The data collected in March and April of 2004 suggest that water quality in the
Indian Creek did not contain dangerous levels of acids, nitrates, phosphates,
or metals at that time (see test spreadsheet for data). Visual inspection
of the area also revealed an environment that is generally in good condition
(see photo gallery). Nitrates were higher than one would expect in a pristine
environment, and likely indicate the runoff of agricultural land. Phosphates
in most cases were slightly higher than a natural environment, and one test
in particular showed a reading that could lead to algae bloom or other aesthetic
and biological problems. This test was taken at Lanagan on the same day that
an Anderson phosphate test (upstream) revealed a much lower reading. The
difference in readings between Anderson and Lanagan most likely indicates
that the phosphates are either running off from farmland between the two
communities, or are being contributed from septic tanks in and around Lanagan.
Although the remaining water quality tests fell within the acceptable range,
seasonality issues may have skewed the data to look better than average annual
conditions. Heavy rains over the course of the study contributed to higher
water levels and overall dilution of Indian Creek's normal water chemistry.
Future tests taken over a longer time period and during low water time periods
would better represent overall annual conditions.
Despite generally positive results in the chemical testing, research teams took
note of many neglected areas in and around Lanagan (see photo gallery). For example,
one team found evidence of illegal trash dumping in Anderson, including a stream
filled with garbage next to a new housing development. It was also noted that
the protective stream-side vegetation (riparian corridor) that serves as a boundary
between farmlands and the Indian Creek is disappearing in some areas. This riparian
corridor protects stream banks from erosion and preserves water quality by filtering
sediment and some chemicals from runoff. Chemicals and pesticides used in agriculture
will easily enter the Indian Creek if this boundary no longer exists.
Land development in McDonald County, Missouri is expected to boom in the near future because of continued growth in northwest Arkansas, new housing plans, and the extension of Highway 71. Residents need to be aware of the effects that land clearing, residential, and industrial development can have on the environment's natural filtering system. Lessons should be learned from the current septic tank problems and applied toward the planning of new developments. If development does not take water quality into consideration, portions of Indian Creek and the Elk River could be lost to recreational use, as has happened to portions of the James River and Finley River in the Springfield, Missouri area in recent years.