What’s in the water? Caution flag is up after high water quality results

After frequent rains in September, water quality results for fecal bacteria were high at multiple sites across the lower Nooksack River, including our Tenmile watershed. Most alarming, these conditions also resulted in higher counts in the marine waters of Portage Bay, which will only make it more difficult to achieve our long-range goal of removing the conditional closure for fall harvest.

And all this comes in spite of heightened awareness before the fall rains to prevent this historical trend; cautions were raised, and continue, by multiple partners in the Whatcom Clean Water Program, including Whatcom County, Whatcom Conservation District, Dept of Ecology & Dept of Agriculture.

Here is a quick reference for the data behind this story and further activities in response:

  • We have increased our own sample schedule in two ways: each month we are repeating the usual 10 sites, 2 weeks after the scheduled date; and at our own discretion, we also collect some ‘source ID’ samples at sites around particular hot spots or during rain events.
  • Find the updated Tenmile data report for September here (pdf download.)
  • Find the September report for the Nooksack River here (pdf download.)
  • The Laurel Watershed Improvement District sent a letter to its members (pdf copy here), which includes a helpful list of ways farmers can avoid contributing to the problem.
  • The Whatcom Clean Water Program has distributed a 3-page reference of ‘fall tips’ for many different stakeholders, including: all types of farm operations; septic system owners; pet owners; watercraft operators; and interactions with wildlife. Download the reference here.

You can contact us here if you have any questions or suggestions. Thanks for doing your part to keep our waters clean!


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