Water quality data is still limited for both
the Choctawhatchee and Pea in Alabama, with less data available for the Pea
natural factors in the watershed combine to produce the most significant
water quality stressors: highly erodible soils, very intense rainfall events
and a tendency for frequent and sometimes intense drought.
Erosion also contributes to increased nutrient levels in streams due to the
attachment of nutrients (particularly phosphorous) to soil particles that
are transported into waterways.
Drought conditions contribute to low flows that can cause low dissolved
oxygen levels that stress aquatic organisms.
quality data between 93 and 97 demonstrate some D.O. levels below the fish
and wildlife standard of 5.0 mg/l in headwater streams, as well as turbidity
approaching levels damaging to aquatic organisms in the lower portion of the
watershed. All waters within the watershed are classified as Fish and
Wildlife streams. (Troy)
Double Bridges Creek demonstrates some high nutrient levels not related to
wastewater treatment plant discharge. This combined with higher suspended
solids and turbidity is primarily attributable to land use patterns and an
abundance of unpaved roads. A poultry plant discharges to this stream.
Nutrient levels in this subwatershed are two to three times higher than
other parts of the watershed. Coliform bacteria was higher as well but not
of great concern at this time. There are probably more water quality
concerns in the Double Bridges Creek Watershed than in any other location
within the watershed. (Troy)
Coliform bacteria risks were minimal across the watershed. In all but two
cases of high bacteria levels, the source of contamination was traced to
livestock access or dead livestock in streams.
contamination of nitrates and fecal coliform can be a problem within the
watershed due to failing septic systems. Currently there is little data on
Illegal dumping of household garbage, construction debris and animal
carcasses is a common problem throughout the watershed. (Troy)
Water quality in the Choctawhatchee-Pea Rivers watershed is generally good
to very good. The Pea River Watershed has few water quality concerns aside
from some low DO values on small streams and some sites with bacteria levels
approaching the limit for full body contact. Both the Choctawhatchee
mainstem and the Pea
better water quality values in the upper basin due to a more forested land
cover. The Pea river shows slightly better water quality values than the
Choctawhatchee due to differences in land use patterns (90% forested vs. 70%
Troy Center for Environmental Research)
has been evidence of increased agricultural activities such as chicken and
hog farming, cultivation of sloping areas, and clear cutting of timber to
the edge of streams.
River has four wastewater treatment plant
discharges, and there are five others into the Choctawhatchee
and its tributaries.(Corps
Occasional high sediment load is the primary
concern on the
mainstem. According to the Basins 1993 Cooperative Study 5.5 million tons of
sediment enter the systems streams and reservoirs each year. Over 70%
originates from gullies and unimproved roads. An additional 22 percent is
from cropland. The remainder is from logging and other eroding areas. 5% of
the total sediment load (about 600,000 tons) reaches Choctawhatchee
study in 83 concluded that the majority of the sediment loads to the river
were coming from the upper Choctawhatchee and Pea
Rivers. Though some erosion occurs
naturally an increase in mechanized farming and other activities have
increased normal sediment loads. As much as 323,790 tons of sediment was
discharged to Choctawhatchee Bay
according to the report.
use patterns and their rate of erosion are as follows: cropland 8.3
tons/ac./yr., pasture/hayland 0.5,
Land 0.8, Other 2.3. However sources of erosion are highest from gullies,
then cropland, then dirt roads, forest land, other uses, pasture, and
In Florida poor water quality is attributed
to waste water treatment plants, animal wastes sites and dirt road and
cropland gully erosion. Three tributaries, Holmes Creek, Wrights/Tenmile
Creek, and Alligator Creek are reported polluted and all receive waste water
effluent. (NRCS) For more information about WQ conditions on the FL
portion of the Choctawhatchee see Corps report of 92, NRCS report of 90 or
contact Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance.
Choctawhatchee Harrand Creek just East of Enterprise is impaired
due to nutirents, organic enrichment and low dissolved oxygen. The Pea
currently has no sections listed for impairment
of the Lower Choctawhatchee and its tributaries in Florida are impaired for
turbidity, nutrients, coliform and mercury.
is less water quality data available for the upper reaches of the system to
assess impairment. For additional WQ data see Troy State 97 report.
The hydrologic system of the Choctawhatchee,
consisting of surface water and groundwater has been carefully evaluated in
the last decade. Surface flow is most heavily influenced by climatic
conditions (primarily rainfall) and is cyclic, allowing for periods of
extremely low flow as well as periods of exceptional flow and floods.
Groundwater provides virtually all of the drinking water for the area, for
the reason that, historically groundwater has been more reliable and less
variable than surface water.
to localized demand and dwindling aquifer reserves (primarily centered
around the more urbanized areas such as Dothan), water development
alternatives are being evaluated within the basin to meet future demands for
water needs of the watershed can not fully be met by ground water without
pumping the major aquifers faster than they are naturally recharged. This
will inevitably result in progressive aquifer depletion and ultimately,
permanent aquifer damage. (GSA)
the droughts of the 1980s groundwater levels were reported to drop 50 to
100 feet. Serious droughts occurred in 81, 86 and 88.
Moderate drought conditions occur in the watershed on a 13-year cycle.
basin has shown evidence of experiencing prolonged periods of hydrologic
drought where improved rainfall allows recovery of agriculture and plant
life but does not adequately replenish streams and aquifers.
significant flood occurred in March 1990 causing severe damage in the urban
and rural areas of Elba
AL as well as Caryville, FL. Damages were estimated at $88 million.
River this was the single worst
flood in the history of the region, the next largest occurring in March of
1929 and the third largest in July 1994. (Corps and GSA) Studies
following the 1990 flood suggested improvements to the levees at Elba
and Geneva but did not recommend
the construction of a flood control dam on the Choctawhatchee or Pea
volumes may exceed 100 times the normal low water channel during flood