Keeping the Watershed Clean

By Robert J. Korpella

First posted on 08-17-2012

A butterfly flaps its wings in China, creating a thunderstorm in Chicago. That’s the essence of the “butterfly effect,” where small changes in one location can make a big impact somewhere else. While that example might stretch our thinking, one that’s closer to home is how actions upstream in our water systems eventually effect our pristine lakes, streams and eventually, our drinking water.

Jason Kindall and the Beaver Watershed Alliance are working to keep the lake’s waters clean and clear for the 420,000 area residents who depend on the lake for drinking water. Kindall is the director of the alliance, and took on that position in December of last year after a stint with the Ozark Natural Science Center in Huntsville.

Not to be confused with the Beaver Water District, which manages the water in Beaver Lake, the alliance focuses on what happens before water makes it into the lake. The two entities partner up whenever they can.

“Beaver Lake’s water quality is good right now,” Kindall said. “There are a few issues, but we are in a proactive mode instead of a reactive one in solving those issues. And that’s a good spot to be in.”

Most of those issues revolve around runoff, and the problems it can cause for watersheds. “A big part of what we do is educate people about the watershed and what they can do to help maintain good quality water,” Kindall said.

Runoff carries sediment, waste and nutrients into the lake. An overabundance of any of those can cause problems. Beaver Lake comprises 44 square miles of surface, but the watershed takes in 1,192 square miles. Nearly half of the watershed “is ranked moderate to severe in soil erosion hazard potential and just over 78 percent is considered very limited for conventional septic system suitability,” according to the alliance’s web site. 

The alliance’s role includes talking to people individually and in groups about the watershed, ecology and conservation. The team also looks at best practices for construction and restoration projects that could lead to runoff issues. They also get involved in activities such as river cleanups, participation in community events, and garnering resources to address short and long term goals.

The emphasis is on personal responsibility for what happens in the watershed. After all, what occurs upstream often finds its way into Beaver Lake.

The alliance grew from of a 2009 council of business leaders from Northwest Arkansas who gathered to discuss the region’s lakes and streams, and how to keep those waters healthy and vibrant for current as well as future generations. The council put together a watershed study and from that, drew up a plan to accomplish their goal.

The study also spawned an advisory group of civic leaders and people from the scientific community who worked together, looking at how similar groups were designed and functioning.

Today, Kindall works with a 20-member board that not only provides direction, but also helps out on initiatives and projects along with a group of volunteers. As a young and growing organization, a big part of the work is facilitating those projects and “pulling everyone together,” as Kindall puts it. The non-government, not-for-profit alliance also works on fundraising and grant writing activities.

Check out the alliance web site at for lots more information and a calendar of upcoming events. The alliance also appreciates anyone with the time and energy to volunteer. And take a moment to sign up for their newsletter at the top right-hand corner of the home page.