall health and growth of our region.

Proper management of our most important resource will ensure water continues to support and enhance the region’s economy and quality of life – now and for the next generation. It is up to us to keep it clean and plentiful.

Sarah Hippensteel Hall, PhD, is the Manager of Outreach, Education, and Stewardship at the Miami Conservancy District.

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