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Monitoring Water Quality

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Tuesday, August 16, 2011

There are noticeable activities related to natural gas development in the Fayetteville Shale Gas Play. These activities include well pad construction, increased road construction and the resulting increased road use, and an increased demand for water. All of these new actions can affect both water quantity and quality. In order to assess effects from these operations, ANHC and partners have begun water quality sampling regimes within Big Creek (above left) and Cove Creek (above right) Natural Areas, both of which lie within the gas play. Jason Throneberry, ANHC’s aquatic specialist, is heading up our efforts.

To see if there are any effects, we must first collect data that can be used as a baseline, or starting point. Water samples are taken monthly, macroinvertebrate (organisms that are visible to the naked eye and lack a backbone, such as stoneflies or crayfish) samples are taken in spring and fall, and fish are sampled only in the summer. Samples are taken from the same sites each time, so our ability to gather data depends heavily on the amount of water in the creeks. In dry years, macroinvertebrate samples may not be possible due to low water levels.

So far, we have one full year of water samples, two fish samples, and one macroinvertebrate sample from Big Creek Natural Area. We also have three water samples from Cove Creek Natural Area. Samples are analyzed in cooperation with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. Once a full set of data is gathered, it is used by scientists to determine if there are any changes in water quality or aquatic fauna when comparing future samples. At this time, our surveys show both Big and Cove Creeks to be healthy. We have not detected any negative effects, such as sedimentation or chemicals. And recent ANHC/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveys detected a new location of the federally listed speckled pocketbook (Lampsilis streckeri) mussel in Big Creek. Wonder how samples are collected? Watch the video below from our Fall 2010 macroinvertebrate sample at Big Creek Natural Area.

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