map of the Tennessee River valley shows parts of seven states, but TVA
sees those lands and waters as a single 41,000-square-mile watershed.
marathon swimmer Mimi Hughes dove into the Tennessee River where it
starts north of Knoxville, Tennessee, and began a five-year quest to
swim its entire 652-mile length. Every August until 2003, shell
cover another 125 miles. The mission of this mother of four: to promote
a cleaner river.
In a watershed, the area drained by a stream, river, or lake, every
organism exists within an unimaginably diverse and interconnected web
of life. But as a river like the Tennessee flows through its multistate
watershed, the ecosystems it supports can get entangled in trash and
In its management of the watershed, TVA uses a holistic, integrated
method that factors water quality with other concerns to achieve a balance
among the multiple demands placed on the river system. But TVA doesnt
have the authority to regulate water pollution. The EPA and each of
the Valley states that share the river set their own pollution regulations
and grant discharge permits. Those controls are mostly focused on business
and industrial operations located along the river, not on the activities
of the general public.
What TVA does to improve water quality is collect and share data, highlight
the problems, and promote solutions. The agencys ongoing monitoring
program conducts ecological health measurements for major reservoirs,
rivers, and streams throughout the watershed. Last years findings
show that extremely dry weather affected reservoir conditions, but TVAs
aeration systems and summer minimum-flow levels kept the situation from
getting worse. Although no swimming advisories were issued for TVA reservoirs,
consumption advisories are in effect for a limited number of fish species
at nine reservoirs because of residual concentrations of chemicals.
To help people in communities across the Tennessee Valley actively develop
and implement protection and restoration activities in the individual
watersheds they call home, TVA formed 11 multidisciplinary Watershed
Teams. These teams work in partnership with business, industry,
government agencies, and community groups to address non-point-source
pollution (like runoff from farms and suburbs), shoreline management,
and the protection of stream corridors, wetlands, and clean drinking
water. The number of their activities more than doubled from 1997 to
1999, proving that the program is an effective, neighborhood-based means
of helping to solve a number of water-quality problems.
Other TVA-sponsored initiatives designed to safeguard the regions
water include the Tennessee Valley Clean Boating Campaign, which promotes
water-quality protection on the part of recreational boaters, and Kids
in the Creek, a program that teaches schoolchildren throughout the Valley
about watershed stewardship.
I want to draw attention to the incredible resource that this
river provides for everyone who lives in the Tennessee Valley. I believe
its everybodys responsibility to help keep the river clean,
Mimi Hughes saysmirroring TVAs sentiments.
Resource Planning & Partnerships
Hughes' epic journey highlights water quality issues.