Powell River Monitoring

River Monitoring at Well Being Conference Center on the Powell River in Claiborne County, Tennessee

A quiet pool on the Powell River

A quiet pool on the Powell River

The Powell River is a free-flowing (un-dammed) river with a 1,000 square mile watershed that originates in western Virginia and discharges into Norris Lake in Tennessee. Norris Lake is reputed to be the cleanest of the Tennessee Valley Authority (www.TVA.com) lakes.

Well Being Foundation is supportive of research which promotes the ecological viability of the Powell River. Towards this end, we have donated funds to Lincoln Memorial University for an Aquatic Habitat Study; we’ve hosted a group of freshwater mussel scientists from US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) for a day-long “Bio-Blitz”, and have begun daily monitoring of factors affecting the Powell River as follows:

  • Powell River Daily Water Levels (since September 2010)
  • Daily Rainfall monitoring (since November 2010)
  • Daily Turbidity in the Powell River (since November 2011).

U.S. Geological Service River Flow Monitoring

HIgh River, high turbidity, river gage at right

High River, high turbidity, river gauge at right

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) updates flow information on the internet every 15 minutes at two locations on the Powell River: upstream in Jonesville, Virginia and about 35 river miles downstream of Well Being Conference Center at a new location near Arthur, Tennessee.

To our knowledge, no other Powell River flow information is being collected between these two stations except at Well Being Conference Center.

Tennessee Valley Authority Rainfall Data Collection

The Tennessee Valley Authority collects and reports daily rainfall results from two USGS rainfall Gauging Stations in the Powell River watershed: Tazewell, Virginia and Arthur, Tennessee. To our knowledge, there is no other published rainfall data for the Powell River watershed. Well Being Foundation installed a continuous precipitation monitoring station and has recorded daily rainfall data since November 2010 in order to help fill the void in date for the watershed.

Well Being Foundation River Flow Monitoring

Over the next several years, we intend to correlate local observed flows with published TVA rainfall data. The purpose of this work is to be able to predict the likely frequency of local Powell River flows of a certain magnitude. In other words, if it rains 2 inches in the upper Powell River watershed, for example, what will be the estimated peak river flow rate on the River at Well Being Conference Center?

Powell River Water Quality Testing

Don taking measurements in the Powell River

Don taking measurements in the Powell River

During high flow events, the Powell River gets murky (high turbidity) and then clears relatively quickly as the high flow recedes. Well Being Foundation has begun monitoring Turbidity levels on a daily basis. Turbidity is a measurement of the amount of suspended solids carried along by the water. These suspended solids are mostly the result of erosion within the upstream watershed. Since erosion increases during high rainfall events, turbidity is related to rainfall for any given watershed and is a measure of the stability of the watershed. Turbidity in itself is not a problem to aquatic life except at sustained higher levels, but, since turbidity is caused by soil erosion, turbidity becomes a possible marker for other soil contaminants such as nitrates, nitrites, and possibly some herbicides and pesticides.


The water quality of the Powell River affects its aquatic inhabitants – its fish, mussels, plants, insects, salamanders, and turtles. It even affects the bird life which is dependent on the river. In turn the presence of aquatic life is indicative of the health of the river. A healthy river is a gauge of the health of the lands in the watershed. Healthy land helps to feed healthy people. Healthy people are (or at least should be) happy and grateful people. After all, whatever this thing is that we’re all involved in, you can call it Life or whatever, from the “bird’s eye” view, it is all One – everything is related to everything else.