The Wawasee Area Watershed encompasses approximately 25,000 acres in southwestern Noble and Northeastern Kosciusko Counties. The watershed lies in the headwaters of the Elkhart River basin. The watershed contains more than 25 lakes and many thousands of feet of streams. With funding from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife through the Lake and River Enhancement grant program the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation (WACF) initiated the development of a watershed management plan in an effort to improve water quality in the lake and streams in the Wawasee Area Watershed.
The WACF, along with their consultant, held several public meetings, reviewed available historical water quality data, and conducted current water quality sampling to identify water quality concerns in the Wawasee Area Watershed. Through the use of public notices and targeted mailings, property owners in the watershed as well as representatives from local, state, and federal natural resource agencies, not-for-profit organizations, and local governments were invited to attend the public meetings. Several common themes began to surface during the public meetings. Three concerns emerged as the top concerns of the watershed stakeholders: 1. the streams and lakes should support multiple uses such as water quality, biological habitat, and aesthetic value and water quality should be protected or improved; 2. watershed and lake users do not understand their impact on the lakes and their water quality; and 3. efforts should be made to protect the quality of the watershed’s natural resources.
As a first step toward addressing their three top concerns, the watershed stakeholders agreed on the following vision statement. The watershed stakeholders will use this vision to guide management efforts in the Wawasee Area Watershed.
The Wawasee Area Watershed is a scenic healthy watershed with balanced uses.
Watershed stakeholders, along with their consultant, also identified the stressors associated with their top concerns and the sources of these stressors. High nutrient and sediment loads reaching the streams and lakes are the primary stressors driving the eutrophication of the waterbodies. The second stressor identified by watershed stakeholders was lack of knowledge by property owners living in and around the watershed. Pathogenic contamination, as evidenced by high E. coli concentrations, was the third stressor identified by watershed stakeholders. Finally, overuse through recreation was the fourth stressor identified by watershed stakeholders. To reduce the identified stressors in the Wawasee Area Watershed and address other concerns identified by watershed stakeholders, the stakeholders developed five goals and developed an action plan for each of the goals. The goals in order of priority as agreed upon by the watershed stakeholders are as follows:
Goal 1: We want to reduce the nutrient load reaching Lake Wawasee by 25% over the next 10 years.
Goal 2: We want to reduce the sediment load to the waterbodies within the Wawasee Area Watershed by 50% over the next five years.
Goal 3: We want to reduce the concentration of E. coli within the Wawasee Area Watershed waterbodies so that water within the streams and lakes meets the state standard for E. coli. within 10 years.
Goal 4: Within five years, 50% of landowners within the Wawasee Area Watershed will attend one educational event and 25% of landowners implement one water quality improvement project.
Goal 5: Maintain and improve the recreational setting of the Wawasee Area Watershed by developing and implementing a recreational management plan for Lake Wawasee and Syracuse Lake within five years.
Where feasible, the goals list specific targets watershed stakeholders wish to reach. Additionally, the plan identifies who will assist with implementing the plan and indicates what measures will be used to identify successful achievement of the plan’s goals and objectives.