GRDA encourages area residents to be Guardians of the Grand

Jun 25, 2020


Grand Lake watershed.

The Grand River Dam Authority’s Ecosystems and Watershed Management Department is excited to introduce the Guard the Grand Watershed Conservation Program. Through several workshops, planned for July and August, it will be rolling out the program to the public.

The purpose of the program is to inform area residents on issues surrounding the Grand Lake watershed and how they can play a role in helping to improve area water quality in the watershed. Citizens that become involved by attending workshops, installing a best management practice or changing lawn care practices will be recognized as “Guardians of the Grand.”

Of course, the first question most often asked is: “what exactly is and watershed?” A watershed is an area of land that drains the rain that falls on it and the streams that run through it to a common area, such as a pond, river, or lake. It can be as small as the area surrounding a pond, or as large as the Mississippi River watershed. No matter where you are, you are always in a watershed. Therefore, everything we do on the land can have an impact on the water resources around you.

The Grand Lake watershed is large and diverse. It covers more than 12,000 square miles of land beginning in Kansas and includes land in three other states: Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Because of the size and diversity of use within the watershed, it is often a challenge to implement practices that can help improve the water quality. However, starting small can eventually make a big impact.

“In order to improve water quality in the lake, you have to start with the streams and rivers that feed it, and that includes residents in four states, not just those that live around the lake,” said GRDA Vice President of Ecosystem and Watershed Management, Darrell Townsend, Ph.D. “Because of the size of the Grand Lake watershed it is a constant challenge to improve the lake’s water quality, but by providing information to residents and businesses, we can all become part of the solution to ensuring we continue to have clean water for all uses, including agriculture, consumption,  recreation, and many more.”

To help implement the new program, GRDA received an environmental education grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EAP). The grant provided funds to purchase supplies such as rain barrels, soil test kits and septic maintenance kits for residents that attend one or more of the free workshops that will be offered beginning in July.

The first three workshops will be conducted online, with in person workshops possibly beginning later in August. Scheduled workshops include:

For to register for one of the free online workshops visit,

Professional development workshops will be held later in the fall for area businesses covering erosion and sediment control, landscaping and lawn care, and septic system maintenance and installation. Participating businesses will also be recognized as Guardians of the Grand.

In addition to the workshops for residents and business owners, two teacher workshops are scheduled for July 20 and 22. These workshops provide teachers in the watershed a week-long lesson plan geared towards educating their students with hands-on activities on stormwater runoff and how they can help reduce it. The lesson plans are geared towards fourth grade but could be adapted to any grade.

Additionally, GRDA has several interactive tools to help residents of all ages better understand runoff, how nutrients effect water quality and erosion.

“By using interactive tools, residents can create and then repair problems to see how what they do on the land impacts streams and lakes,” said Jeri Fleming, owner of Dragonfly Consulting, LLC. “And one of the most popular tools is the stream trailer that shows how removing vegetation and channelizing streams can have an impact on both the stream and a downstream lake.”

Fleming is working with GRDA to implement the program. She has extensive experience in environmental education implementation and ties to the Grand Lake Watershed, having grown up in Locust Grove. Besides conducting the workshops, Fleming is available to visit with any group interested in learning more. For questions about the Guard the Grand program or the workshops, Fleming can be reached at or (405) 334-6343.