Every spring through fall, largely unbeknownst to most of southwest Missouri, hundreds of locals armed with waders and chemical tests splash into streams to gauge the health of water flowing toward the Upper White River in Arkansas and Missouri.

These volunteer teams send their numbers to Ozarks Water Watch (OWW), a water quality foundation charged with answering the question, “How is the water?” in their entire bi-state region.

As Ronna Haxby, volunteer coordinator for Missouri, puts it, “The only way we know how the water is is to test and gather that data and look at those trends.”

The results are compiled in a yearly report called the Status of the Watershed.

The question became urgent around the year 2000, when two big algae blooms took over parts of Table Rock Lake.

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