By Trent Moore

Staff Writer

DODGE CITY — Once he retired and moved to Smith Lake, local resident John Kulbitskas said he wanted to do whatever he could to ensure the lake continued to be a great place to live.

"I've always been interested in water quality, so after I retired and moved to the lake I wanted to stay involved," he said.

Kulbitskas is among a few dozen local clean water enthusiasts who volunteer their time through various local groups to keep tabs on the lake's water quality and make-up.

"This is part of my continued involvement," Kulbitskas said. "This way we can keep an eye on the lake and raise flags if something isn't right."

Many of the local monitoring groups came together Saturday morning for the 12th annual State of the Lake meeting, where experts from the Alabama Water Watch present findings gathered from the group’s data.

"It's amazing these people care enough about their water to come out early on a Saturday morning and work together," Director of the Alabama Water Watch Program Bill Deutsch said. “These Smith Lake groups are some of the only ones that have us come out every year.”

Deutsch said participation from the general public in water monitoring has increased quite a bit in the past few years, noting part of the reason is simple.

“Groups are training a lot of new monitors and there is a lot of new blood getting involved,” he said. “The drought has really gotten a lot of people interested ... because when water’s low, we really notice how precious it is.”

In and around the Smith Lake area alone, there are approximately 36 volunteer water monitors.

Eric Reutebuch, also with Alabama Water Watch, gave an update and overview of the quality and issues affecting Smith Lake.

“These groups gather together large amounts of data,” he said. “When put together, we’re able to find decade long trends.”

From all of the compiled data, Reutebuch said information about tributaries feeding into the lake is extremely important.

“Stream water quality is very important to monitor, because we will see pollutants entering a lake much sooner there,” he said.

Reutebuch said some streams feeding into Smith Lake have shown an increase in E. coli recently, which can become dangerous if high levels continue.

“We’ve noted some high E. coli in places, which is often caused by heavy rain and things washing into the stream,” he said. “It is something that should continue to be monitored.”

Though there are some minor concerns, Reutebuch said the overall quality of the lake is actually quite good.

“The clarity level is increasing at the (Smith Lake) dam,” he said. “That is indicative of a very clean lake ... and pretty darn good water.”

More information about Alabama Water Watch can be found online at https://aww.auburn.edu.



‰ Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 225.

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