Southern Regional Water Program

Research, Extension & Education Water Quality Programs through the Land Grant University System

Watershed Restoration In Oklahoma

Aquatic ecosystems are an integral part of the larger ecosystem. If you want to “take the pulse” of a watershed, look at the streams, lakes and wetlands in that watershed. They are a reflection of everything that occurs above them; soil erosion, nutrient runoff, pesticide misapplication and a host of other problems.

Oklahoma streams and wetlands suffer from a variety of poor land use practices:

Restoration of degraded aquatic habitats is a slow, long-term process. An understanding of the physical and biological mechanisms of aquatic ecosystems provides the patience necessary to envision lasting, sustainable results. Restoration begins with an understanding of and appreciation for fully functioning ecosystems.

Restoration approaches vary, but the first step is to investigate and determine the causes of the degradation. Any sources of continuing degradation must be eliminated so that natural processes can work to reconnect streams with their floodplains and re-establish other features of fully functioning streams and wetlands. Economics then comes into play. In most cases, low cost measures like tree or shrub planting are the only affordable means of helping accelerate the healing process.

Conditions in Your Watershed

Descriptions, maps and photos of many of the state’s outstanding riverine resources are available at here.

The U.S. Geological Survey has collected a wide variety of data on Oklahoma’s streams and other aquatic habitats.

Resources and Programs

From the pine forested watersheds of the east to the prarielands of western Oklahoma, there exists a diversity of stream and wetland resources. Past and present land misuse practices present a wide range of challenges for the restoration of degraded aquatic habitats.

Extension Outreach

Creek Walks -Youth Stream Bioassessment
A highlight of 4-H water quality camps and various other youth camps is collecting stream invertebrates and then correlating species occurrences to habitat and water quality conditions. The emphasis is on having fun and building good memories of time spent in streams – an experience many kids would otherwise never have. Youth involvement is highlighted each year at the Caring for Planet Earth display along with live aquatic invertebrates.

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4-H Youth stream experiences lay the foundation for informed adult advocacy in favor of stream protection and restoration.

Stream Hydrology Trailer –Fluvial Geomorphology Lessons “to go”
Raising awareness of common problems leading to deterioration of the streambanks and channels is being accomplished by means of four stream hydrology trailers. Youth and adults audiences alike are intensely engaged by watching normal stream functioning and then degradation under the influence of bad management practices. Over eighty Natural Resource and Extension Professionals and teachers have been trained to deliver programs using stream trailers. Over the last six years, more than 100,000 youth and adults have learned the importance of protecting native riparian vegetation, not cutting across meanders, respecting floodplains and other key concepts in stream literacy.

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The stream hydrology trailer is a powerful tool for educating about the causes of stream degradation

Youth Stream Stewardship Projects
Posters, aquatic invertebrate collections, photographic displays and restoration projects involve youth in greater appreciation of stream and wetland environments. These 4-H activities also provide opportunities for recognition and public education via county and state fairs.

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Youth learn that tree planting can help some degraded streams establish a stable new channel.

Riparian Management Handbook
Working with other Oklahoma natural resources agencies and organizations, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service produced a handbook containing guidelines for protection, management, and appropriate restoration of streams and riparian habitats. Eight technical workshops around the state were conducted to educate virtually all conservation and natural resource professionals in the practical application of the information contained in the handbook. The handbook may be purchased from Oklahoma State University.

College Courses Relating to Streams and Wetlands

Oklahoma State University offers the following courses:

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