Geist Water Quality and You: Make a Difference!

Leslie White, Fall Creek Watershed Partnership coordinator, has a cost-sharing program available to Geist area residents looking to create natural water gardens and landscaping features.

Let’s face it. The water quality of Geist affects all of us. The property values of our homes and small businesses in the entire Geist community are undeniably tied to the quality and reputation of this reservoir. As one of the city’s three main sources of drinking water, the water-quality issues we deal with today are not just a few people’s problems or those who live directly on Geist, but rather everyone who lives in this community.

Do you know where rain water goes once it runs off your roof, through your downspouts and out of your yard? Much of it ends up in the storm drain which dumps into the nearest stream, river, pond, or lake without being filtered or treated. If you live along Geist, your storm water runoff probably runs directly into the reservoir. This is a problem because the water is carrying a lot of pollutants with it.

“Water is a precious resource and one of our most basic needs. It has no end or beginning, rather a cycle, and whatever it collects along its path, it distributes,” says Leslie White, Fall Creek Watershed Partnership coordinator. “What each of us does to protect, conserve, or contaminate water upstream, downstream, and around the globe eventually comes full circle to affect us all. There is really just ‘one water.’ Take advantage of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts. We offer educational, technical, and some financial assistance to help you put projects in place for clean water, healthy soil, and natural resources.”

According to the EPA, fresh water is very limited – water in lakes, streams, rivers, and reservoirs makes up less than 0.01 percent of the Earth’s water. Fortunately, there are several funding opportunities available to help you with projects on your property that can reduce or eliminate pollution and make Geist Reservoir a healthier, safer body of water for everyone. We all want clean water — for drinking, recreational use, and wildlife. Read on to do your part and make a difference.

Current Threat to Clean Water

Due to the construction of homes, roads, and buildings, our vegetation is depleted by large impervious surfaces (hard surfaces that water cannot penetrate, like rooftops and parking lots.) The problem that occurs is that when it rains, the lack of natural vegetated areas reduces our capacity to slow the water down as it gushes down gutters and into storm drains. As a result, rain is unable to seep into the soil and replenish the groundwater supplies. Consequently, the storm water runoff gradually picks up pollutants from lawn fertilizers, and chemicals, motor oil, pet waste, salt, litter, and soil before flowing into rivers, lakes, and streams. Such pollutants are transported by wind or by particles attached to raindrops that travel downstream and collect in the water supply.

Pollutants and Solutions

“The good news is that we can all make a few small changes in the way we manage our properties to help stop this water pollution and create a healthier reservoir,” says Shaena Reinhart of the Upper White River Watershed Alliance. “Our hope is that Geist-area residents will be excited to do their part and make a difference for water quality.”

In addition to reducing local water pollution, the following conservation practices can help reduce maintenance for the landowner while increasing the value of the given property:

  • Filter strips or buffers (native vegetation planted along bodies of water)
  • Vegetative streambank stabilization (stopping erosion using natural materials and plants)
  • Rain gardens (flowerbeds that are planted in a slight depression and capture rain water runoff from rooftops, patios, driveways, or sidewalks)
  • Bioswales (similar to rain gardens but linear in shape)
  • Native tree/shrub plantings (planting native species which provide more of an environmental benefit than typical ornamental species)
  • Green roofs (installing plants on rooftops)
  • Pervious pavers (concrete or individual pavers that have pore space through which water can infiltrate)
  • Rain barrels (barrels or other systems to capture and store rain water)
  • Wildlife habitat plantings (butterfly gardens, prairie plantings)
  • Phosphorous-free lawn fertilizers (fertilizers without the nutrient phosphorous which most established lawns don’t need anyway) Remember, the first number on the bag of fertilizer represents Nitrogen, the second, Phosphorous, the third, Potash. You always want the middle number to be “0” such as 28-0-3.

