The future of clean water in the Ozarks

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Friday, city leaders and community members will talk about the quality of your water and how to protect it.

We all tend to take water for granted, but it's so important that our water is clean and that we have enough of it. These are two topics of discussion at this year's Regional Water Conference.

Each year, the conference gathers elected city officials, folks who work with water on a daily basis and the general public. This is the eighth annual conference, and over the years, the issues of water as a resource and water quality have elevated in importance.

We're lucky in the Ozarks to have not only a good water supply, but lots of groups who work on water conservation and preservation. However, we can't take it for granted.

This year's keynote speaker is a man who was part of the group of scientists who discovered the lead in the water in Flint, Michigan. The discussion around his speech is learning what went wrong so we can avoid repeating it here in our area.

"Because our keynote speaker was part of the team that went in and was part of all the discovery phase, and they're still involved in the Flint crisis and the Flint water situation, he's going to tell us that story through the lens of his own experience," said Gail Melgren, Executive Director of the Tri-State Water Coalition. "I think we can learn lessons to implement here so that we don't make the same mistake."

The conference does not address just water quality, but also water supply. Here in Springfield, City Utilities already has water supply identified through the year 2040.

Communities everywhere need to constantly be looking at how to prioritize such an important public resource.

"We're now having to think about what are we going to supply our community in 2050? 2060?" said Scott Miller, General Manager of Springfield City Utilities. "So we have to be that far out in our development and that's really what Tri-States is all about, it's about the region looking about what is your future water supply. And if you look, our area is growing faster than just about any area in the state, so we need to be prepared for that."

This conference gathers together professionals and community members from not just Springfield, but from all across the region, because clean, available water is not an issue unique to any one town.

We can all be more efficient with water use when we coordinate together.

The conference continues today at the Darr Agricultural Center.