Water Quality Monitoring

The Surface Water Quality Monitoring Project has been ongoing since 1999. The overarching goal of the project is threefold: (1) to establish the baseline conditions of surface waters flowing through and onto the Nooksack Reservation and trust properties and Usual and Accustomed Grounds and Stations (aka U&A area) for Tribal Water Resources Management efforts specifically related to the recovery of endangered species act (ESA) listed salmon and the protection of sustainable shellfish harvest; (2) to use this information to evaluate regulatory compliance of waters, both quality and quantity, flowing through and onto the Reservation and trust properties; (3) to support the development and implementation of adaptive management actions to address water quality degradation.

The ultimate objective of water quality monitoring is to:

  1.  Reduce bacteria loading to Drayton Harbor, Semiahmoo Bay, Birch Bay, and Portage Bay
  2.  Reduce shellfish closure periods in shellfish harvesting areas
  3.  Improve predictive capacity for shellfish closure conditions 
  4. Assess suitability of water quality for fish survival and recovery as well as other aquatic organisms. 

In order to achieve the project objectives, the specific tasks for the water quality project are the following:

  • Identify and characterize water quality parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, temperature, and specific conductance at approximately 20 freshwater sites and five marine sites
  • Identify and characterize fecal coliform bacteria concentrations in freshwater streams and nearshore marine environments at monitoring locations
  •  Evaluate sources of fecal contamination that are degrading the water quality
  •  Improve the understanding of processes contributing to the water quality degradation
  • Assess trends in water quality through time
Monitoring locations in the Drayton Harbor, Semiahmoo Bay, and Birch Bay watersheds. 
Monitoring locations in the Nooksack River watershed.

We routinely collaborate with other natural resources governments and NGO’s, such as the Whatcom Clean Water Program (WCWP), in the collection of water quality data, analysis of that data, and developing action plans to address water quality standard exceedances. In addition, our extensive and long-term datasets are used in watershed modeling efforts that are conducted by WWU, UW and others.  This modeling is used to assess the potential impacts of continued climate change on our water resources and subsequent impacts to aquatic life and tribal resiliency.