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October 12, 2021 Comments Off on Secchi volunteer hasn’t missed a dip Featured, Latest, On The Water

Secchi volunteer hasn’t missed a dip

Flip Putthoff
NWA Democrat-Gazette

Bob Lewis is proud of the award he carries with him in his boat.

The avid angler and boater has taken part in every Secchi Day event at Beaver Lake since it started in 2006. The Beaver Water District presented Lewis with his very own Secchi disk.

Bob Lewis of Beaver Shores has taken water clarity measurements during every Secchi Day since the event started in 2006. He’ll be on the lake again for his 16th consecutive Secchi Day at Beaver Lake on Aug. 21, close to his 87th birthday. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

He’ll be back on the water Saturday for the 16th annual Secchi Day water quality awareness event. Lewis, of Beaver Shores, will lower his black and white Secchi disk into the depths at Beaver Lake to measure the clarity of the water.

On Secchi Day, a platoon of volunteers head out on the lake to spots they are assigned. They sink a Secchi disk into the water until it can no longer be seen. The disk is attached to a cord that is marked off in meters. Volunteers write down how many meters the disk sinks until it can’t be seen, then write down their measurement.

Beaver Water District, the main sponsor of Secchi Day, keeps data from year to year to spot any trends in clarity.

The popular science fair of activities and exhibits usually held in person at Prairie Creek park is online again this year, but Lewis and other volunteers will be on the water as usual taking readings. Volunteers are loaned a disk to use when they check in for the event, then return it with their paperwork.

Beaver Lake is the drinking water source for most of Northwest Arkansas, and Beaver Water District is a major provider of drinking water to the region’s cities.

Helping to protect our water source is why Lewis is a dedicated Secchi Day volunteer.

The lake was built in the 1960s mainly for flood control, “but Secchi Day helps people realize that the lake has another important purpose, and that’s to provide our drinking water,” sad the 86-year-old Lewis.

He read an announcement about the first Secchi Day in 2006 and volunteered to take clarity measurements.

“I was interested in what it was all about. After I did it one time, I kept signing up,” said Lewis, who has lived at Beaver Shores for 34 years.

Lewis measures at two spots each year. One is at the mouth of Ford’s Creek, one mile west of Rocky Branch park. Another is north of Coppermine Lodge.

Russ Tonkinson uses a Secchi disk to take a water clarity measurement during Secchi Day in 2014. He took the measurement in the Rocky Branch area of Beaver Lake. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

Most years his measurement is around 3.5 meters, or about 11.5 feet deep when the Secchi disk vanishes from view.

“One year it wasn’t near that because we had lots of heavy flooding,” he said.

Secchi Day is a special occasion for Lewis. His daughter, Beth Bowers, drives up from Louisiana to help her dad, and also because it’s his birthday around the time Secchi Day takes place.

Lewis loves to fish and sometimes takes clarity readings just for fun with his personal Secchi disk he keeps in his boat. He’s excited to feel the tug from a white bass or crappie, but mostly enjoys seeing families together out on the lake.

“When I see a pontoon boat loaded with kids,” Lewis said, “I like to think that maybe when they get out on their own, they’ll kind of take over taking care of our lake.”

Flip Putthoff can be reached at