Another watershed in the region will be getting attention as it is has been added to a state water quality initiative program.

Another watershed in the region will be getting attention as it is has been added to a state water quality initiative program.

The Niangua Watershed was recently added to Missouri Department of Natural Resources Our Missouri Waters program.

DNR started the program in 2012 to work better with residents within watersheds around the state to maintain and improve water quality.

A watershed is simply an area of land where all of the water drains to the same place — a lake, river or wetland. All of the springs, streams and creeks within each watershed are linked and have an impact within the watershed on water quality downstream — just as each watershed then drains into a basin and continues to impact the ecosystem downstream.

There are 2,110 watersheds in the continental United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The first phase of Our Missouri Waters covered three of the 66 watersheds in the state — the Lower Grand in northern Missouri, Spring in southwestern Missouri and Big River in eastern Missouri. They were selected based on water quality, water quantity and preservation issues as well as local interest.

The program's goal is to partner with the people who live and work in the watersheds to plan and work to benefit the watershed. Sufficient amounts of clean water are needed for drinking, wildlife, recreation, irrigation and industrial processes.

The watershed program encourages certain best management practices from vegetative buffering along streams to slow stormwater runoff to maintaining your septic tank properly to avoid leaks into streams and groundwater.

After getting the pilot phase of the program going, DNR is adding more watersheds this year. In addition to the Niangua Watershed, the Sac and Upper Mississippi-Cape Girardeau Watersheds are being added in addition to portions of the Missouri River corridor, the Meramec Basin in the southeast and the Salt Basin in the northeast. Watersheds within the Missouri River corridor that are joining the program include Independence-Sugar, Lower Missouri-Crooked, Lower Missouri-Moreau and Lower Missouri near St. Louis.

The Niangua Watershed is of particular importance to this region. Its water quality has an impact on the Lake of the Ozarks Watershed as it is a tributary of the Lake.

Parts of these watersheds have seen water quality issues in recent years. The Niangua Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks landed on the EPA's biannual impaired waters list in 2010 due to excessive levels of phosphorus.

Since then, the Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance has developed and is implementing a management plan to improve the waters of the Niangua Arm.

While the Niangua Arm of the Lake was not on the list in 2012, the Niangua River through part of its run through Dallas County tested high for E. coli, landing that section on the EPA's impaired water list in 2012.

Dousinbury Creek, a tributary of the Niangua River, in Dallas County was also on the EPA list in 2012 for E. coli, and the Little Niangua River through Dallas and Camden counties — which joins the Niangua just before it empties into the Lake of the Ozarks — was on the 2010 and 2012 lists for dissolved oxygen from organic enrichment.

The EPA list of impaired waters has not yet been released for 2014.