Threats

The Black Warrior watershed has experienced considerable biological losses due to human impacts resulting from industrial discharges, urbanization, surface and subsurface coal mining, livestock farming (particularly chicken production), dam construction and operation, and silviculture.

WATER QUALITY
As far back as the 1800s, erosion problems were locally severe as people stripped the land of its forests and as primitive agricultural practices allowed precious topsoil to be eroded into streams. (Lydeard)

The earliest pollution problem in the Black Warrior Basin was sedimentation.

One history book explains: After 1800, a fever of cotton planting spread through the South, before long erosion had become a serious problem. By the 1850s large tracts of land were abandoned to scrub and sedge. These problems continued until the 1930s when their severity began to be addressed by Congress and a new agency called the Soil Erosion Service, now renamed the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The extraction of Coalbed Methane contributes greatly to increased groundwater withdrawals.

Most of the pollutants in surface and groundwater within the Upper Basin originate from agricultural activities, areas previously disturbed by mining and construction, silviculture, failing septic tanks, and contaminated runoff from urban areas. Sediment resulting from excessive erosion on 183,300 acres of cropland, abandoned mineland, deserted construction sites, and rural roads accounts for most of the contaminants entering surface waters. Improper management of animal waste from large numbers of poultry and livestock operations in the area is contaminating both surface and ground water. An estimated 25,000 failing or marginally effective septic tank systems are likely causing the greater than 50 percent failure rate of water samples from private wells in the area. The estimated costs to install the pollution abatement measures needed to improve water quality in the project area to an acceptable level by the year 2000 is $41.7 million. (Upper Black Warrior Water Quality Improvement Plan, March ’91)

In GSA’s study, 15 of 27 monitoring stations were ranked poor or very poor due to low d.o. or biological conditions. Only 4 ranked as good. (State of Rivers)

WATER QUANTITY
Increasing municipal water supply demands could see the erection of new impoundments within the basin. The Middle Locust Fork, Duck River (tributary to the Mulberry) and the North River (north of Tuscaloosa) are just a few that are being considered for proposed new dams.

Mussel diversity has been considerably decreased by construction of impoundments on the main stem of the Black Warrior (Fuller et al. 1992).

IMPAIRED STREAMS / SECTIONS
17 segements of rivers in the Black Warrior Basin demonstrate water quality beneath that required by the Clean Water Act.

OPOSSUM CREEK METALS, NONPRIORITY ORGANICS, NUTRIENTS, OIL AND GREASE, PESTICIDES, PH, PRIORITY ORGANICS, TOXICITY

MUD CREEK SILTATION, PH

BIG YELLOW CREEK PH, SILTATION, METALS

BLACK WARRIOR RIVER

ORGANIC ENRICHMENT/LOW DISSOLVED OXYGEN
DAM CONSTRUCTION

BLACK WARRIOR RIVER

ORGANIC ENRICHMENT/LOW DISSOLVED OXYGEN
DAM CONSTRUCTION, FLOW REGULATIONS/MODIFICATION,

8 segments of Black Warrior tributaries in Jefferson and Walker counties are classified as Agricultural and/or Industrial Water Supply which allows for a release of contaminants unsafe for human contact and unfit for supporting healthy populations of fish and wildlife.

BIOTA SAMPLING
Marcroinvertebrate assessments at 61 stations throughout the Black Warrior sub-basin system were chosen because of a high potential for Non-point Source Pollution. 12 stations (20%) were classified as unimpaired, 28 (46%) and 19 (31%) were classified as slightly and moderately impaired, respectively. Only two both within the Upper Black Warrior Basin were classified as severely impaired.

Fish sampling was also conducted at 30 stations. The two studies together identified 27 basins as significantly impaired by NPS.

Many native species were lost with the alteration of natural river ecosystems by the construction of large dams.

The USGS maintains a station on the Sipsey near Grayson, Alabama (Station 02450250). It is located on the Hwy 6 bridge at the Sipsey Recreation area.