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Lake Water Quality

Lake Springfield is a reservoir built by impounding water upstream of Spaulding Dam on Sugar Creek. In general, the raw water quality of the lake is typical of many midwestern reservoirs. Rain falling directly on Lake Springfield is one source of water supplying the lake; however, the predominant supply is runoff from the 265-square-mile watershed that lies primarily southwest of the lake. The watershed is the system of drainage ways, most notably Lick and Sugar Creeks and their tributaries, that collect runoff water and groundwater from as far west as Waverly and as far south as Virden. The land use in the watershed is approximately 88 percent agriculturally oriented with the row cropping of corn and soybeans predominating. Given the agricultural nature of the watershed, the lake is very much influenced by the soils, land uses, and human activity occurring within the watershed. These influences, seasonal changes, and the dynamic nature of the lake ecosystems all contribute to the quality of water in the lake.


Lake Springfield Watershed Protection Programs Awarded For Excellence

CWLP was one of three water systems in North America awarded the American Water Works Association’s Exemplary Source Water Protection Award for developing or implementing the highest level of source water protection for Lake Springfield. The award was presented for a number of measures accomplished with a broad coalition of the utility’s watershed partners, which are improving and protecting the source water supply for Springfield’s drinking water. For the award, AWWA noted programs and planning in place to reduce and remove sediment and nutrient loading into Lake Springfield, including shoreline stabilization, cover crops, conservation tillage and split/reduced fertilizer application.

CWLP has also worked with federal, state and local agencies and non-governmental partners to improve the water quality of the Lake Springfield Watershed through grants and educational outreach. This AWWA award follows an announcement in April of USDA funding of $1.29 million, to be matched with CWLP and land partner resources of another $1.29 million to cover five years of programming for outreach and education as well as implementation of projects to prevent nitrogen, phosphorus and other sediment loads from entering into Lake Springfield.

CWLP partnered with the Sangamon County Soil and Water Conservation District, leading to formation of the Lake Springfield Watershed Resource Planning Committee (LSWRPC) in 1990. In 2017 the LSWRPC developed a long-range source water protection plan to address agricultural resource concerns and urban issues in the watershed. Cost-share programs between the utility and land owners have been implemented for reducing soil erosion and nutrient and sediment runoff.

Other water systems receiving this award from AWWA included the Tahoe Water Suppliers Association, a grouping of California and Nevada agencies using Lake Tahoe as a water source, and Beaver Water District in Arkansas, which uses Beaver Lake as a water source.

USDA Water Quality Project Funding Awarded for Lake Springfield

Partnerships and funding sources are continuing to grow for Lake Springfield’s Source Water Protection Project, a five year program to improve soil health and water quality in the lake’s watershed. This project, set to kick off in 2021, was made possible through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) provided by the 2018 Farm Bill. The USDA recently awarded nearly $1.3 million to provide agricultural producers funding for conservation practices, and for education and outreach in the Lake Springfield Watershed.

City Water, Light and Power (CWLP), the lead partner administering the RCPP award, and 12 other agencies are contributing funding, programs, and services as a match. Together, partner-pledged contributions now total over $2 million, up from $1.3 million in initial pledges. Work is underway by these partners on a variety of plans and programming to implement a number of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce the sediment and nutrient loading entering the tributaries of Lake Springfield. These BMPs include cover crops, conservation/reduced tillage practices, grassed waterways, wetlands and other structural practices. Outreach and education of such practices to reduce nutrient and sediment loading will also be a part of the program.

CWLP Chief Utility Engineer Doug Brown says these plans and programming for the Lake Springfield watershed is a continuation of utility’s commitment to protect the lake. Brown said, “By increasing conservation and reduced tillage practices throughout watershed, CWLP hopes to increase the quality of watershed streams and reduce sediment from flowing into Lake Springfield, while also improving field profitability and soil health for the farmers.”

The Illinois Farm Bureau, one of the RCPP partners, sees value in the partnerships of agencies working in resource protection. “The agricultural community sees the importance of continued collaboration with drinking water agencies as we work together over the next five-years and beyond to implement best management practices that will reduce nonpoint source pollution in both rural and urban settings within the watershed,” says Lauren Lurkins, Director of Environmental Policy for the Illinois Farm Bureau. “RCPP funding opens up new opportunities for area farmers, local county farm bureaus, and local soil and water districts to work hand-in-hand to protect our natural resources.”

Todd LaFountain, CWLP Water Division Manager, says the RCPP programming will help the utility further meet its source water quality goals on multiple fronts. “Reducing the nutrient and sediment loads that enter the lake will help us reduce the risk of harmful algal blooms and other source water contamination issues, plus slow the progression of Lake Springfield water capacity loss and reduce finished water treatment costs,” he said. “The RCCP program will help CWLP achieve our own lake watershed protection plan goals and significantly contribute to State of Illinois’ Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) to reduce phosphorous and nitrate-nitrogen loads.”

Since the initial funding announcement, new partners have joined including the Illinois Corn Growers Association, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Water Resources, and the Sangamon County Farm Bureau. All partners include:

  • City Water, Light and Power (lead partner)
  • Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) (new)
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) – the Division of Fisheries
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)—the Office of Water Resources (new)
  • Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB)
  • Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association (IFCA)
  • Illinois Lake Management Association (ILMA)
  • Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA)
  • ManPlan LLC
  • Northwater Consulting
  • Sangamon County Farm Bureau (SCFB) (new)
  • Sangamon County Soil and Water Conservation District (SCSWCD)
  • Springfield Plastics

RCPP outreach and education activities are beginning, and producer applications for funding will open later this year. To receive notifications for the RCPP such as the opening of the RCPP applications, and for information on agricultural watershed events and other grant/funding opportunities through the Sangamon County Soil and Water Conservation District (SCSWCD), please sign up to be on the Lake Springfield Watershed Notification List. To join the list, contact Sarah Lindholm, RCPP Coordinator at CWLP (217)-757-8660 x1025 or sarah.lindholm@cwlp.com) with your contact information such as name, phone number, e-mail, and address. Producers interested in installing RCPP conservation practices once applications are open, can also contact Sarah directly. More information on RCPP can also be found here, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/newsroom/releases/?cid=nrcseprd1629618.


About the Lake Springfield Watershed

The Lake Springfield watershed encompasses over 170,000 acres in Sangamon, Macoupin and Morgan counties; the main source waters to Lake Springfield are Lick and Sugar Creeks, and their tributaries. Approximately 74% of the watershed is row crop agriculture, while roughly 6% is urban area including Springfield, Illinois and villages and cities located to the south and west. The lake supplies drinking water to approximately 165,000 people.

Over the last 36 years, CWLP and its Lake Springfield watershed partners have invested nearly $5.5 million in source water protection measures. A number of watershed protection programs for Lake Springfield began in the 1980s. Shoreline stabilization and sediment removal, among other practices, commenced in those years. Following the formation of the Lake Springfield Watershed Resource Planning Committee in 1990, various lake land use and land management plans were developed for water quality and protection purposes for Lake Springfield and its watershed. Many cost-share programs between the utility and land owners have been implemented for reducing soil erosion and nutrient and sediment runoff over the years. Measures have also been taken to reduce atrazine, nitrogen and phosphorus specifically in Springfield’s water source. In 2020 CWLP was awarded the American Water Works Association’s Source Water Protection award for its watershed protection efforts.

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