Stream gauge at Kurtz receives funding


For the third year in a row, with support from the Duke Energy Foundation and Monroe County Storm Water Board, the Lake Monroe Water Fund has financed a stream gauge in a major source of water upstream of the lake.

The gauge continuously measures water flow in the South Fork Salt Creek at Kurtz in northwestern Jackson County.

“Knowing the volume of water that flows into the lake and quantifying the pollutants it contains is crucial. It will allow us to identify specific geographic areas and strategies that we should take to reduce run-off of sediment and ‘nutrients’ from fertilizers, farm chemicals, animal waste and septic waste,” Executive Director Michelle Cohen said in a news release.

Water fund board President Jane Martin said this kind of data has been collected in other locations throughout the watershed over the years, but there was a gap in the data that this project fills.

She said that is why the water fund raised and invested the initial $50,000 to purchase and install the gauge.

“We are most grateful that for all three years of this project, we have had the financial backing of the Duke Energy Foundation and the Monroe County Storm Water Board. Bruce Calloway of Duke Energy was especially instrumental in obtaining funding for this project through the Duke Energy Foundation,” she said.

“This is important work to help maintain the quality of this area’s water supplies,” said Duke Energy Community Relations Manager Bruce Calloway. “This is truly a project where public and private organizations have come together to help protect the region’s primary water source.”

The implementation of the project was a collaborative effort. Friends of Lake Monroe identified the specifications and proper site for the gauge and hosted a water sampling blitz to collect complementary chemical data throughout the watershed.

This collaboration secured the U.S. Geological Survey to operate and maintain the gauge and to provide matching funds through September 2023, facilitated by the Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Gathering additional data about contaminant concentration during high water flow events, such as during and after heavy storms, is imperative.

Maggie Sullivan, Lake Monroe watershed coordinator for Friends of Lake Monroe, said some studies estimate that 80% of the annual pollutant load can be generated during the top 10% of the highest flow days.

Because Lake Monroe is the sole drinking water source for Bloomington, when large flow events occur, the City of Bloomington Utilities staff travel to Kurtz to collect and analyze water samples.

Vic Kelson, director of City of Bloomington Utilities, said this effort is especially important, as the frequency and intensity of large rain events have been increasing in recent years. Increased loading of nutrients in the lake may lead to more frequent blooms of blue-green algae. If these blooms cannot be controlled in the future, it will adversely affect the utility of the lake for recreation and water supply.

The Lake Monroe Water Fund’s goal is to contribute to water security through nature-based solutions that serve the entire community. It aims to do this by garnering investments from downstream water users—residents, businesses, utilities and local governments. These funds will go to upstream farmers, landholders and communities to pay for conservation activities. Water users then benefit from improved water quality and quantity.

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Duke Energy Indiana, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, provides about 6,300 megawatts of owned electric capacity to approximately 870,000 customers in a 23,000-square-mile service area. The Duke Energy Foundation provides more than $2 million annually in philanthropic support to meet the needs of communities where Duke Energy’s Indiana customers live and work.

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