Conservation Conversations: The Waters of TN & How YOUR Voice Defines & Protects Them!

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Tennessee has one of the most unique water landscapes in the entirety of the United States! But what is it that actually defines this water landscape? The answer was given to us during this month’s Conservation Conversations and it has everything to do with KARST. 

Karst topography is when the dissolution, or weathering, of bedrock is the dominant agent in forming the landscape. An easy way to think of it is by comparing the soft bedrock, often limestone, to swiss cheese. Water easily carves away at the rock and this process results in the creation of features like caves, disappearing streams, and sinkholes! In fact, Tennessee has over 10,000 caves – the most of any state!

Our first expert speaker, Dr. Chris Groves from Western Kentucky University, dug deeper into these features and why they must be protected. From minerals to archaeological finds, these landscapes provide precious resources. 

One of the most important resources they provide, however, is water. Our second expert speaker, Dr. Brian Waldron of University of Memphis, spoke to our audience (of record breaking size!) about one of Tennessee’s most valuable karst features which provides water to communities across Southeastern Tennessee: the Memphis Aquifer. This ginormous aquifer holds 57.4 trillion gallons of water. However, Dr. Waldron doesn’t just study the amount of water this geological miracle holds but, instead studies what happens if this groundwater gets contaminated, or worse… runs out?

According to the “Waters of the United States” rule, not all water is protected equally. 

Our final expert speaker, Harpeth Conservancy’s own Jim Redwine, talked about what you can do as an individual to help protect our karst landscape, one that may not be protected under such rules. 

Want to get involved? Contact your local legislature to make sure all of Tennessee’s unique karst waters are kept clean!

To watch the full Conservation Conversation, watch the Youtube Video here!

Here are links that were shared during the Conversation:

Link to TN H2O: Tennessee’s Water Plan

Link to TDEC’s Page on Water Resources in Tennessee