The protection of water resources on private land contributes to its development
Posted 9:06 am on Wednesday, August 24, 2022
By Beth Baker
MSU Extension Service
STARKVILLE, Mississippi — Having a water source on private land can make a property much more desirable for several reasons. Whether it is a lake, pond, stream, or river, a water source provides opportunities for recreation, development, agricultural production, and habitat for wildlife and fish. .
A key aspect of maintaining the value of the water resource is ensuring that it is protected and used wisely.
Stewardship of water resources on private lands includes maintaining water quality as well as quantity. For example, consider sedimentation; as sediment moves from the uplands, this soil can accumulate in the water body.
Although erosion is a natural process, land use activities combined with intense rainfall can increase erosion rates. Sedimentation in water bodies reduces water retention capacity and degrades aquatic habitat, while increasing the risk of flooding to adjacent landscapes. Where surface water bodies are present, ensure adjacent landscapes have appropriate conservation measures in place to limit sediment and pollutant transport.
A key conservation measure is to maintain vegetation in a riparian zone – or the landscapes directly surrounding water bodies – as the interface between land and water.
Riparian areas provide many ecological services, which is why protecting and managing these areas is so important. For example, small streams and rivers are home to various aquatic and terrestrial wildlife species that depend on the areas around the water body for shade, cover, and water to thrive. These areas also provide corridors between habitat patches, allowing wildlife to move across the landscape to meet their biological needs.
Maintaining buffer zones and vegetation corridors around water bodies will stabilize banks, provide flood and erosion control, improve wildlife habitat, enhance the diversity of flora and fauna, and provide shade, among many other ecosystem services. Maintaining riparian zones will also filter and slow runoff carrying sediment and pollutants before they reach the water body.
Common surface water pollutants include bacteria and nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus used as fertilizers. Excess nutrients from agricultural production can flow from landscapes to adjacent water bodies and lead to algal and bacterial blooms in downstream waters. When algae die, the decomposition process uses oxygen in the water, resulting in very low oxygen levels that can lead to fish kills. Smart nutrient management considers the right type of fertilizer, the right amount, the right place and the right time to limit fertilizer losses from fields.
Bacterial contamination can enter water bodies when sewer lines burst, when septic systems are not properly maintained, or when livestock and wildlife wastes are carried into water bodies with runoff. Always report strange odors or leaks in a body of water and carry out regular maintenance of on-site septic systems to prevent fecal contamination of water resources.
In farming systems, having a management plan for safe manure handling and fencing waterways to keep animals out can ensure a healthy water source and protect pastures from erosion.
Protecting water resources requires local knowledge, action and proactive planning to ensure landowners and communities have the natural resources they need for the future. Taking small, sustainable steps on private land to ensure water is used wisely and habitats remain intact will help protect and maintain water resources on your property.
For more conservation information, contact Beth Baker with the Research and Education Program to Advance Conservation and Habitat at Mississippi State University at 662-325-7491 or beth.baker @msstate.edu.