Otter Lake Watershed Works to Improve Drinking Water 

By Woody Woodruff

Illinois Stewardship Alliance recently co-hosted a watershed workshop with the Otter Lake Water Commission to continue work in addressing drinking water quality issues currently facing Girard, Virden, Auburn, Divernon, and Pawnee’s drinking water supply.

This watershed has come together to focus on soil health practices that will positively impact the environment while protecting land operators’ management efficiency and bottom lines as they adapt these new practices to the land. This type of convening, which brings together concerned citizens, land owners, land operators, agricultural retailers, and governmental and non-governmental agencies to form a strong watershed group helps to create opportunities for the health of all the local communities.

The Otter Lake Water Commission is waiting to hear about a Resource Conservation Partnership Program grant (RCPP) for an $800,000 investment in soil health and water quality conservation practices, like cover crops.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance has had recent success in partnering with stakeholder groups to help secure funding for watershed conservation. This year the Alliance worked as a member of the Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed steering group which secured a $2 million grant. The large and diverse number of stakeholders that formed the steering group not only created a strong and united front for securing the funding but are now working together to create a whole watershed farming system that will improve the water quality that directly flows from Macoupin Creek to the Mississippi River. Otter Lake Watershed also flows directly in this same path to the Mississippi. Blanketing the upper sources of a stream is where you start positively affecting the flow of water downstream, ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.  We should all be conscientious of how our actions impact our community as well as those that live downstream.