Rapid growth and expansion in southwest Missouri are threatening the water resources this region’s population, agriculture, and tourism industry so heavily depend upon. In response to this threat, several watershed groups in southwest Missouri collaborated to secure federal funding for water protection efforts in this region. As a result of this effort, the Environmental Resources Coalition (ERC) received a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant to develop and manage the Southwest Missouri Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP), a multi-year, multi-stakeholder effort to address water quality issues in this region. WQIP has initially been tasked with assembling, evaluating, and interpreting existing water quality for several major basins in southwest Missouri. The James River Basin is the subject of this report.

The James River Basin is 1,455 square miles and includes the Springfield metropolitan area along its northern boundary. Major tributaries of the James River include Flat, Finley, Crane, Wilson, and Pearson Creeks. Existing water quality regulatory issues in the James River Basin include a nutrient total maximum daily load (TMDL) on the James River, the impairment of Wilson and Pearson Creeks for unknown toxicity, and the impairment of Pearson Creek for bacteria.

Water quality data from the James River Basin were compiled from multiple collection entities including the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), Christian County Health Department (CCHD), Stone County Health Department (SCHD), Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program (LMVP), Missouri State University (MSU), University of Missouri – Columbia (UMC), Springfield City Utilities, City of Springfield Public Works, the and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Water quality data were analyzed with relation to total phosphorus (TP), total nitrogen (TN), nitrate plus nitrite nitrogen (NO3 + NO2), and sestonic and benthic chlorophyll a. Nutrient levels are generally greatest downstream the major urban areas of Springfield, Nixa, and Ozark. However, significant improvements in phosphorus levels appear subsequent to the phosphorus removal upgrades to the Springfield Southwest Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) in 2001. Bacteria levels are greatest downstream of the City of Springfield in Wilson Creek, but were only observed to exceed the applicable water quality criterion in Pearson Creek.

Based on a data gap analysis of the existing water quality data in the James River Basin, several recommendations were made for WQIP. Formation of a monitoring coordinating board could benefit all the stakeholder entities in WQIP by standardizing sampling designs, quality assurance programs, metadata requirements, and by developing a centralized database to facilitate the sharing of water quality data. Further data analysis and potential special storm water studies are recommended to better understand non-point source loading issues. WQIP is encouraged to participate in the development of regional stream nutrient criteria through stakeholder involvement and further water quality studies. Toxicity issues are known to exist in the James River Basin; however, further research is necessary to fully characterize its sources and extent of impact. Finally, efforts should be made to incorporate additional existing water quality data into the WQIP database that were not populated at the time of the database’s creation.

Document Type



Prepared for the Environmental Resouce Coalition.
Prepared by MEC Water Resources, Inc. and Ozarks Envrionmental Water Resources Institute, Missouri State University.

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