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 mult-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 Sac River Basin is the subject of this report. The Sac River Basin is 1,969 square miles and includes the north edge of the Springfield area along its southern boundary. Major tributaries of the Sac River include Turnback, Sons, Horse, Cedar, Coon, Turkey, Brush and Bear Creeks, and the Little Sac River. Water quality regulatory issues in the basin include a bacteria total maximum daily load on the Little Sac River, the impairment of Stockton Branch for volatile suspended solids, and the impairment of Brush Creek for low dissolved oxygen. Water quality data from the Sac River Basin were compiled from multiple collection entities including the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Kansas City District, City Utilities of Springfield, City of Springfield Public Works, Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri, Murphy Family Farms, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The data were analyzed with relation to total phosphorus, total nitrogen, nitrate plus nitrite as nitrogen, sestonic chlorophyll a, Escherichia coli (E. coli) and fecal coliform. Phosphorus and nitrogen levels were notably elevated in the Sac River above Walnut Grove Brush and in Brush and Turnback Creeks. Significant levels of nitrogen were also observed in the Horse Creek watershed where there is a large concentration of swine operations. Fecal coliform geometric means exceeded Missouri’s water quality criterion at two of six stations on the Little Sac River; however, E. coli geometric means did not exceed criterion. Based on a data gap analysis of the existing water quality data in the Sac 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. Current and historical water quality data are insufficient to address the goals of WQIP; therefore, a new comprehensive water quality monitoring network needs to be designed. Further data analysis and potential special storm water studies are also recommended to better understand non-point source loading issues. WQIP stakeholders are encouraged to participate in the development of regional stream nutrient criteria through stakeholder involvement and further water quality studies. 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.

Publication Date