About the Watershed
Beaver Lake is the drinking water source for 420,000 Arkansans, and is located in Benton, Carroll, and Washington counties in the Ozark Highlands of northwest Arkansas, on the headwaters of the White River. The Beaver Lake watershed is 1,192 square miles in area, and primarily includes portions of Benton, Carroll, Madison, and Washington counties along with 17 incorporated municipalities. A small portion of the watershed is located in Crawford and Franklin counties to the south. The lake itself is approximately 44 square miles in surface area and has an average depth of 60 feet throughout, and contains on average 539 billion gallons of drinking water.
Major streams in the watershed include the East, Middle, and West Forks of the White River, War Eagle Creek, Richland Creek, and Brush Creek. These tributaries contribute clean, abundant water for drinking, recreation, industry, power generation and of course the breathtaking scenery that makes our area’s “quality of place” so high.
The steep topography and soils of the watershed create a striking landscape, but also pose challenges for new development. Over 45% of the watershed is ranked moderate to severe in soil erosion hazard potential and just over 78% is considered very limited for conventional septic system suitability. The highly porous karst topography (characterized by limestone bedrock and bluffs, caves, springs, and sinkholes) in the watershed requires greater and more innovative water quality protection efforts.
Water quality in Beaver Lake is good, and the Alliance is working proactively to protect it from degradation. However, there are threats to water quality in the watershed and in the lake, and these priority issues include:
- Streambank erosion and loss of riparian area
- Hydrologic modification resulting from landuse change due to rapid urbanization
- Nutrient and sediment pollution from pasture land, urban landscapes, and construction sites