Red River Watershed Association
"Supporting the Red River Watershed
So It Can Support YOU!"
Red River Watershed Association
The meanderings of the Red River and its tributaries that flow through
agricultural, forested and suburban areas of 10 counties connect many people --
past, present, and future-- who live, work and play in South Central Kentucky
and Middle Tennessee. From its headwaters in Sumner County to where it joins the
Cumberland River near Clarksville, Tennessee, the Red River and approximately
1,500 miles of creeks and streams collect rain from a 1,482 square mile region,
the watershed. This area
encompasses some of the most biologically and historically significant land in
Tennessee and Kentucky. The Red River system is also a vital economic resource
supplying ground and surface water for livestock, irrigation, and municipal
The Red River flows through a varied geological region and creates a scenic
landscape of agricultural valleys, forested hills and karst rock formations with
sinkholes and caves. It is a key
component of the quality of life that many people value in their communities.
Fishermen, canoeists and others enjoy the Red River systems peaceful beauty
and tranquil waters, as well as its biological diversity. The Red River is
recognized by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency as being a significant
catfish, bass, bluegill, and crappie fishery.
These streams and their banks also provide habitat for
aquatic insects, freshwater mussels and clams, and many other animals and
plants. The Red River watershed
contains several high quality streams, including Whippoorwill Creek, a source to
the Red River and a designated Outstanding State Resource Water. The Red River Watershed is part of the Cumberland River
Basin, one of the unique freshwater river systems of the Southeast, which
contain a greater variety of aquatic life than anywhere else in the world.
The Challenges We Face in the Red
Substantial portions of the Red River watershed are located in two fast-growing regions in Tennessee Robertson and Montgomery counties. The cumulative effects of rapid development, certain agricultural activities, poorly functioning sewage systems, and other pressures mean that significant portions of the Red River system that have been assessed by the Tennessee Department Of Environment & Conservation and the Kentucky Department For Environmental Protection are not meeting all state water quality standards. In rural areas, water quality is often adversely affected by farming practices, including livestock access to streams, filling of sinkholes with garbage and spent chemicals, and agricultural runoff. Business and industry practices, municipal impacts such as stormwater and increased infrastructure for wastewater treatment, changing land use, and increased water demands also affect the watershed. These activities result in increased sediment loads, chemicals, and pathogens in our streams and can ultimately impact drinking water sources and our quality of life. Development is quickly transforming the landscape from forests and pastures to parking lots, streets, and rooftops, causing rain to rush off the land instead of soaking into the ground. This stormwater runoff is a major source of pollution, causing flooding, and eroding stream and river banks. Sediment from construction sites with poor erosion control and from eroding streambanks is smothering river habitat and changing water flows. Sediment and pollution from runoff increase the costs of water utilities to produce drinking water from the regions rivers. Pavement also prevents precious rain from soaking into the ground so that wells and creeks dry up more readily and summer river levels are lower than in the past. As a result, life supporting oxygen levels in the Red reach low levels and bacteria levels rise in the summer. The increasing population of the area will continue to exert even greater pressures on the watershed.
These are all factors that could negatively impact the quality of our drinking water, wildlife habitat along the rivers edge, and our ability to enjoy the river for recreation for years to come; but there is something you can do join the Red River Watershed Association.