“Some people might ask, ‘Why do I need to use phosphorous-free fertilizer?’” says Scott Rodgers, vice president and founding board member of Geist Lake Coalition. “Geist represents two main resources. First it’s a metropolitan drinking-water reservoir, and second, it’s a public recreational asset for boating, swimming, and fishing. Phosphorous and sedimentation from erosion plus other nutrients clearly adds to our algae problems in Geist. The health of this lake not only impacts community property values but also affects nearby businesses and a whole array of stakeholders.”

Many residents may be tempted to tackle issues in their yards or off their docks using chemicals that may not be safe for the environment.

Rodgers reminds us, “With an increased nuisance and concern of aquatic invasive plants like water milfoil, we need to be smart and careful about how we deal with treating these plants in a drinking-water reservoir and maintaining balance.”

“While pouring chemicals near your docks and shoreline may be a short-term fix, it’s a long-term effect that is not a good recipe for a refreshing and healthy glass of water, says Brian Hall, president and founding board member of Geist Lake Coalition. “Applying unknown types and quantities of chemicals into our water supply without the proper permits is bad practice at its worst!”

If you are unsure about the safety and impact of a particular product, you should visit to learn more or contact any of the people noted at the bottom of this article.

Cost-Share Funding Available Now to Area Residents to Help with Our Clean Water Issues

Have you ever thought of creating a wildflower garden to attract birds, butterflies, and other beneficial insects? Or, how about a rain garden to capture storm water from your roof, driveway, or sidewalks? Could your neighborhood retention pond or shoreline property use a shoreline stabilization to reduce erosion and sedimentation? Maybe you have always wanted to reduce lawn-care maintenance by installing a native wildlife habitat. Actually, you may be entitled to partial funding for any of these types of conservation projects.

Below are three cost-share programs available to help you convert your ideas into practical use on your property.

  • Fall Creek Watershed Partnership (FCWP) – This Clean Water Indiana grant-supported program offers 50% reimbursable funding with 50% match (in-kind and/or cash) required. Maximum request is $2,000 per landowner applicant with the exception of bundled individual projects that demonstrate broad community initiative and impact. Next deadlines are June and August of 2013.
  • Hamilton County Soil & Water Conservation District (HCSWCD) – All Hamilton County property owners are eligible for cost-share assistance for implementing management solutions such as nutrient and pest management, wildlife habitat, and storm water practices. This program offers 50% reimbursable funding with 50% match (in-kind and/or cash) required. Maximum request is $500 per landowner applicant. Deadline is August, 2013.
  • Upper White River Watershed Alliance (UWRWA) – Critical areas in need of conservation practices are eligible for cost-share assistance. This IDEM 319 Clean Water grant-supported program offers 75% reimbursable funding with 25% match (in-kind and/or cash) required. Deadlines are May 31 and September 30, 2013.

Steps for Getting Help

The Cost-Share Conservation Partnership can assist you in understanding these programs and in taking the necessary steps for action. Contact one of these helpful coordinators to get you started:

Leslie White
Fall Creek Watershed Partnership Coordinator

Claire Lane
Hamilton County SWCD Backyard Conservation Coordinator

Michelle Kearns
Upper White River Watershed Alliance Coordinator

Scott Rodgers
Geist Lake Coalition Board Member

Brain Hall
Geist Lake Coalition Board Member

Upcoming Meeting: Geist Water Quality and You: Make a Difference

You are invited to join the Geist Lake Coalition, Geist/Fall Creek Watershed Alliance, Upper White River Watershed Alliance, and the Fall Creek Watershed Partnership for pizza and a discussion on the health of Geist Reservoir, pollution concerns, and how you can make a difference. The Geist Lake Coalition will provide updates on various reservoir-related projects. This event will be held on Tuesday, June 25, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Fall Creek Township Office (11595 Brooks School Road, Fishers). Although this event is free, pre-registration is required and space is limited. Visit to sign up today and do your part for clean water!


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